After a Cesarean section, wait for your doctor to give you the "all clear" before returning to exercise, especially weight training. In most cases, you'll need about 6 weeks to recover from the major abdominal surgery.
That doesn't mean you have to sit on the couch all day between feedings and the baby's tummy time. Walking and gentle movements keep your body mobile and your mind clear. Pay particular attention to your back when returning to fitness, as pregnancy probably threw your posture out of whack and aggravated back pain.
A strong back also supports your mommy future of toting a baby that will progressively grow and still throw his hands up to be carried when he's a heavy toddler. Progress into the following back exercises, and only do those appropriate for your fitness level and post-operative status.
This exercise is gentle enough to do early on after your C-section. It strengthens your paraspinals and stretches scar tissue in your abdomen. Because you have to lie on your belly, do clear it with your doctor before adding to your routine.
To do: Lie face down on an exercise mat. Place your hands flat on the floor with your thumbs under your armpits and elbows pulled in against your ribs, pointed to the ceiling. Inhale to lift your face and the front of your chest out of the mat. Keep your hands lightly touching the floor; avoid pushing into the ground. Hold for a two to four counts and then lower back down. Repeat three to eight times.
The bird dog exercise assists with spinal stabilization and alignment. Regularly doing a set or two of the move can improve lower back pain, too. Save this exercise for at least six weeks following your C-section, or when you've received a doctor's clearance to exercise. It may seem simple, but a lot is going on in the deeper muscles of the core.
To do: Get into all fours and engage your abdominal muscles as if you were going to cough. Inhale and reach your right arm forward and your left leg back. Hold for one count, release and repeat with the left arm and right leg. Continue to alternate, keeping your sacrum and pelvis still, for 10 to 15 reps.
Resistance Band Reverse Flyes
Resistance bands are a convenient way for a new mom to exercise her back. Plus, you don't have lift anything heavy, which is often discouraged for several months after your C-section. Using a resistance band also means you don't have to leave the comfort of your home and can strengthen your back while baby is napping.
Just because a band isn't heavy, it still counts as exercise. Clear this move with your doctor before trying it out post-surgery; he may want you to wait six weeks before adding any type of resistance.
To do: Sit or stand and hold one end of a resistance band in each hand with the arms extended in front of your chest. Choke up on the band to feel a little tension. Keep your elbows slightly bent as you open your arms wide as if you were getting ready for a hug. You'll feel your upper-back muscles engage against the tension of the band. Slowly move your hands back toward one another with control. Repeat for one to three sets of 10 to 12 reps.
Once You're Cleared
Once your doctor has told you it's OK to return to strength training, do so gradually. You can add in dumbbell or barbell rows, lat pull-downs and pullovers, but don't expect to start right back at the weight you've always lifted.
You've had several months hiatus and, although your body has muscle memory, it needs to build back up to your previous strength levels. If strength-training is new to you, start with just one set of eight to 12 reps using light weights.
Read More: The Best Lower Back Exercises at Home