You may find your stomach to be the toughest part of the body to return to normal after pregnancy, even if it’s been six months, one year or possibly even longer since your baby has been born. Common causes are a weak core and a condition called diastasis recti. This condition occurs when the abdominal muscles that separated to make room for the baby during pregnancy do not merge back together. Strengthening your abs -- especially the transversus abdominis -- can help your stomach muscles be one again. Perform abdominal exercises three to four times per week and your pooched tummy can become taut and toned.
Warm up with five to 10 minutes of cardiovascular exercise, such as jogging, cycling or climbing stairs. Attempting to strengthen cold muscles can cause an injury.
Activate your transversus abdominis, the deep-seated abdominal muscle responsible for pulling your stomach in toward your spine, with the stomach vacuum exercise. Stand with your feet separated shoulder width apart; allow your arms to hand alongside your torso. Inhale slowly for a count of five; allow your stomach to rise as you breathe in the air. Hold for one count and then pull your belly button in toward your lower back as much as possible as you exhale all of the air out of your lungs. Hold your stomach in for 10 to 20 seconds and return to starting position. Repeat for a total of three to five repetitions.
Strengthen your transversus abdominis with plank pose. Come to your hands and knees on the floor, with your hands placed directly below your shoulders. Slide the shoulder blades down your back. Pull your stomach in toward your spine. Tuck your toes under and lift your knees off of the floor; extend your legs back until they are straight. Elongate your back and slightly tuck your tailbone; there should be one straight line from the shoulders to your heels. Hold plank for 30 to 60 seconds. Complete three repetitions.
Advance your plank exercise by lifting an alternate leg and arm off of the ground. Place your body in a basic plank position and separate your feet to be shoulder-width apart. Pull your abs in toward your spine and lift your right leg off of the floor to hip height. Stabilize your body and then lift your left arm out in front of you at shoulder height. Hold the lift for 10 to 30 seconds and repeat on the opposite sides, lifting your left leg and right arm. Complete three full rounds.
Stretch your abs after your strengthening session with the standing abdominal stretch. Stand tall with your feet together and lift your arms toward the ceiling. Lift your chest to stretch upwards as your back arches. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds and release.
Add cardio exercise for 30 to 60 minutes daily and full-body strength training, two to three sessions a week, as well as a clean, wholesome diet, to burn off any excess weight as a part of tummy toning.
Consult with your physician or a fitness trainer before starting a new fitness program, especially if it is immediately following a pregnancy.