gentle / beginner core exercises

A few mommy friends of mine have asked me how to begin re-training their abdominals (aka core) postpartum.  Going through pregnancy and labour (and multiple times!) can be very hard on your body, and all those core muscles go through a long period of stretch and lengthening to accommodate baby.  It is really important to re-train these muscles to prevent or help issues such as back pain, incontinence, abdominal muscle separation (i.e. diastasis recti), sacroiliac joint/hip pain, poor posture, and more.  The following exercises are gentle and suitable for beginners, those that are postpartum at least 6 weeks, if you are having a rest day from working out, or if you want to work on form and tone up your tummy.

Please note: if you have serious pain, diastasis recti, or incontinence, you should consult your health care professional (e.g. physiotherapist, physician).

The first video is instructional and demos how to do the exercises. If you are very new to exercise or this type of abdominal workout, follow along to make sure you understand the movement and remember that quality is better than quantity! It is much more important to hold the pose / do the movement correctly than to do many repetitions of poor movement.  Also, never hold your breath, and always take breaks when you need it. You want to push yourself to discomfort but never pain.

This second video is a modified tabata style version of the above exercises.  Because this method is timed, you want to do as many reps as possible in the 20 seconds but again making sure the poses/movements are correctly executed. You can follow along when you feel confident that you have the poses down pat, or alternatively you could choose to perform the poses at your own pace and do 3 sets of 5-10 reps, depending on your level. For the bird-dog pose, you can hold 3 sets of 10-30 seconds.


work your abs (I)


Here are some ab exercises that you can do when you have 5 minutes of free time. To make the most of your ab workout, try to make sure you exhale on exertion (e.g. exhale as your crunch) and keep the core tight by pulling your belly button up and inwards (e.g. while planking). Below is a video to guide you through the ab workout – again I’ve used a tabata timer so this could be one round of tabata if you are doing a tabata workout! For the mommies – these are great to build your core strength post-pregnancy/labour (always make sure you are cleared for exercise with your health care practitioner).

Tabata 2

tabata 2 workout

pie pie’s cobra


Today’s post is a modified tabata, because the exercises are all quite challenging and sometimes it’s nice to get 8 different kinds of exercises into the workout instead of just 4 so that more muscle groups can be worked. I included short video clips from each round, so you can see what each exercise looks like, with some options to modify accordingly.  Remember, push yourself so that you get the most out of your workout time, but take breaks if needed and listen and respect your body’s limits. And breathe throughout!

Equipment: A mat (optional), step stool (or bottom step of staircase), tabata timer (free app!)

*remember, there are 4 rounds, each round is 8 reps of 20 seconds, 10 second break between reps, and 1 minute break between rounds*

1. Swimming & Split Squats

  • Lie on your tummy, arms reaching in front.  Keep your body in one long line as you float all the limbs off the ground, keep your elbows and knees straight and lift opposite limbs as if you’re fluttering through water. Very important to keep the core tight to protect the low back (imagine pulling your navel off the floor), and chin tucked to keep the neck long.
  • Modifications: Lift all limbs and hold, or only do legs, or only do arms at a time.

  • Stand in a lunge position, both knees bend as you sink down into the lunge. Make sure your stance is wide enough so that when you bend your knees your front knee doesn’t go far past your toes. Jump and switch legs, so that other leg is now in front.
  • Modifications: You can do static lunges or switch legs without jumping.

2. Plank with Twist & T-shape Sit-ups

  • Start in a plank position. Really think about pushing the ground away from you to keep the shoulder blades from poking out of your back. Tighten your tummy and lift right arm, turning your body to face the right. Come back to centre and do the same with the left side. Repeat.
  • Modification: perform the same exercise but from knees instead of toes.

  • Lie on your back, with your arms out to the sides so that your body is in a T-shape. Anchoring the right leg down and left arm down, roll up as you lift your right arm, upper body and left leg at the same time to touch fingers to toes. The goal is to be touching opposite fingers to toes with only your buttocks (and the other limbs) on the floor. Roll back down, then do the opposite side.
  • Modifications: Bend your knee (so your tapping hand to knee), or keep part of upper body on the ground.

3. Burpees & Step Ups

  • Start in standing. Jump up and reach for the ceiling, then as you land crouch low, plant your hands on the ground and jump your legs back into a plank. Jump the legs back to the crouching position, and burst up towards the ceiling again. Repeat.
  • Modification: Reach for the ceiling by stretching up high, on tippy toes and arms up, then crouch, plant hands on the ground, and step one leg at a time back until you are in a plank. Step one leg at a time back to the crouching position and reach up again for the ceiling.

  • Step up and down as fast as you can, always leading with the right foot (i.e. right foot up on step, left foot up, then right foot down, left foot down).  Next “step up” rep you will lead with the left foot.

4. Tricep Dips & Boat Rows

  • Start by sitting at the bottom step or on a low chair (if using a chair be sure it is against a wall). Hold onto the edge and then walk your legs out, until you are in a backwards plank position, heels on the ground, toes up. Try to keep your body straight (don’t let the bum drop) and bend your elbows and then straighten them out. The more you focus on just using your arms, the more you will workout the triceps (the lovely “back of the arms” muscle).
  • Modification: Bend your knees and plant your feet flat on the ground. Keep the bum up for a straight back (table top!), then bend and straighten your elbow.

  • Sit with your back straight and lean back into a challenging angle for your abs. Then lift your legs, straight up so that your body is now in a V shape. Reach up with both hands as you inhale, then as you exhale squeeze both hands to the right, as if rowing a boat. Inhale up again, then exhale squeeze over to the left. Try to maintain a tall straight spine throughout the exercise.
  • Modification: Bend your knees slightly, or allow knees to fall apart (butterfly position), or place feet on the ground for some support.

Hope you feel as good as we do:) Cool down by going for a walk or stretching gently.

while the kids are napping...

planning while the kids nap…

Tabata 1

Here’s to the first workout post!

For about 3 years now my favourite go to workout has been tabata. It’s a high intensity workout that lasts only 20 min.  For me, I like to have my yoga mat and my tabata timer app (free for download on smart phones).  Basically, it’s 4 rounds of 8 repetitions of 4 exercises, each rep lasting 20 seconds, with 10 second breaks between reps, and 1 minute rest between rounds (sounds like a lot right? don’t worry the time flies by!).  Sometimes I do a modified tabata and do alternating exercises per round, especially if it’s something really difficult like push-ups or burpees…but we can get into that another day!  If you choose the right exercises, you can target all your muscle groups and really work your entire body. Tabata is perfect for moms because it’s quick and requires minimal equipment, and even if you get interrupted you can always finish the next round when you get a chance.

Today I’m posting what I was able to do over the weekend – the boss was napping upstairs (window open to hear her just in case!) and sweetie pie pie was playing house on the deck…occasionally joining me on my mat:) You’ll notice I’m not exactly in work out clothes…this is because sometimes I don’t have the time to run up to change, or if I did I would probably end up waking up the napping baby and then really be screwed! But my casual wear usually involves stretchy pants or tights and a tank top underneath my shirts, which allows me to move.

Try this work out and of course, always listen to your body, respect your limits, never push into pain but some fatigue and discomfort is okay!  There is always the option to modify (see descriptions below), or simply take a break if you need it! Remember, this is a high intensity exercise so if you’re just beginning to workout you may want to take it very slowly and monitor things like your heart rate and how you feel overall.  You should always consult your medical practitioner if you have any concerns or questions.  You should also be at least 2 months post-partum to be doing these kinds of exercises.


*Remember, each exercise is one round, to be performed 8 times (reps) for 20 seconds, with 10 seconds break in between.  Take a 1 minute break after you’ve completed one round* {or perhaps a good time to grab your napping baby that has woken up, or switch over a load of laundry…we mommies tend to be multitaskers after all}

1. Mountain Climbers

  • Start in a plank position. Keep the bum low, and imagine a straight line from the tailbone all the way to the crown of your head. Push the ground away from you – don’t let your shoulder blades wing out (stick out of your back).

  • Bring one knee at a time to try to touch the same elbow (e.g. right knee to right elbow) – really squeeze that leg up to try your best to touch the elbow.  Nothing should move except your leg! Keep your back flat, abdominals firing.


  • Modifications: if it gets to be too much you can try these:
    • Holding the plank without the “climbing” part
    • Bring knees down and hold modified plank
    • Wrist pain? Come down onto your forearms and plank from there instead.

2. Squats

  • Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart or wider, tilt your pelvis forward (i.e. stick your butt out) and sit into a squat.  Keep the chest up and extend through your back (as in, do not round your spine or collapse forward).  A common error that women tend to make is bending only at the knee – you must bend through your hips in order to work your glutes (the lovely butt!). So, flat back but bend through the hips and knees!


    how low can you go?

3. Dive Bombers

  • Or as I sometimes call them, “snaking yourself under a fence push ups”.  Start in a downward facing dog position, (imagine you have to snake yourself under a fence) then slowly bend your elbows to sweep your face, chest, then tummy under that imaginary fence.  You will end up in an upward facing dog position.  Then return to the start position by reversing this movement, just barely grazing your tummy, chest, then face along the mat to return to downward facing dog.  This exercise uses a lot of back and shoulder strength.






  • Modification: perform the same movement from your knees

4. Bridging

  • Lie on your back and keep feet on the mat, knees up, and parallel.  Push into your feel to lift the hips up high.  The further away your feet are from your bum, the more your work your hamstrings (the backs of your thighs).  The closer your feet are to your bum, the more you work your glutes.  So you can choose which area you’d like to target more!  To make this more challenging, do one leg at a time (switching legs each rep) – be sure to keep your hips level.


Now, didn’t that feel great? 🙂

post workout hugs


pie pie’s showing me her table top