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1. Kegel exercises
According to Danault, the first step to abdominal fitness is Kegel exercises. These ultrasimple exercises help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, which have loosened up during pregnancy, and provide the proper foundation for creating stronger, more toned abdominal muscles.
The Mayo Clinic recommends emptying your bladder and lying flat on your back to perform proper Kegel exercises. Then, tighten your pelvic floor muscles (as though you’re trying to hold in your urine) and hold for five to 10 seconds. Try to do three sets of 10 daily.
2. The plank
As the founder of Stroller Fitness, an outdoor exercise course that aims to help women get back in shape after childbirth, Danault is all too familiar with the desperate need many women have to get their abs back. She recommends the plank, a simple yet effective technique for strengthening your core.
Here is the easy version: First, stand in front of an empty park bench with your feet hip-width apart. Lean forward, placing your elbows down on the bench. Ensure that your body makes a straight line from your elbows to your toes and then clench your abdominal muscles tightly while holding the position. If the exercise is too difficult for you when you first start out, try starting on your knees, rather than on your feet.
3. V-sit exercise
Next up is the V-sit exercise. Sit on a mat with your back straight and your knees bent. Simple right? Here’s where it gets a little trickier. Keeping your back straight and maintaining the very same position, start to lean your body back until you hit a 30-degree angle. To maintain your balance and keep your body in a V-shape, you’ll have to fight gravity, says Danault. By tightening your core muscles, you will maintain your balance and also work your transverse abdominal muscles.
4. Hands and knees balance
The hands and knees balance is another great way to strengthen those core muscles and get your abs back into shape, explains Danault. Get on all fours, keeping your knees hip-width apart and your arms shoulder-width apart. Slowly lift and extend your right arm straight into the air in alignment with your body. Then extend your left leg into the air, all while keeping your back and neck straight. This exercise really works your core muscles and helps with balance, too. Hold the position as long as you can then go back onto all fours and repeat – only, this time, life your left arm and right leg instead.
5. Elevation exercise
Next on Danault’s list is the elevation exercise. Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet on the ground. Keeping your back and buttocks firmly on the ground, slowly lift one leg into the air, with your knees still bent at a 90-degree angle. Then lift the other leg and hold both legs in the air together. When you can no longer hold the position, slowly lower one leg at a time, rest and start again. Lifting your legs slowly forces your abdominal muscles into action and can help tone your stomach and rid you of that dreaded postpartum belly flab.