12 postnatal fit ball exercises

In the same way that fit/gym/swiss balls (they have many names!) are great to exercise with during pregnancy they are perfect for new mums, particularly in the weeks and months following childbirth when you are gradually regaining your strength and fitness. Your deep core muscles, back, surface abs and pelvic floor may all be weakened by pregnancy and childbirth and working out with the ball is perfect to aid their recovery. This is because anything you do on the ball is going to require you to balance and stabilise yourself using your deep abdominal muscles (or TVA – Transversus abdominis). You can also do a huge variety of exercises with a gym ball (especially if you also have a set of dumbbells) to work your whole body and keep your workouts interesting!

This resistance programme on the ball has loads of benefits – it will help tone you up and create lean muscle, which will increase your metabolism. It will also burn calories if you are trying to lose weight and hopefully give you a mental lift too!

While doing the exercises below keep your TVA engaged (by holding your tummy in – firmly but so that you can still breathe comfortably) and try to pull in your pelvic floors. This will maximise the effectiveness of each exercise, which is essential if you are short of time. The exercises below are only suitable for when your tummy separation (diastasis) has closed to less than two fingers width and you have been signed off by your doctor if you had a C-section. All you need is your ball and ideally a couple of sets of dumbbells (1kg and 3kg); although tins or bottles are a good replacement!

If you like this please check out my book The 3-Plan: Your Complete Pregnancy and Postnatal Exercise Plan (available on Amazon), which has over 75 exercises for pregnancy and the postnatal period.

Postnatal gym ball workout for new mums
(30-40 minutes, 12 exercises to work your whole body)

Remember to warm up and cool down and always listen to your body and stop if anything feels uncomfortable. There are three exercises for each body area (arms and upper body / legs and bum / abs and back) plus one ‘extra’ for if you are feeling extra motivated or want to substitute one of the other moves. In some places I have tried to give you two for the price of one to really maximise the time you have!

Print of this workout as a PDF if you prefer! – 12 postnatal fit ball exercises for new mums (PDF, 49KB)

 

 1. Squat and lean over

Remember squats are great as they work all the big muscles in your legs. This exercise brings in your upper body and abs too!

  • Start with your feet hip width apart, holding your ball out in front of you with nearly straight arms.
  • Keep your shoulders back and tummy muscles pulled in throughout.
  • Slowly squat down, bending your knees and sticking your bottom back as if you were going to sit on a chair, until your knees are bent at approx. 90 degrees.
  • As you squat lower the ball to touch the floor.
  • Now slowly return to the starting position and as you do push your ball up above your head and slowly lean over to one side. Go directly into your next squat and when you lift your arms take them to the other side. Keep your abs pulled in firmly as you lean.

Repeat 15-20 times and do two sets to alternate sides.

2. Wall lunge and single leg squats

Two for the price of one here – both using the wall to add a new dimension to using your ball. Hold some light hand weights to add extra resistance.

Wall lunge

  • Start in a split stance position: Step forward with one leg and back with the other so that you are in a lunge starting position with your ball between your mid to lower back and the wall. You may have to reshuffle to keep the ball balanced against the wall.
  • Keep your hands on your hips or by your sides if you are holding weights. Keep your shoulders back and tummy muscles pulled in throughout.
  • Now lower your body down so that your back knee nearly touches the floor. Hold for a couple of seconds then return to the lunge start position.

Repeat 15-20 times and do two sets on each leg (or one if you are short of time!)

Single leg wall squats

  • Start with your feet hip width apart and your ball between your mid to lower back and the wall. Straighten one of your legs so that your heel very lightly touches the floor. All of the weight should be on the other leg.
  • Keep your hands on your hips or by your sides if you are holding weights. Keep your shoulders back and tummy muscles pulled in throughout.
  • Slowly squat down, bending your leg and rolling the ball down the wall until your weight bearing knee is bent at approx. 90 degrees (if you can get that far!) The other leg should remain straight and just hovering on the floor.
  • Now slowly return to the starting position. Have a chair nearby for support in case you get stuck in your squat!

Repeat 15-20 times and do two sets on each leg (or one if you are short of time!)

3. Bridge

To make this exercise more challenging you can move your feet closer together or take your hands off of the floor. Remember to really squeeze your bottom! This will also strengthen your lower back.

  • Lay on your back with your feet resting on top of your ball and legs at around 90 degrees.
  • Relax your arms by your sides and keep your palms face down on the floor.
  • Slowly lift your hips off the floor until your body and thighs form a straight line, squeezing your bottom towards the ceiling. Hold for a couple of seconds.
  • Now slowly return to the starting position.
  • If you want to get more advanced you can hold your body in the top, straight position and do alternate leg lifts to work the front of your thighs too.

Repeat 15-20 times and do two sets.

4. Extra: Side laying inner and outer thigh squeezes

What new mum doesn’t want to tone up their inner and outer thighs?!

Outer thigh

  • Lean on your side with your upper body over the ball for support and side of your hip rested against it. Support your bodyweight on one knee and have your top leg stretched out straight. Your body should be in a straight line.
  • Lift your top leg a few inches, focussing on the upward move and squeezing your outer thigh muscles.
  • Hold for a couple seconds and return to start position.

Repeat 15-20 times and do two sets on each leg (or one if you are short of time!)

Inner thigh

  • Lay on your side on the floor with your body in a straight line and your head resting on your hand. Place your ball on the floor in front of your knees.
  • Extend your top leg forward so that it rests on top on the ball. It should be at around 90 degrees to your body.
  • Push down on the ball with your straight leg, squeezing your inner thigh as you do.
  • Hold for a couple seconds and release.

Repeat 15-20 times and do two sets on each leg (or one if you are short of time!)

5. Dumbell press and flyes (2 x 3kg weights)

Work your chest and arms and pull in your core to add that to the mix!

  • Lie back with your shoulder blades on your ball and feet flat on the floor about hip-width apart and knees bent at 90 degrees.
  • Breathe in deeply and let your chest expand. Then, as you exhale, draw your belly button in so that you feel like you are wearing a tight corset (engaging your TVA).

Presses

  • Holding your weights push your arms out in front of you until they are almost straight.
  • Hold for a couple seconds and return to start position.

Flyes

  • Once you have completed your presses, do a set of flyes. This time take your arms wide, opening your chest and keeping your elbows slightly bent. Hold for a couple seconds and return to start position.

Repeat each exercise 15–20 times and do two sets.

6. Reverse flyes (2 x 3kg weights)

This exercise will give you a beautifully toned back ready for the summer and all those strappy tops!

  • Lie on your ball face down and position it so it is under your pelvis, with your body about 45 degrees leaning upwards.
  • Hold your dumbbells down in front of you. Keeping your arms slightly bent, open your arms out to the sides, squeezing your shoulder blades together.
  • Hold for a couple seconds and return to start position.

Repeat 15-20 times and do two sets.

7. Press up legs on ball

I love this exercise and I think you look pretty cool doing it as well! Makes a nice change from normal press ups. Make sure your whole body lowers, not just your chest.

  • Lie on the floor face down and position your ball it so it is under your lower legs, with your body in a straight line. Just your hands should be on the floor, the rest of you is balancing on the ball.
  • Slowly lower your chest to the floor keeping your body in a straight line.
  • Hold for a couple seconds and return to start position, keeping your elbows slightly bent.

Repeat 15-20 times and do two sets.

8. Extra: Tricep dips on ball

You may feel a bit wobbly doing this exercise and your ball might move around a bit, but try and use your core to keep you balanced. Move your feet further away to make it harder.

  • From sitting upright on your ball walk you feet away until you just have your hands resting on it. You should be balanced on the ball in the same ‘tricep dip’ position you would use if doing the exercise on a step. Make sure your hands face forwards.
  • Slowly lower your bottom to the floor, bending at the elbows.
  • Hold for a couple seconds and return to start position, keeping your elbows slightly bent.

Repeat 15-20 times and do two sets.

9. Ab crunch

Remember to keep your chin lifted off of your chest and look up to the ceiling as you lift.

  • Lie back with your mid back on your ball and feet flat on the floor about hip-width apart. Have your hands by your temples and support your head if necessary.
  • Breathe in deeply and let your chest expand. Then, as you exhale, draw your belly button in so that you feel like you are wearing a tight corset (engaging your TVA).
  • Lift your head, shoulders and upper back upwards and squeeze your tum as you do.
  • Hold for a couple seconds and return to start position.

Repeat 15–20 times and do two sets.

10. Side crunch against wall

This will really draw in your waist – bring on the skinny jeans! This works your oblique abs.

  • Lean on your side with your upper body over the ball for support and side of your hip rested against it. Support your bodyweight on one knee and have your top leg stretched out straight. Your body should be in a straight line. To get the best technique anchor your top leg against the bottom of a wall, but this is not essential. Have your hands by your temples.
  • Breathe in deeply and let your chest expand. Then, as you exhale, draw your belly button in so that you feel like you are wearing a tight corset (engaging your TVA).
  • Lean sideways away from your ball crunching your waist.
  • Hold for a couple seconds and return to start position.

Repeat 15-20 times and do two sets on each side (or one if you are short of time!)

11. Jacknife

Great for building up your core strength don’t worry if you can’t do all the reps straight away. Start with a few and work up.

  • Lie on the floor face down and position your ball it so it is under your lower legs, with your body in a straight line. Just your hands should be on the floor, the rest of you is balancing on the ball. Just as if you were going to do a press up on the ball.
  • Breathe in deeply and let your chest expand. Then, as you exhale, draw your belly button in so that you feel like you are wearing a tight corset (engaging your TVA).
  • Slowly bring your knees into your chest, rolling the ball towards you.
  • Return to start position, and go straight into your next rep.

Repeat 15-20 times and do two sets.

12. Extra: Lift and pass

Remember squats are great as they work all the big muscles in your legs. This exercise brings in your upper body and abs too!

  • Lay on your back with your ball above your head and your legs stretched out. Hold the ball with your hands on either side.
  • Slowly lift your head and shoulders along with the ball above your head, keep your arms straight.
  • At the same time lift your legs (so your upper body and lower body meet in the middle).
  • Place the ball in between your legs and grip it with your ankles.
  • Lower your legs (and the ball) to the floor and lower your head and shoulders.
  • Now do the move in reverse! Lift the ball with your ankles, lift your head and shoulders and reach with your arms until you can grab the ball.
  • Slowly lower your legs and lower your arms so the ball goes back to its original position above your head.
  • Breathe in deeply and let your chest expand. Then, as you exhale, draw your belly button in so that you feel like you are wearing a tight corset (engaging your TVA).

Repeat 15-20 times and do two sets.