Even if you’ve been diligent about exercising during pregnancy, there’s no escaping the flabby belly period that follows the birth of your little one. But with a few key exercises, a good diet, and persistence coupled with a healthy dose of patience, you can regain your pre-pregnancy core strength.

First and foremost, if possible, breastfeed your child. Breastfeeding turns your body into a metabolic machine and helps burn those extra calories now hovering around your waistline as flab. It will also help tone your uterus in those first few days and weeks following birth.

Don’t put that birthing ball away just yet. You’ll find it to be one of your best allies in regaining a strong core. And give your abs a break every other day; time spent resting is when your muscles are actually repairing and strengthening themselves. Do these exercises no more than 3 times per week for best results.

As you work on these top 3 moves to a firmer belly, start easy and progress as you feel capable. Check with your healthcare provider, especially if you’ve had a cesarean birth, before starting or resuming any exercise program.

Ball crunches

There’s nothing like crunches to start firming abs. On your birthing or exercise ball, start in a seated position and slowly roll the ball up your back until it’s resting under your chest, with your feet out in front of you, feet meeting the floor directly under your bent knees. Extend your arms parallel to your legs (which are parallel to the floor) and slowly raise your head, neck, and chest as you reach toward your navel. Draw your navel in toward your back as you exhale. Inhale as you rest and repeat again. Work up to 10 repetitions and as many as 3 sets.

Bicycle crunches

Start by lying on your back with your knees bent in line with your hips. Put your hands underneath your neck and head for support. Then, starting with your left knee, lift it up from the floor and toward your chest as if you’re about to take off on your bike. As you bring the knee to your chest and begin to return it almost to the floor, lift your right knee toward your chest and circle both knees in a pedalling motion as if you’re riding a stationary bike in the air. Breathe steadily in and out through this exercise, and repeat each cycling motion for at least 10 repetitions through a complete cycle. Work up to 3 sets with rest breaks in between. Pull your belly button toward your back and hold your abs firm while you cycle. Build your endurance by cycling for more repetitions and fewer rest breaks in between.

Modified plank lift

Lie on your back on the floor, resting your feet on your ball with your knees bent and arms reaching toward your feet. As you exhale, straighten your torso and lift your abdomen so that your body makes a straight line from your shoulders to your knees, and squeeze your abdomen while you hold the pose. Hold for two to four counts and then release your back down to the floor again. Work up to 3 sets of 10 repetitions.


The Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) promotes the health of women and newborns.

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