By Victoria Johnson
Motherhood is one of life's most special, joyous, and rewarding experiences. Your life will become exciting, spontaneous and filled with amazing new experiences. To ensure your maximum enjoyment you will need to prepare your body for the physical, biological and emotional changes that will occur.
As rewarding as it will be, it will also one of the most challenging, busy, exhausting, and frustrating. If prepared for properly, it doesn’t have to be. Below is a quick, simple and effective program to prepare your midsection for the change as well as restore your body back to optimal alignment and functionality after pregnancy. It will have you looking and feeling your best before and after your new baby.
Exercise before pregnancy can be a great means of achieving strength, flexibility and endurance gains helpful for labor and recovery. For those who are overweight or have not been involved in exercise programs previously, beginning an exercise program may not be advisable during your pregnancy. That will be something you and your physician can discuss.
Make sure to consult with your HEALTHY physician before beginning any exercise, especially during pregnancy.
Maintaining a healthy level of physical activity during pregnancy has, however been shown to benefit both mother and child. By involving yourself in a pregnancy fitness program, you can ease your pregnancy as well as your post pregnancy fitness.
In general, during pregnancy, elastin, relaxin, progesterone and estrogen levels increase. As pregnancy progresses, body mass, stress to joints and risk of injury also increases. It is recommended to avoid high impact and jarring activities such as jumping and jogging. Due to the body’s constant change of center of gravity, it is also recommended to avoid balancing exercises and stressful knee exercises such as lunges and squats. To maintain aerobic capability and endurance, non- weight bearing activities such as swimming and cycling are highly recommended.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends:
Pre-Pregnancy Abs That Develop a Beautiful Midsection
- Maintain maternal heart rate that does not exceed 140 beats per minute
- Exercise should not be performed in the supine position after the fourth month of exercise
- Maternal core temperature should not exceed 38 degrees Celsius
Strenuous exercise should not be done for more than 15 minutes
- A woman should not exercise to exhaustion and should pay attention to her perceived exertion.
- Women should avoid supine exercise and standing still for extended periods of time after the first three months
OK, now that we’ve covered that, let’s start from the beginning. The best way to get those abs to snap back into shape after pregnancy is to have a tight lean set of abs to begin with, don’t gain a TON of un-necessary “baby weight” (30 lbs at most is adequate) and be ready to kick it into high gear once the little budle of joy arrives.
Here’s a great Pre-pregnancy Ab Workout to follow to shrink and tighten that mid section before the beautiful baby glow begins:
During Pregnancy Abs
Working out during pregnancy can be very beneficial to both you and your child. But keep in mind that your focus should be on non-weight bearing exercises such as swimming and cycling (recumbent bikes are especially useful because of the comfort of the reclining position). Because of heat dissipation, it is important to adequately replace fluids and wear appropriate clothing. Caloric intake should be adequate to meet both the extra needs of pregnancy and increased exercise.
Studies show that pregnancy offers no greater physiologic stress to the mother during moderate exercise other than that provided by the additional weight gain and possible encumbrance of fetal tissue as body mass increases and pregnancy progresses, the increase in maternal body mass adds significantly to exercise effort with weight bearing exercise such as walking, jogging, and stair climbing.
Crystal Anthony is a mom and author and is in better shape now than before she had her baby. Her diet and exercise program give her the energy to keep up her hectic schedule with her toddler.
“I became pregnant and was having a great time eating for two. After a few weeks, I began to gain weight too quickly and wanted to get on a fitness program that my doctor approved.
Being pregnant, I needed a healthy, effective program that wasn’t a get-fit-quick scam. I needed a balanced and safe program. I found that in Victoria’s Quick Start Energy Program. It was simple and easy to follow. I learned how to eat for my body type and I learned how to work out in a way that I developed long lean muscles instead of bulking up.
Even two years after my son’s birth, I was still in incredible shape. I’ve got the physique and attitude that reflects Victoria’s teachings. The results from the program never go away. I am in better shape now than I was before I got pregnant. My stomach is flat, my thighs are sculpted and I love the way I look in a swimsuit.”
Post Pregnancy Ab Program
Ok, the hard part is done, the baby is born, now it’s time to Snap those Abs back into shape! This is going to take some effort, but the way you are going to look on the beach in that swimsuit with Jr. in your buffed out arms and having all the other mom’s staring at you is going to make it all worth it!
An important training element that is usually overlooked by many of the programs is "muscle balance". To prevent back injuries you must strengthen your lower back as well as your abdominals. Always work the front and back of your body evenly. An example would be, If you train the front of your arms, make sure you train the back. Bicep curls work the font of your arms, Tricep Press Downs work the back of your arms. This will ensure a balance in strength and development.
I designed a program that will help restore your shape and get tight Abdominals without using one piece of exercise equipment. You can do it easily and quickly right where you are. So what are you waiting for? Let’s get on the floor.
Regardless of the body part or exercises you perform always practice "muscle isolation." Although you may not be able to "isolate" muscles in the literal sense physiologically speaking, "Muscle Isolation" means that you should always put 100% of your focus and energy into the muscle you're working. Your exercises will be even more effective.
First off, here are two of my favorite “Victoria’s Secrets” that will help you get your Firm Abs back after pregnancy!
Victoria’s Secret #1
Breathing and Hollowing.
The secret to "shaping" your abdominals. If you don't' breathe correctly and hollow the abdominal wall you can develop a muscular pooch in the lower region of your abdominal muscles. That's right, your stomach can continue to stick out. Some women have complained that some times the wrong exercises performed incorrectly made their stomach stick out even more than it did before they started a program.
Lay on your back on the floor with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Arms at your side. Inhale through your nose to the count 4. As you exhale breathe out through your mouth to the count of 4 completely emptying your diaphragm until your abdominal wall falls down toward the floor and it goes flat or hollow. Repeat this for a total of four times or until you develop a rhythm that feels comfortable and natural.
Once you get the rhythm start adding a slow controlled crunch with the exhalation of air. Put your hands across your chest, focus your eyes toward the top of your kneecaps as you roll up holding your neck stable. Roll back and inhale to the count of four. The more advanced you get the more repetitions you can perform. Readjust your head position to the place where your neck feels comfortable. You can adjust and look at the ceiling if that is better for you. Experiment until you find your perfect position. We all have different levels of cervical spine strength. Do what feels good for you as long as you follow the hollowing and breathing principle throughout the entire exercise.
Victoria’s Secret #2
Strengthen and Lengthen for Perfect Symmetry
You must stretch the abdominal area as well as strengthen it. You must stretch the muscle through what is called a full "Range of Motion". This means you must perform each exercise from beginning to end with consistency. Don't hold your body in a crunch position for the whole set of exercises.
Start the crunch with your shoulders on the floor, roll up to the count of four and roll back down to the count of two and put your shoulders back on the floor, allowing the muscles to stretch between exercises.
You will read and see many suggestions of holding the exercises for long periods of time. I don't recommend you doing that at home unsupervised by a trainer. It's difficult to know how long is too long.
I advocate strength as well as stretch. That's why you exhale through out the entire range of crunching and rolling up. This takes a lot of strength to perform. Then you will get that much needed stretch when you unroll all the way back to the floor.
When training, I want you to focus on the shape of the abdominal wall. That is what will truly allow you to get those whistles at the beach by showing off those beautful abs.
Remember, create the results you want after pregnancy be sure to use this three part approach:
1. The Muscle Isolation Program for the Abdominals and Back
2. The Right Diet 50/30/20
3. Consistent Cardio Activities
Don’t just do it for a day. Make fitness your lifestyle so that you will have the energy, fitness and longevity to be an energetic mom who loves life and models success for your child. Your actions are as powerful as your words. Your children will repeat what they see you do. Let them see you taking care of your body and health so that they will learn how to take care of theirs.
Start today to train your body how to move with grace, stand with strength and look great. It is possible to Snap those Abs back into shape after your pregnancy, start today and you will begin to instantly feel stronger and in no time you will look fabulous in your cutest jeans and your sexiest swimsuit.!
Reverse Crunch: Lower Abs
This exercise can be done on the ground or on an incline sit-up board. All you need is something behind your head to hold. If you use the incline board, use it with your feet lower than your head.
Lying on your back, hold a weight or a chair leg (if lying on the floor) or the foot bar (if using the sit-up board). Keep the knees slightly bent.
Pull your pelvis and legs up so that your knees are above your chest and then return to beginning position. This exercise is very similar to a hanging knee raise, but a little less intense.
Lying Leg Raises: Lower Abs
Lie on your back with your hands, palms down under your buttocks. Raise your legs about 30cm (12") off the floor and hold them there. Now trying to use just your lower abs, raise your legs by another 15cm (6"). Do this by tilting the pelvis instead of lifting the legs with the palms. Make sure your knees are slightly bent.
If you're big or have long legs or both, you should probably avoid this exercise. For people with legs that are too heavy for their lower abs strength, this exercise pulls the lower back into an exaggerated arch which may be painful and harmful to the lower back. If you experience this problem, you can either try bending your knees slightly and making sure you keep your lower back fairly flat, or just try another exercise. As with all exercise, if you experience any pain, stop immediately.
Ab Crunches: Upper Abs
Lying on your back, put your knees up in the air so that your thighs are at a right angle to your torso, with your knees bent. If you like you can rest your feet on something, like a chair. Put your hands either behind your head or gently touching the sides of your head.
Now, slowly raise your shoulders off the ground and try to touch your breastbone to your pelvis, breathing out as you go. If you succeed in touching your breastbone to your pelvis, see a doctor immediately.
Although the actual movement will be very small (your upper torso should move through less than 30 degrees) you should try to go as high as possible. Only your spine should bend, your hips should not move. If the hips move, you are exercising the psoas.
Do these fairly slowly to avoid using momentum to help. You can increase the difficulty of the exercise by extending your hands out behind your head instead of keeping them at the side. Make sure you don't jerk your hands forward to help with the crunch, keep them still.
Cross-Knee Crunches: Center Abs, Obliques
Like ab crunches, take the lying, bent-knee position, but this time crunch diagonally so that you try to touch each shoulder to the opposite hip alternately. At the top position, one shoulder and one hip should be off the ground.
This posture-correcting exercise can help ease lower-back discmfort created by the baby’s extra weight. It can also help you strengthen the muscles use dto push during delivery. Here’s how it works: In a straight-back chair with your feet on the floor, tighten your abdominal muscles, and flatten your spine against the back o the chair. Hold for three seconds, then release. Each day perform three sets of 10.
When practiced consistently, this flexing exercise can help eliminate the incontinence or urine leakage that often offurs during pregnancy. The best way to identify the pelvic-floor muscles (which attach to the base fo the pelvis and control urine flow) is to sit on the toilet and empty a small amount of urine. Then try to stop the flow for one to two seconds.
To strengthen the muscles, contract them in the same way and hold them for a slow count of five. Then relax. Begin with one set of 10 repetitions three to four times a day. Gradually increase the number of repetitions per set to 15. Experts recommend that you do 50 to 100 repetitions a day.
The Baby Lift
This exercise will also help strengthen the muscles needed to push during delivery. First, position yourself on all fours. Then, keeping your back straight, use your stomach muscles to lift the baby toward you backbone. (the position of your back should not change) Experts recommend three sets of 10 repetitions.
About Victoria Johnson
From the humble beginnings as one of eleven children of a Louisiana migrant farm family, Victoria Johnson has overcome poverty, race discrimination, and eating disorders including obesity, anorexia, and bulimia, to become the nation's premier health and fitness "activist."
Today, Victoria is the owner and president of Victoria Johnson International. She is the author of Body Revival and the Quick Start Energy Program and she has produced and starred in over 24 award-winning exercise and dance fitness videos and her own television show entitled "Victoria's Body Shoppe. Several of her workout videos have won Video of the Year award.
Victoria has served as a spokesmodel for L.A. Gear, Athletic Footwear and Nike. She is an internationally acclaimed professional speaker, lecturer, and fitness trainer. Victoria has become known as “the teacher’s teacher” because she trains professional fitness instructors, personal trainers, physical education teachers and other sports professionals, including NBA athletes. A lecturing professional trainer of Peak Performance, Sports Science and Sports Nutrition to the NBA, WNBA, NCAA Athletes and Boys and Girls Club affiliates, she also speaks around the world to Fortune 500 companies as well as faith-based organizations and churches.
Victoria shares a message and a vision based on her positive, energetic approach to the business of health, nutrition, exercise and faith... One that inspires, motivates and empowers individuals to take control of BOTH their health and their life! Seeing her today, it is hard to imagine she once carried 170 pounds on her 5' 3" frame.
- Quick Start Energy Program: Wake Up Your Energy, Speed Up Your Metabolism, Tighten Up Your Muscles, Reclaim Your Body... Fire Up Your Life, RESTORE YOUR DREAMS!
- Victoria’s DVD Workouts, including "Maximum Abs": Victoria Johnson shares her secrets live on video! Victoria Johnson's high energy and original moves will take your workouts to a whole new level! You can develop your own personal style with her multi-level program.
- Victoria Johnson's motivational audios: Victoria Johnson is an inspiring, dynamic motivational speaker. You can listen to Victoria - with incredible high energy - share her messages about goals, dreams, attitude, your spiritual side and more.