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Do you know what the BEST core exercises are that every single woman should be doing and have mastered? Well, if you’re not quite sure, you guessed it - I’m going to tell you. It doesn’t matter whether you’re pregnant, postpartum, a high level athlete or even a grandma, these are the best and most essential core exercises for every woman and you should be doing them, too.
Not long ago, I received a question from a mom about her core. She was 19 weeks pregnant with her 3rd baby and wanted to know what my favorite exercises and movements were to help strengthen her core and pelvic floor during pregnancy? AND she wanted to know what the best exercises were for postpartum recovery once she could return to exercise?
And so I gave her a bunch of tips and a handful of my favorite core exercises for her to do…
…but then something else happened.
A thread of comments on one of my IG posts was a couple ladies talking back and forth with each other about how weak their core was and how because of that, they had zero muscle tone, their back and hips constantly hurt, and they had no strength to even carry things without being afraid of getting hurt. And they each mentioned that it had been more than 5 years since they had been pregnant.
So there’s a common theme among so many women of desparately wanting to know how to build good core strength, not just during pregnancy but also years later.
And I found myself giving the exact same advice to those two ladies who were quite a few years postpartum as the first one who was pregnant.
So it would only be fair for me to shout if from the rooftops here, and say THESE ARE THE BEST CORE EXERCISES FOR WOMEN TO DO!!! Period. No matter where you’re at in your journey, put these on your list.
Without a strong functioning core:
But when your core is strong - and I don’t just mean when you have a slender waist, I mean having STRONG core muscles - you will have full confidence to do almost anything, you’ll have fantastic posture, your chronic pain will disappear, and you’ll simply feel amazing.
I know that even for myself, when I go several weeks without doing these exercises or some variation of it diligently, I can literally feel my body crumbling. It feels old and fragile. I don’t like that feeling and I know you don’t either…
(And I’m going to totally throw you for a loop because the first three don’t even target your abs - ha!)
a. Why? Your diaphragm is a massive core muscle, and being able to control it, plus the pressure on the inside of your core impacts everything. If you simply cannot fire up your core, focusing on breathing is absolutely essential.
b. Extra tips - add the pelvic floor
2. Pelvic tilts + diaphragmatic breathing
a. Why? Being able to tilt your pelvis and breath properly is crucial for a strong core
b. Extra tips - add leg and arm movements
3. Glute bridges
a. Why? The majority of human beings in the modern era have underutilized glutes and overworked hip flexors. Creates significant overcompensation and back pain.
b. Extra tips - add bands, ball, single leg
If you’re in your 3rd trimester or early postpartum, you can stop there with just those 3. If you are early on in your pregnancy or after your first month or two postpartum, you can move on to these next ones (As long as you have mastered the fundamentals from the first 3)
a. Why? Being able to brace (not flex, crunch or twist) is the most important job of your core muscles. The plank is one of the best ways to train this.
b. Extra tips - Try elevated, try kneeling/bear crawl style, use your breath
a. Why? Rotational forces that your body needs to brace against
b. Extra tips - try inline
6. Chopping lifts
a. Why? Rotational momentum that your body needs to brace against
b. Extra tips - kneeling, half kneeling, staggered stance or lunging
This whole discussion always brings up the question - Are there any exercises you shouldn’t do?
One thing I absolutely love hearing is when a mom gets through a workout and can say, “I finally feel my core!!”
Krista, in one of my coaching programs, just said this a month or so ago, and was rejoicing with the whole group. It had taken her a while of intentional, diligent focus of training that breath work, paying attention to the alignment of her pelvis, practicing the variations and extra tips, and it all paid off. She’s said the best feeling in the world is going about her day, walking up stairs, carrying things in from the car and literally being able to feel her abs.
I even had a client one time that was really advanced.
She had been training for years and had done a ton of HIIT workouts and always did “core” exercises, but had never learned proper breathing and pelvic tilts and everything I mentioned. And because of that, she started getting injured. Bad. So I went back to the basics with her and built up her core strength from the ground up and she’s good to go now, with more confidence than ever.
What I want you to take away from this conversation is that no matter where you are in your journey - whether you haven’t been pregnant, or you’re pregnant now, early postpartum, or it’s been years - these are the fundamental core exercises that every woman needs to have mastered.
I’ll say them again in order:
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