4 Core Exercises You’re Missing to Return to CrossFit Postpartum

core postpartum

The CrossFit space is exploding. With that, more and more women are choosing to lift heavy things and learn new gymnastics skills. As a pregnant person, many of us are looking forward to getting back into the gym after baby. We need to make sure we have a plan and progressions in place for us to do that. Core rehab is a bit part of that return.

There’s a lot of fear around diastasis recti. Diastasis recti is a spreading apart of the two six-pack muscles in your abs. It is a beautiful way that our body makes room for baby. But postpartum, women are afraid of the mom pooch and want to “fix it” right away. “Fix it” implies that something is wrong or damaged. That is not true. Our core though IS weak because of that stretch after baby and is something we want to STRENGTHEN.

The Demands of CrossFit

CrossFit is a whole body sport. It requires a TON of strength and control in our entire body but especially in our core. We don’t realize how much core strength we need, until we are postpartum and we’re trying to get our skills back!
Gymnastics movements like toes-to-bar and kipping pull ups need us to have a lot of strength in our lower abs. We also need to be able to move from an arched low back position to a flexed forward position.
At the Barbell Mamas, we help a lot of mamas get these skills back after baby.
We will review four pivotal exercises for a “return to CrossFit postpartum” program. These are more advanced movements. The assumption is that you have mastered the foundations. Now you are looking to get back to gymnastics movements like kipping.
1. Extension Sit Ups
2. Hanging Banded Marches
3. Bird-Dog Rows
4. Pallof Press

Key Postpartum Core Exercises

1. Extension Sit ups

Review this short video on extension sit ups or crunches.
In CrossFit, exercises like kipping, toes-to-bar and GHD sit ups don’t stop when your back is flat. They get you to go from a full extended arch to a closed hip position. It means you need to be strong from that extended position to that closed position. This isn’t a normal part of rehab programs for mamas postpartum. But it should be! Start using an ab mat and going from extended back to belly flat. Make the extension bigger and the range larger as you feel stronger. Look for any doming or coning that might mean you’re pushing your body past a point it can manage.
Try to complete 2-3 sets of 5-8 repetitions to start and build from there.

2. Hanging Banded Marches

Review this short video on hanging banded marches.
When we are pregnant, our pelvis widens to give baby room during birth and our ligaments relax. Our core also stretches during pregnancy. This means we have some strength to get back! With exercises like toes to bar and burpees, we need strong hip flexors to snap in and finish the movement. Start hanging from the bar. With a light band around your toes, brace through your belly and bring your knee towards the ceiling. Alternate legs. If you had a C-section, this might feel a bit tight so you can start on the ground and work up to hanging.
Try to complete 2-3 sets of 4-6 repetitions per side.

3. Bird- Dog Rows

Review this short video on the bird-dog row.
This is a favorite exercise of ours for both pregnancy and postpartum. The bird-dog row is an anti-rotation exercise. This means that you fight the turn the dumbbell is trying to create. You do this using the muscles in your core, specifically your obliques (muscles on the sides of your abs).
A bird-dog row trains you to keep strong to avoid twisting. This is power and strength you need for gymnastics in CrossFit, during the snatch and during the jerk.
Try to complete 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions per side.

4. Pallof Press

Here is a demo of the Pallof press.
The pallof press can be added into your exercise routine early postpartum. This often means around 4-5 weeks postpartum if you are feeling up to it.
You can perform the pallof press in a mini squat position or in the position you would jerk from. Both have value.
Try to complete 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions per side.

Returning back to CrossFit after having a baby is hard work. But if you put in the time with the foundations, it will pay off in the long run. 

You got this mama! Your body is strong and resilient! 

Christina Prevett, MSCPT, CSCS, PHD (CANDIDATE)

Christina Prevett, MSCPT, CSCS, PHD (CANDIDATE)

Christina Prevett is a pelvic floor physiotherapist who has a passion for helping women with different life transitions, including postpartum care and menopause.

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