Read the directions and watch the short video before attempting the SET.
1. Dynamic Bird Dog (10 reps/side)
Level 1: Arm/Leg Lift
Level 2: Arm/Leg “Crunch”
The name is odd, but it’s a classic core exercise, so let’s get bird-dogging.
- Kneel on all 4s with hands beneath your shoulders and knees beneath your hips.
- Exhale and lift your right arm and left leg to form a straight line with your torso.
- Hold for a beat, then return.
- Switch sides.
- To make this more challenging, crunch your arm and leg together, bringing your elbow towards your knee and ever so slightly rounding your back. Return to neutral before doing the same thing on the opposite side.
Make sure you don’t pooch your abdomen or overarch your back, especially because your abdominal and back muscles are keeping you balanced.
2. Forearm Plank (30 seconds)
Level 1: Incline
Level 2: Knees and forearms
Level 3: Feet and forearms
The plank is a great simple and modifiable abdominal exercise. Planks are often “no-no’ed” for women with diastasis recti or pelvic floor disorder. I disagree. I don’t believe we need to avoid the plank. As long as the appropriate level is selected, it can work for most women.
- Start at an incline. I like starting at bed level, just make sure you are stable. As soon as you are able to keep your abdomen from pooching and your lower back from overarching, move to your knees on the floor.
- Rest your forearms against the floor. Make sure your elbows are underneath your shoulders.
- Breathe naturally throughout the exercise, but don’t let your pelvic floor and abdomen slouch.
If you have no problem holding the plank on your knees for 30 seconds, either increase the time or move to your feet.
Most importantly, don’t let your lower back and belly slump. Try tucking your pelvis a little to provide more stability. A neutral pelvis is best in our everyday lives, but some exercises work best with a little tuck, and the plank is one of those exercises. Stop the plank as soon as you lose form.
3. Abdominal Ankle Reach (15 reps)
Level 1: Feet on ground
Level 2: Legs in the air
Crunches are often banned for postpartum women, especially those with diastasis recti. However, context is everything. Sometimes a slightly flexed spine works the abdomen in awesome ways. Plus, the latest research confirms that inter-recti distance DECREASES during a crunch. As long as you don’t live your life in flexion, periodic abdominal exercises in the crunch position can be appropriate and helpful. As with all the exercises, if you can’t lift your head or shoulders without pooching your abdomen or pelvic floor, you should regress the movement. In other words, the crunch should be controlled and you shouldn’t feel like your abdomen is “splaying out.”
- Lie on your back. For level 1, keep both feet on the floor. For level 2, reach your legs to the sky.
- Lift your head and shoulders (if comfortable) off the floor. Stay in this position and alternate touching your ankles or as close to your ankles as you can safely reach. This means, touch your right ankle with your right fingers, left ankle with left fingers.
- While doing level 1, you will shift side to side. While doing level 2, you will move upwards.
- Do all 15 reps before lowering your head and shoulders.
4. Around The World Balance (5 reps/side)
This exercise requires a lot of balance, so don’t be discouraged if you stumble the first few times.
- Stand tall with feet hip width apart. Reach your arms straight in front of your chest.
- Stretch your right leg to the front.
- Without touching the ground, move your right leg to the right and point both arms to the right.
- Still without touching the ground, reach your arms to the sky and hinge at the hips, pitching your torso forward and your right leg backward.
- Return to starting without ever touching your right leg to the ground. Complete that rotation 4 more times for a total of 5 reps before putting your foot back down.
- Repeat with your left leg.
5. Double Scoop Lunge and Kick (10 reps/side)
This movement reminds me of an ice cream scoop, but you can also picture a train’s wheels or a horse’s legs. It’s good for the lower body and for balance.
- Stand with feet hip width apart.
- Lunge your right foot back, bending both knees to perform a reverse lunge. Bring your arms to a 90 degree angle as you lunge.
- Then, push your back leg forward into a front kick (your front leg will support your body weight).
- Circle the leg with your toes pointed and off the ground. Mimic the motion with your arms.
- Do two leg circles before immediately returning to the reverse lunge.
Perform all reps on one leg before switching sides.
You can make this a lot harder by keeping all the weight in the front leg and letting your back leg hover above the floor throughout the reps.
A note about your knees: Some fitness professionals will proclaim “never let your knee go past your toes” or even “always line your knee up with your ankle.” Honestly, this is more lore than fact. You don’t want to hurt your knees, so it is wise to line up your knees with your second toe AND to try and prevent your knees from falling too far forward during a lunge, but this doesn’t mean there is a hard and fast rule about it.
As a general shorthand, you don’t need to keep the knee completely vertical above your ankle (that can actually cause problems for many people), but neither should you let is move past your toes if you can help it. However, also pay attention to how you actually feel. Do your hips hurt? Your knees hurt? If so, vary the position. You should feel comfortable and stable, which means your lunge form might be a little different from someone else’s.
Watch the Video
That’s it for SET 5!