New Moms Can Still Be Fit Moms

Dedicated to my wonderful, amazing sister, Abby Maguire Klatsky, who is the genius behind this series of exercises.

In the spirit of Halloween we decided to have a little fun while bringing you a great series of exercises that new moms can do while spending some quality time with their baby. All exercises can be modified based on your strength levels and the age of your baby. Let us know if you have any additional moves in your routine!

Going for walks is a great way to get yourself moving again and get some fresh air. Once you’ve warmed up try upping the intensity by jogging behind the stroller. From there you can spice it up with some agility moves by doing side shuffles and walking lunges.

Getting creative with your workouts while involving your baby can be as simple as just modifying basic strength exercises but using your baby as resistance. As we’ve said in previous posts, glute bridges are fantastic for basic hip strength and health, and now you have a workout partner to keep you motivated! Adding in core exercises can be fun to, like doing planks around your baby, sit ups with a baby press at the top for some extra activation, or keep them on your lap while you do leg raises.

Big, full body exercises are doable as well with this squat to baby overhead press. Keep working your legs, core, and shoulders by doing alternating lunges with a baby press with each lunge. You can use a baby carrier for this next exercise while you work on a bit of balance with reverse lunges. And finally, you can tone up your arms by doing baby hammer curls with a chest press in between each one.

We hope this post is useful for all new moms, and please leave us a comment with any ideas of your own! Wishing everyone a happy, fun, and safe Halloween!

 

Written by Jamie Maguire

Protect Your Knees and Low Back by Keeping Your Hips Healthy and Strong

By far the most common and prevalent condition that I have seen in my career is weak hips and poor hip function. It is almost guaranteed that when I meet with someone to discuss training and to do a physical movement assessment they will have underactive glutes and overactive quads. To the point where I am actually surprised when someone isn’t like that. Generally the problem is a sedentary lifestyle, working at a desk, and driving everywhere. Basically constantly being in a seated position. That seated position deactivates your glutes, which is the major muscle group of your hips that should be moving you around and stabilizing your entire pelvis.

Strengthening your hips, and primarily your glutes, is actually one of the more simple things you can accomplish from working out. While the exercises in this video won’t make you the powerhouse that you should be striving for with hip strength, they will give you a fantastic platform to build off of as well as allow you to maintain basic hip health and function.

The glute bridge is one of the most basic and effective movements to stimulate muscle contractions in the glutes, building strength along with neural connectivity in the brain and increasing blood flow to the area. Start off with a basic glute bridge. By adding the resistance band you are able to increase the demand on the muscles and therefore get stronger. Incorporating single leg bridges into the exercise will enhance stability and the demand on your core for balance.

An often overlooked muscle group for strengthening are the hip flexors. During long periods in a seated position the hip flexors become shortened and tight. Therefore our answer tends to be to constantly stretch them out. This is not wrong but it’s important to also focus on strengthening them too. You can’t constantly stretch out a weak muscle, it needs to have some degree of strength in order for it to return to its optimal length. The first position in the video is less demanding on the core, so once you’ve gotten comfortable with this move, increase the challenge and demand on your stability by bringing your legs up.

The next two exercises are designed to enhance what you’ve done with your glute bridge by adding more depth to your overall hip strength and the different segments of your glutes. Clam shells and a hip extension will focus more on the side of the hips and your medial glute. But it’s important to point out that all of these exercises should be done with a conscious, consistent effort on your part to maintain tension in your glutes while you perform them. The exercises themselves should really be an enhancement to your intentional contraction of your glutes.

The final exercise is designed to bring everything together by incorporating a significant challenge to your balance and stability as well as drawing on the strong connection between your hips and hamstrings. Your hips to hamstrings complex is probably the strongest combination of muscles in your entire body. Being able to comfortably perform 15 to 20 hamstring curls using the stability ball indicates that you have achieved a solid level of hip strength, stability , and health.

Addressing and Overcoming Foot Pain

Chronic foot pain can be one of the more difficult problems that individuals have to deal with these days. It’s all but impossible to avoid using your feet, they’re literally the part of your body that connects you to the ground and all of your body weight rests on. A typical solution for these problems tends to be getting a shoe with more support and padding to protect your foot and wrap it in a cushion, or to install insoles into your shoe that are supposed to create additional support by replacing the things your feet should be doing for themselves like creating an arch. It’s time we ‘take a step back’ from this approach and examine the function of our feet and what a long term solution to foot pain might be.

If you think about what your feet do and the amount of stress you put on them every day, from standing and walking on them, to the types of shoes we wear such as high heels, you might first think that they do in fact need as much protection as you can give them. But the reality is we will always put a lot of strain and pressure on our feet, so maybe a better solution would be to make them as tough and strong as possible in order to handle all that abuse. Because the truth is that when you have pain somewhere, 9 times out of 10 the main solution is going to be that some muscle needs to get stronger. And yes, your foot can be made to be strong.

First things first though, if you’re experiencing foot pain you need to start off by reducing that pain in order to work on foot strength. We have put together a straight forward, 4 step approach to reducing and eventually eliminating foot pain that can be used in conjunction with foot strengthening techniques. Since foot pain is generally caused by weakened and bound up muscles in the foot along with muscle tension in the general area it’s best to start off by reducing the muscle tension in the surrounding area in order to give a little extra slack to the muscles in your foot for when you start directly working on them.

The first thing you want to do is address any tightness in your calf by going after it with a foam roller. The calf connects to the Achilles Tendon which then attaches to your heel, leading into all the tendons and muscles of your foot. Do a thorough job of exploring your entire calf muscle on the foam roller looking for tight spots, from the bottom all the way to the top and from one side to the other. If you find any tight spots roll around right on that area while flexing your foot up and down until the muscle begins to loosen up a bit.

From here you now want to go after any tight or bound up muscles in your foot by rolling out the bottom of your foot on a lacrosse ball or tennis ball. A frozen water bottle will also work. Just like with your calf you’re looking for any excessive tension or tight spots with the ball. Move slowly through both edges of your feet as well as the front of your heel and the ball of your foot, all the while flexing and extending your toes. This will accomplish two main things; breaking up any muscle tension or muscle fibers that have gotten “sticky” and aren’t sliding very well, and also encourage blood flow into the area. Tight muscles means that blood flow is being restricted, which can prevent the muscle from healing fully.

I recommend following all of this up with a good calf stretch just to simply reinforce what you’ve done so far toward encouraging healthy calves and feet without excessive muscle tension. I think it’s helpful to note that there are two main muscle groups in your calf that you want to be stretching. The upper part of your calf will get a stretch if you keep your knee locked out during the stretch in the video, and the lower part of your calf, which connects to the Achilles, will get stretched if you do the stretch with a slightly bent knee.

Once you’ve done this and have hopefully reduced some of the foot pain you feel it’s a good idea to activate the tibialis, the muscle on the front of your shin. This muscle is involved with connecting to the tendons in the foot which help your foot maintain a natural arch. As you can see in the video this is a very simple exercise that does not require any weights, just some type of resistance that you can flex your foot into in order to activate and ultimately strengthen the muscle on your shin, the tibialis. Follow this up with basic glute activation to ensure that the main muscles of your hips are fired up and ready to move you around.

From here you’re off to the races with foot strengthening exercises. A basic towel grab with your toes will help activate the muscles of the foot and get them on the road to being stronger and more resistant to pain brought on by weakness. Single leg exercises like a single leg squat or balance reach will also go a long way toward strengthening the muscles of your foot while they get better at balancing you. And if you’re looking to work extra hard you can try combining the two by performing a single leg balance reach while doing a toe grab with the towel.

I strongly encourage you to get more comfortable with working on foot strength rather than trying to protect them from the harsh reality that is being a foot. Try walking around barefoot for half a day once a week, flexing your toes as you walk around. Over time your foot pain will subside and you will begin noticing a distinct difference in the way you feel and move through your feet.

Put The Pull Back in Your Pull-Up

Pull-ups might be considered the hardest body weight movement exercise that exists. Not only does it challenge your back, arms, and shoulders to raise yourself up to the bar, but the most difficult element is probably how it challenges your core. Once you’re holding onto that bar and your feet leave the floor, gravity begins pulling your entire torso down from your hands. Your torso is now being stretched and lengthening by your own body weight, constricting your abdomen’s free space, leaving your lungs struggling to fill themselves up with air against the weight of your body and gravity pulling everything down and tight.

I’ve thought for a while now that the primary struggle people have with doing pull-ups is not just the lack of strength in being able to pull themselves up to the bar, but from the panic signals being sent from their brain when the lungs suddenly begin to struggle to get oxygen. There are not many exercises that place this demand on your body and mind. Therefore the trainers at Innovative Health and Fitness have come up with a routine to address building up both the physical strength needed to do a pull-up as well as the mental fortitude needed to control yourself in that position.

The best way to get started is by practicing the negative part of the pull-up, a.k.a. the lowering down part, with your feet on the ground. This will get you more familiar and comfortable with your pull-up position while building up strength. Use a smith machine or adjustable squat rack and set the bar at shoulder height. From here get your hands just wider than shoulder width on the bar and set your feet in a squat position under the bar. The pull part of the exercise has you coming out of a squat position bringing the top of your chest to the bar but your legs are doing most of the work. But as you lower yourself down don’t let your legs assist you, instead use your upper body as much as possible to lower you back down into your squat using a slow 5 second count. Practice doing as many reps as you can so you get stronger and feel more comfortable in both the top and bottom positions of your pull-up.

A very straight forward but effective way to build up basic pull-up strength is to do lat pull downs, which basically mimics the movement of a pull-up. Try doing both the traditional wide grip but also the closer, underhand grip, like doing a chin-up, to build up biceps as well.

Once you feel comfortable with the overall form of a pull-up you need to start adding in the element of core strength and stabilization. Inverted rows will address both strength in your back, shoulders, and arms while also challenging the core to keep you engaged and finding a breathing pattern that doesn’t leave your lungs struggling for oxygen. For these you will need to figure out what height to place the bar at depending on your personal strength level. But as you see in the video, your body should be as horizontal as your strength will allow as you row yourself up to the bar. You should be aiming for 10 to 20 reps for these.

Part of getting comfortable with your pull-up position is going to simply be getting used to the feeling of gravity pulling on you from that bar. So practice hanging from the bar. See if you can retract your shoulder blades and engage your grip and shoulders, so rather than “hanging” from you bar you are actually holding yourself in position with control. This is where you can practice breathing in the tight space of your abdomen as well has learning to control the small but deliberate movements of your shoulder blades.

If you notice that grip strength is more than a small issue for you try doing a couple sets of Farmer Carries in between your other exercises. These are pretty straight forward. Grab a pair of heavy dumbbells, and with a straight back and engaged arms and shoulders simply carry them around the gym until your grip begins to give. When it does just put the dumbbells down, give your hands and forearms a quick rest and then do it again. These can be worked into any exercises and be used as an active recovery until your grip strength improves.

Lastly you will need to begin practicing your actual pull-up by using a resistance band for assistance. By this point you should be comfortable with the form of your pull-up, and have attained the grip strength necessary to hold yourself on the bar. Find a band that provides enough support where you can do between 5 and 15 reps. As you can see in the video, use a box or step up in order to safely get your foot into the band before you step off and practice your pull-up. Once you get comfortable with these it’s time to get rid of the band and try a full body weight pull-up, which at this point you will probably be happily surprised that you are much stronger than you expected and are able to perform several pull-ups.