Mom strength is real. Find yours with these efficient moves.
It’s hard to fully understand the wonderful, wild ride that is motherhood before you’re in it. From looking into your child’s eyes for the first time to guiding them through their first steps, it’s impossible to understate the joy and love that a new mom receives. But almost universally, new moms are short on three very important things: time, sleep, and anything resembling personal space. Losing any one of those is unfortunate on its own. But when you take away all three, it’s hard to maintain any kind of meaningful focus on your postpartum health.
Since you already have more than enough on your plate, let’s streamline the process of getting back on your feet. To make that happen, I’ll highlight three key movements with the greatest potential impact on your day-to-day life as a mom. Ranging from simple posture work to serious but superpowered lifts, you’ll see how each of these can not just help you today, but throughout your journey to become your best postpartum self.
1. Deadlifts, or other hinging movements
No lift can truly do it all, but the deadlift comes pretty darn close. This compound movement works just about the entire posterior chain, from your leg muscles and your glutes to your core and all the way up your back. That makes the deadlift perfect for time-crunched moms who want to exercise as efficiently as possible without skipping muscle groups. And because you’ll be working so many different areas of the body at the same time, deadlifting is great for elevating your heart rate and activating your cardiovascular system.
Why it matters for moms
Beyond saving time, deadlifts are instantly translatable to something new moms find themselves doing quite often: bending over to pick things (including babies) up. From lifting a newborn out of a car seat or a crib to cleaning up after a child who hasn’t put their toys away (they usually learn by their 20’s), being a mom takes a toll on the legs and lower back. Strengthening the many muscles that go into that sort of hinging movement means you’ll feel stronger and less sore any time you bend, grab, and rise back up.
How to do a deadlift
Deadlifts can be a game-changing lift, but with great power comes a great responsibility to follow proper form. That primarily means avoiding rounding your back, which could lead to injury. Instead, think about keeping your core tight and your back flat throughout the movement. While you don’t want to lock out your knees, over-bending them is also a common mistake, which you can avoid in part by reminding yourself that a deadlift does not require the same depth as a squat.
Start with your feet shoulder-width apart. With your knees active and slightly bent, let your hips sink back and down a bit as your torso moves forward. This will bring your arms down to grab what you’re lifting, remembering to keep your palms facing towards you. As you start to lift, think about pushing the floor away with your feet while maintaining a tight core, neutral spine, and straight arms with your hands staying close to your body throughout. Shoot your hips forward, tightening your abs and your glutes as you reach a standing position at the top of the rep. To start moving back down, bend your knees, slide your glutes back, and maintain that flat back as you bring the weight down to complete the rep.
2. Weighted Carries
Weighted carries are an indispensable tool for developing mom strength during the postpartum period. What makes them extra-valuable is their versatility, as they’ll work whether you choose kettlebells, dumbbells, or anything else with some heft. From the straightforward simplicity of a farmer’s walk or a suitcase carry to overhead and waiter carries that add a little bit of stability work, there’s almost no limit to how you can carry the weight. Just like the deadlift, this type of movement helps moms maximize their impact by targeting many muscle groups, and they’re especially great working your core and upper back to strengthen posture and stability. That’s just some of why carries can help you carry on after pregnancy and start feeling like an even stronger version of your old self.
Why they matter for moms
Unless you have the luxury of never leaving your bed, being a mom means you’ll eventually have to excel at securely holding and efficiently carrying your child while on the go. Moving with an infant in tow may be easy at first, but a growing kid is inevitably going to get heavier over time.
That’s not to mention all sorts of other carrying scenarios where a little extra mom strength can come in handy. For example, you could have two small kids who want to be held and carried at the same time. Or you could be a multitasking mom who’s running errands with a shopping bag under each arm and a baby strapped to your chest. These are both examples of movements where you’re carrying weight, so there’s definite value in practicing how you can efficiently and safely move with some extra pounds in tow.
How to do a weighted carry
The technique will vary depending on the particular type of carry. But the basic farmer’s walk is a good starting point before moving onto more complex variations.
I’m assuming you already have a pretty good idea of how to walk, so the most important part is picking up the weight properly. Start with your dumbbells, kettlebells, or whatever else you’ll be carrying placed shoulder-width apart on the ground, with the handles running parallel to the direction of your planned walk. Picking up the weights will follow the “lift with your legs, not your back” mantra, and follows a movement pattern similar to the deadlift form described above. With your arms straight, drop your hips down far enough for you to get a good grip on the weights. With your shoulders, traps, and core engaged, push the floor away to life up with your arms staying straight.
From there, it’s just a matter of walking with that weight in hand. It helps to have the “point B” of your circuit in mind before you start, even if that means turning around and walking back to the starting point once you get there. Make sure your path is free of obstructions or obstacles as well. Keep walking until you feel your grip starting to falter, then put the weights down with as much control as you can and get some rest.
3. Chest Openers and Posture Work
Even if you’re not a new mom, there’s a good chance that you could stand to get your posture on point. Not only does sitting and standing in proper alignment keep your muscles, ligaments, and tendons in tip-top shape, but it promotes healthy nerve and blood vessel function. Wall slides are a wonderful way to open up your chest, un-round your shoulders, and generally undo the detrimental effects of spending too much time hunched forward. And unless you’re out in a completely open field, it’s a move that you can do wherever you are without any added equipment.
Why it matters for moms
Whether you’re breastfeeding, bottle-feeding, or some combination of the two, being a new mom means spending tons of time feeding and holding your newborn with your chest and shoulders pulled forward. Combine that with the fact that many moms are juggling parenting duties while working from home or otherwise hunched over a laptop, and you have the recipe for aches, pains, and the kind of misalignment that can make it harder to get back into the swing of strength training. Opening up your chest and working on keeping your posture tall with shoulders stacked over your ribs and hips will correct for all that time spent holding, carrying, and caring for your newborn.
How to do it
Opening up your chest and shoulders can be done simply and safely with nothing more than a wall. With your ribs tucked down and your eyes looking straight ahead, stand with your back flat against a wall. Raise your arms up into a “field goal” position, bending 90 degrees at the elbow with your hands pointing up. Slowly slide your arms up as high as you can take them, and then slowly slide them back down. Aim for five to 10 reps, keeping your focus on maintaining contact between your back, hands, and glutes glued to the wall.
Get moving and find your mom strength.
While motherhood creates a whole new set of responsibilities to the tiny human you brought into the world, it doesn’t mean that you can’t take time for exercise. Each of these movements is designed to target multiple muscle groups or fix your posture as efficiently as possible, creating a sizable impact in a short amount of time.
There’s no reason you need to limit yourself to these three moves. But if you’re wondering how to get out of your postpartum funk and refocus on fitness, they offer a great way to get the ball rolling again. And as you go, you’ll realize that focusing on your own health can actually play a key role in becoming the best mom you can be.