Best toning exercises for your stomach

Sep 15, 2011 at 3:37 p.m. ET

Oh, the abs – they take a beating during pregnancy. And one of the first things most moms want to do after giving birth is to get their belly into bikini (or anything close to pre-pregnancy) shape. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you get started.

ab workouts after baby

When to start

It's important to speak with your doctor before starting any exercise routine-- this is particularly true after having a baby. If you've had a C-section, you will have to hold off on starting abs exercises until after the incision has healed. If you gave birth vaginally, you may be able to start immediately.


One of the keys to performing any ab exercise properly is to breathe into each movement. This will help tighten and tone your abs faster and it will ensure you don't pull any muscles in the process. The key is to inhale as you contract muscles – i.e., as you do a crunch – then exhale as you relax your muscles – i.e., as you lower your torso to the ground.

Form is key

Another thing to remember when doing any torso work is to watch your form – if you don't, you may pull a muscle or strain your back. Always remember to keep your back flat and to push your belly button into the ground when doing these exercises.

Top 4 ab exercises

Now that you're ready and prepared for a workout, here are four ab exercises to try out. Start with one set of 12 repetitions and work your way up to one to three sets of 24 reps of each exercise.

Forward plank

Lie face-down flat on a mat, your body at a 180-degree angle. Place your hands underneath your shoulders. Move your body into a push-up position (arms at a 45-degree angle) and lift your entire body off the ground. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.

This activity works your entire core, especially your inner abs and back.

Side plank

From a forward plank position, shift your weight into your right hand and rotate your entire body so the left side of your body is facing the ceiling, your belly button facing the opposite wall. Perform the same exercise on the right side of your body.

This activity works your entire core, especially your obliques (your side ab muscles).

The bicycle

Lie on your back and place your hands behind your ears. Lift your feet off the floor, bending them into a 45-degree angle. Gradually lift your left shoulder off the floor to meet your right knee; bend your right knee at the same time to meet your left shoulder. Once complete, return to the starting position. Repeat the movement on your right side, with your right shoulder meeting your left knee.

This activity works your obliques and lower ab muscles.

Reverse crunch

Lie on your back and place your hands behind your ears. Contract your abs and slowly lift your legs to the ceiling so they reach a 90-degree angle. Once complete, slowly lower your legs to the starting position. Repeat.

This activity works your entire core, especially your lower ab muscles.

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