Every session with a client needs to be structured to their individual needs and goals. However, there may be elements of this sample training session by Shakira Akabusi on postpartum fitness that can be incorporated into your session preparations.
Sharon’s goals are to lose a further 1.5 stones of body fat, build strength through her upper and lower body and improve her cardiovascular fitness. Simultaneously, an important goal for Sharon, which I can certainly relate to as a new mum, is to regain a sense of self, including confidence in her physical appearance.
Sharon is already nine months’ postpartum, so the majority of healing has taken place; however, as she is still breastfeeding, it is important for me to consider that her body will still be producing the hormone relaxin, meaning her joint stability will be compromised. Breastfeeding can also mean that her breasts may be enlarged and uncomfortable at times, so positions that require Sharon to lie prone must be adapted. As Sharon has been practising pelvic floor work, we will be able to resume a fairly intense level of cardio training; however, as she has not participated in much exercise since giving birth, we must build this up slowly.
Exercise and breastfeeding
A study published in 2002 by the American Academy of Pediatrics suggested that moderate- to high-intensity exercise does not negatively affect breast milk supply. A 1997 study by Gregory et al found that, when exercising to a high intensity, the content of the mother’s milk may be affected slightly; however, this change is purely short term, will be replenished within 90 minutes and has no harmful effects for the baby.
As Sharon has three children and often cannot make it to the gym, some of our sessions take place at Sharon’s home. We use a resistance band and light dumbbells ranging from 2kg to 4kg to progress exercises. However, the majority of work will be bodyweight based. Cardio will be placed throughout the session in intervals, meaning we continuously raise Sharon’s heart rate throughout the session. Interval training may also help Sharon to burn more calories during and after the workout and also build cardiovascular endurance. In order to aid Sharon’s weight-loss goal, we will also work on a whole-body resistance programme, aiming to increase Sharon’s muscle mass to help raise her metabolism.
Session in brief
We perform three sets of each exercise.
Warm-up: Our warm-up includes mobility exercises through all joints, three minutes of moderate step-ups as a pulse raiser and stretches across all the major muscle groups.
Cardio: We use interval training of 30 seconds’ work to 15 seconds’ rest, with three reps of each exercise. Each set includes spotty dogs, quick step-ups and burpees (with progressions).
- Single leg lunges with push back x 10
By adding a single leg push back, Sharon will need to engage her core stabilisers, glutes, abdominals and back muscles to stay balanced in the single leg position.
- Squats x 16 reps (each side)
We add a resistance band around the calves and travel the squats in order to increase the intensity of work for the glutes. I will also instruct Sharon to stand on the resistance band while performing a squat and bilaterally raise the band to extend the work through to her shoulders. In time, we will progress this exercise to a resistance band shoulder press. As we progress this exercise over time, we will add 4kg dumbbells in each hand.
- Push-ups x 8
Push-ups are a compound exercise and work multiple muscles throughout the upper body. They can help to create lean muscle mass and will also improve Sharon’s muscular endurance.
- Tricep dips x 10
Tricep dips are effective yet easy to instruct, and increase strength and tone for the upper arms.
- Upright row x 16
Focusing on working the trapezius, rhomboids, latissimus dorsi and deltoids, I will be instructing Sharon to use a resistance band to perform this exercise.
- Deltoid tri-set x 10
This includes front raises, lateral raises and prone flyes, targeting anterior, medial and posterior deltoids. We use 2kg dumbbells for 10 reps of each and will progress to 3kg in time.
- Bridge x 10
The bridge is a chain exercise that aims to engage glutes, hamstrings and the lower back. We will progress this exercise by adding a leg extension in the lifted position once Sharon has achieved this task.
- Plank x 3
The plank in all its variations is an isometric exercise that is held for a period of time while contracting your abdominal muscles. The transverse abdominis, which is crucial to strengthen after pregnancy, is the deepest abdominal muscle and acts as a girdle for the lower body. After pregnancy, contraction of the transverse abdominis helps to close the abdominal separation from the inside. We start by holding this exercise for 20 seconds and increasing the time as Sharon builds strength.
About the trainer
Shakira Akabusi has worked in the health and fitness industry for over five years, with three years’ experience as a PT, and is qualified in ante- and postnatal exercise. Shakira is also a freelance journalist, writing health and fitness features for various publications including Huffington Post, Baby Hampshire and Local Buzz magazine. As founder of the STRONGLIKEMUM campaign, Shakira has amassed a following on social media for her creative mum and baby at-home workout ideas.
Instagram: @shakira.akabusi Twitter: @shakiraakabusi
Do you train with this population?
Join Jenny Burrell on the FitPro LIVE Workshop Series for her course: Adapting Modern Functional Fitness Tools for the Pregnant and Postnatal Client: fitpro.com/workshops