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how to stay fit during + after pregnancy

q + a with pregnancy fitness expert Erica Ziel

Can I work out while pregnant? Will I ever get my abs back? Am I always going to have to check my undies after a good laugh? If you’ve ever asked yourself any of these questions, read on as Erica Ziel, creator of Core Athletica® Inc., Knocked-Up Fitness®, and the Core Rehab Program shares the exercising secrets that address them all.

Q: What are the best ab exercises I can do while pregnant?

A: The way I approach ab exercises during pregnancy is to address core training; specifically, strengthening your ‘deep core’. The best core exercises you can do during pregnancy engage your deep core correctly: think lightly drawing your pelvic floor in and upward, along with lightly hugging your baby from the underside of your belly, while lengthening tall through the top of your head. While it may not feel as intense in your abs, you will feel more connection through your entire torso. Not only will this help strengthen your abs more appropriately, but will help to give your back more support as your pregnancy progresses, improve your posture, and strengthen your pelvic floor. To that end, it’s extremely important to learn to also spend time relaxing your pelvic floor. The combination of relaxing and strengthening could help your body have an easier, quicker labor and recovery. I teach all the details and give step-by-step instructions in my Knocked-Up Fitness® Membership.

Erica Ziel

Q: When can I begin exercising again postpartum?

A: The standard rule set by most OB-GYNs is 6 weeks postpartum. Yes, it is pertinent that you allow your body time to heal and rest, but I do believe it important to begin restrengthening your deep core sooner postpartum. It’s about HOW you are moving your body those first weeks postpartum – and NOT about exercising. Moving your body more efficiently and with some gentle deep core connection can drastically help you to avoid losing too much strength and decrease the aches and pains that can start with nursing a baby and being sleep deprived. Even getting out and going for short, slow walks and doing your best to hold your baby with good posture and using your deep core muscles (and not your lower back) can do wonders.When you learn how to carry your body more effectively throughout your day (not just when you exercise) your entire quality of life can drastically improve!

Q: I have diastasis recti - is there something I can do to repair my abs? I've been told I will need surgery.

A: Diastasis recti is the separation of the rectus abdominals (think ‘six pack’ muscles) and is also due to weak fascia in the abdominal wall. You can strengthen and create new fascia in your abdominal wall (and your entire body for that matter) – no surgery required. So many women have gone through my Core Rehab Program and have reported dramatic improvements, even healing completely and preventing surgery!

Additionally, women don’t always ask about their pelvic floor issues, but the same techniques I teach about how to strengthen your deep core in my Core Rehab Program are helping women improve their pelvic organ prolapsing symptoms and say goodbye to their incontinence. Moms, you do NOT have to suffer incontinence – it is not okay to say that it’s a normal part of motherhood. I’m here to share with you that you can do something about your core after having babies to get your confidence back!

follow along with Erica's easy + effective workouts below

outer thigh burners

outer thigh burners

What to do: Stand with your legs in a comfortable wide and slightly rotated outward position, lowering down into a squat (only going as low as you can without tucking your hips). Exhale as you do small squat pulses moving only a through a small range of motion – focus on sending your sits-bones (your butt bones) back and upward. Do 10 pulses then stand up to release. 


Why to do it
: Great for strengthening your legs, pelvic floor, and lifting your butt.

modified cat cows

modified cat cows

What to do: Standing behind the back of your chair, hinge your upper body forward reaching for your chair keeping your weight in your hips (squeeze those glutes). Once in position press your palms lightly into the back of the chair (note: your weight stays in your legs), to feel your midback muscles working to lengthen your spine. Feel as though you are reaching your head up out of your shoulders, keeping a slight arch in your back. Exhale as you begin to round your spine towards the sky by more deeply engaging your deep core (think ‘light pelvic floor lift + gentle zipping up from under your belly’). Inhale as you lengthen your spine back to start pressing lightly into your palms to feel your midback but still keeping your weight in your legs the entire exercise. Do 5-10 slow breath-focused repetitions.


Why to do it
: These feel so amazing to lengthen your back while strengthening your deep core both during pregnancy and beyond.

reach and curl with rotation

reach + curl with rotation

What to do: On all 4’s exhale to reach one leg back, engaging your core, then reaching your opposite arm out to your side. Exhale to engage your core more deeply to round your spine towards the sky as you draw your opposite knee and elbow towards each other (note: they do not have to touch). Inhale as you slowly reach back to start bringing your arm to 90 degrees by your side, then adding a small range of rotation through your upper back (if that feels good for your body). Do 5-10 slow breath-focused repetitions on one side then switch sides.


Why to do it
: A safe pregnancy position to strengthen your back and core muscles, also great postpartum giving your body for space to incorporate some rotation movement.

modified reverse planks

modified reverse planks

What to do: Sitting on your chair, place your hands on the sides of the chair as you walk your legs forward (keeping your knees softly bent or straighten them – whichever position feels best for your body). Exhale as you squeeze your triceps, midback and butt muscles lifting your hips off the chair and opening across your chest. Do 3-5 small hip pulses then lower to start, repeat for 3-5 times.


Why to do it
: Feels amazing for your arms, midback, butt, and to open up your chest.

squats with rotation and weights

squats + rotations with light weights

What to do: Stand in a wide squat position with light 3lb. dumbbells in your hands. Exhale as you stand then rotating towards your right, lift your left heel, squeezing your glutes and reaching your left arm upward doing a shoulder press as you lengthen tall through the top of your head. Inhale, come back to center and lower down into your squat. Exhale as you stand, this time rotating to your left side, lifting your right heel and pressing upward with your right arm. Alternate sides for 10-20 repetitions.


Why to do it
: Amazing for strengthening your core, lengthening your spine and opening up your hips.

squats with rotation

squats + rotations

What to do: Stand in a wide squat position with light 3lb. dumbbells in your hands. Exhale as you stand then rotating towards your right, lift your left heel, squeezing your glutes and reaching your left arm upward doing a shoulder press as you lengthen tall through the top of your head. Inhale, come back to center and lower down into your squat. Exhale as you stand, this time rotating to your left side, lifting your right heel and pressing upward with your right arm. Alternate sides for 10-20 repetitions.


Why to do it
: Amazing for strengthening your core, lengthening your spine and opening up your hips.

tricep pulses

tricep pulses

What to do: Grab a pair of light 3 lb. dumbbells or even 2 cans of soup! Standing in a slightly hinged forward position, lengthen your spine and engage your deep core bringing your elbows by your side. Reach your arms straight back along your side, squeezing those triceps doing small range of motion movements to release and reach for 20 pulses.


Why to do it
: Great for your posture and arms.