Best way to start abs exercises – lie on your side!

Are you starting out on your post-baby journey – the place where you are not sure you have necessarily even got any abdominal muscles left? Or did you find them again but now you are having one of those days where you feel heavy and bloated and like you can’t hold them in? In this post you can discover the best way to start tummy exercises.

Standing up is the hardest place to hold your tummy in

When you have just had your baby, standing up is the hardest place to connect to your lower abdominals. You will look down and see them sagging out in front of you. This is because gravity is relentlessly pulling you both down and out. Now there is no baby filling the internal space the skin and stretched muscles droop down. It is such a strong force that when you try to pull your tummy in it is easy to accidentally hold your breath and “hitch” your muscles up rather than what you really want which is to pull the lower belly in to make it look and feel flatter.

When the tummy muscles are strong enough to stay flatter they will also be strong enough to support your back and your pelvis as you do all the lifting and carrying that motherhood requires. Happy body – happy Mummy!

Best way to start tummy exercises..

My magic tip for you? The best way to start tummy exercises – Lie on your side! Nowhere fancy – roll on your side in bed, or the sofa will do.

Lying on your side is a magic position for working out where on earth your lower belly is

Notice how when you lie on your side you can SEE your belly and you can TOUCH it. Both these things help your brain to focus on where to send the exercise messages.

Feel your tummy with your hand

Let your tummy really really sag out against your own hand. Have your hand quite low, below the belly button. Not under your ribs (those are your “upper” abs). Do your worst. Only you are looking. It will be very stretched – it just did the equally magic trick of carrying a baby to full size. This is a joyous thing, don’t be too hard on what it looks like now.

Notice how your breathing and abdominals connect

Become aware of yourself breathing. Your lungs filling up and emptying air. Notice your abdominals do a very similar thing. It is weird when you notice that as you breathe in your abdominal wall will swell up, then as you breathe out it shrinks in a bit. Make this happen on purpose. First take a breath in and let the belly swell up as much as it can. Then as you breathe out (as if blowing out a candle) you will find the belly muscles want to draw in. Help them along with your brain power and with your inside muscles. These are the abdominals below the belly button which wrap around you like a wide belt.

The abdominals move similar to the lungs. And the pelvic floor moves similar to the abdominals! They are all connected! We have lots of videos to help you understand this – have a look in the Pelvic Floor School.
in this video I use that colourful toy to show how the breathing, abdominals and pelvic floor work and how to co-ordinate your breathing to make them work even better

Think M&S knickers!

Think of trying to shrink wrap ourself a size smaller – or of putting on an excellet pair of M&S tummy support pants.

Then HOLD your shrunk position and BREATHE. If you can’t breathe you are pulled in too tight. Just breathe in and out a few times, just normal everyday breaths (great video of how to do the breathing here). After a minute or so you may begin to even wonder if you are doing anything at all? – but you are – you can prove it to yourself by letting go… how the tummy suddenly reappears in front of you!

Now try same trick sitting up

Practice this focused drawing in sequence for a few minutes in side-lying. Then try it sitting in a chair – again hand on your lower belly (like where a seat belt goes over your lap). It will be trickier here not to hitch up the upper abs again.

Once you have repeated it a few times in these less gravity-demanding positions it should be easier to find them when standing up. If it doesn’t work standing up yet – don’t even worry. Rather use any opportunity to be sitting or lying down.

The party trick to practice practice practice…

  • If you are adept at feeding on your side, this is the ideal time to get two jobs done at the same time. Or after a seated feed snuggle up on the sofa for a cuddle on your side. Take an extra 2 minutes to connect to your belly.
  • Lie on your side to watch TV or make a phone call?
  • Sitting opportunties? Again – feeding! it comes around over and over. And anytime you are the passenger in the car! Nothing else to do and the seat belt is the perfect position to pull your belly away from and drop it back against. See how many lamp-posts you could hold in for?

It will make a difference

In short – don’t be disheartened by what your belly looks like and/or fails to do when you are standing up at the moment. Put your efforts into re-finding the belly muscles. The best way to start tummy exercises is lying on your side but quickly moving on to sitting. Then very soon you will be surprised to find yourself naturally holding them in standing too.


Do let me know in the comments below if this advice was useful? Do you have any questions?

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