One change your body undergoes during pregnancy is to lose a significant amount of muscle tone in the abdominal and hip area. While you may be able to continue to gain muscle tone in the arms and legs it is dangerous to exercise the muscles which are stretching over the abdomen to accommodate your growing baby. This means after delivery your abdominal muscles will be weaker and more stretched than they ever have been before. These love handle “guests” are often unwanted and sometimes difficult to get rid of.
Actually, the correct name for these muscle are the obliques, or the muscles on these sides and anterior part of the abdomen which is an area often left behind or underdeveloped in many work out routines which usually focus on the center abdominal muscles. Losing these love handle requires a two pronged approach. In other words it is necessary to lose the fat as well as tone the muscles in order to get rid of that lose flab on the sides of the hips.
“Spot toning” cannot reduce love handles and cannot change the overall structure of your body. The best way to do that is to lower fat levels. For this reason you must include a good dietary plan as well as an overall aerobic routine to your goal of reducing your love handles after pregnancy. Thankfully this plan will also increase your overall health and to improve your overall fitness which will also have many other health benefits.
Although you may want to just reduce your love handles, by addressing this issue correctly you will also reduce your risk for heart attack and stroke, decrease your risk for immune mediated diseases such as diabetes and fibromyalgia as well as reduce your risk for peripheral vascular disease and cardiomyopathy.
After addressing a dietary plan that includes a generous portion of fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds and significantly reducing your intake of processed foods, saturated fats and meat you are ready to include an aerobic exercise program. Your aerobic exercise program can include any exercise which elevates your heart rate for approximately 30 to 40 minutes three to four times a week. You can include any of the following activities: walking, rowing, jogging, using fitness machines, tennis or swimming.
Your love handles, or oblique muscles, also require a bit of re-training in order to improve muscle tone so that as the fat decreases those firm hips are more visible. There are specific exercises to help reduce the appearance of flabby muscle over the love handle area. The first is a bicycle maneuver that works both the obliques and the center abdominal muscle, rectus abdominus. Lie on your back with your knees bent. Placing your hands behind your head slowly lift up your head using only your abdominal muscles without pulling on the back of your head with your hands. Twist your body to the right and bring your right knee to your left elbow. Now extend your left leg without touching the ground. Repeat this maneuver on the opposite side of the body using a bicycle pedaling motion. Motion on each side is counted as one repetition and you should complete 20 repetitions to start.
Another exercise that includes a wide range of motion is to stand with your feet shoulder width apart and twist to the right while extending your left arm to the right also. This move motion should be in the upper body only and not involve the legs. Now twist your body to the left extending your right arm and repeat these repetitions 100 times keeping in 100% control of the motion. The benefit of this exercise comes in the control of the motion and not in swinging your body and side to side.
An exercise from yoga which works well to improve the strength in your shoulders, abdomen and obliques, is called planks. The exercise that works best is called side planks but they can be very difficult to do, at least initially. If you are just beginning you should start out with abdominal planks first. Abdominal planks are done by lying on the floor with your face to the floor, your legs extended and your arms shoulder width apart with your hands planted in the position as you would if you were going to be doing push-ups. Push yourself out into a push-up position with your back completely flat your head completely straight and your arms straight without locking the elbows. Hold this position for at least 30 seconds and build up to holding for two minutes.
Once you can hold an abdominal plank for up to two minutes you can start adding in side plank. Lie on your side keeping 1 foot on top of the other and your forearm firmly planted on the ground. Now lift your body, resting only on the forearm and the foot that is touching the ground. Your body should form a straight line. Begin by holding the position for 20 to 30 seconds and then releasing. Turn to the other side and repeat. Once you can hold this position are 20 to 30 seconds you can raise and lower your hips slowly several times to increase the amount of muscle work your obliques are receiving.
The last exercise you can use is to stand straight with your feet shoulder width apart and hold a 5 pound weight in your left hand. Place your right hand on your right hip and lean to the left side and straighten back up again. Do three sets of 25 on each side and once that becomes easy increase the number to 50 per set.
While love handles do have something to do with genetics and the amount of fat that we carry in our bodies, we can get rid of them with a bit of hard work and a good mindset. Don’t forget about exercising the rest of the body because the more muscle mass you have the faster the excess fat will melt away.