Once your doctor clears you to exercise after umbilical hernia surgery, you need to rebuild your core strength. These 5 easy, core-strengthening exercises will help you get back to feeling like your old, pre-surgical self.

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When your doctor clears you to resume regular activity, it’s tempting to try to start exactly where you left off before you had to take a break for surgery. Trust me, I know.

As soon as my doctor cleared me and told me I was ready to get back to my old self, I was pumped. First, I was going to pick up my baby (who was beyond the 10-pound weight limit). Then, I was going to pick up my much heavier toddler.

After all the lifts and hugs and kisses on my boys, I was going to get back to working out. However, when I tried to jump back into my old routine, I was greeted with failure.

Even my beginner-level Pilates routines were too challenging for me.

It was depressing, and I started to slip into an I-can’t-do-this funk.

Then, my low back started hurting. I felt like I was on a very slippery downhill slope, and I needed to do something to get myself out of this mess—fast!

I researched and tried tons of exercises until I found the very best. Below are the five best exercises you need to do to get your body ready to exercise after umbilical hernia surgery.

If you’ve got umbilical hernia-related questions, download your FREE copy of The Beginner’s Guide to Umbilical Hernia Repair now!

When Can I Resume Regular Activities After Umbilical Hernia Repair Surgery?

You absolutely should only resume regular activities and lifting when you have been cleared by your doctor. If you resume your pre-surgery activities before you’ve been checked by your doctor, you run the risk of ripping your repair.

This would, of course, mean a second umbilical hernia repair procedure. And, depending on the procedure you had this first time, a second repair might be more difficult for your surgeon to successfully perform.

So, do yourself a favor and follow your doctor’s instructions so you don’t risk ripping your umbilical hernia repair.

Related: The 3 Do’s and Don’ts After Umbilical Hernia Surgery You Need to Know

You’ve Been Cleared by the Doctor. Now What?

Now that you have been cleared by the doctor, it might be tempting to return to your pre-surgery activities. However, before you jump back into your old activities, you want to take a little time to re-strengthen your core.

After all, you did have a hole in your abdominal wall surgically repaired. So, it stands to reason that your core muscles might not be quite as strong and effective as they were before your injury.

That’s why you should take some time right now and focus on rebuilding your core strength.

What Is Core Strength?

Core strength is a term that people use to describe how several muscle groups work together to move and stabilize your spine and pelvis. It’s essential for these muscles to be balanced so you can be active without back or hip pain.

Although the abdominals are the most notable core muscles, they are not the only ones. In addition to your abdominals, your core includes:

So, when you start to strengthen your body after surgery, you want to make sure to mindfully work all of those areas.

The 5 Best Exercises to Get Your Body Ready to Resume Exercise After Umbilical Hernia Surgery

Even if you had a strong core before the incident that caused your umbilical hernia, you still need to take the time now (once you are cleared by your doctor) to rebuild your core strength.

As you complete these exercises, take your time and move mindfully. The whole key is to work smarter, not harder.

This is definitely one of those cases where the number of reps is not as important as the quality of your body’s movement.

Here are the five exercises you should do in order to get your body ready to resume your regular exercise after umbilical hernia surgery.

1. Breathing

I know, breathing doesn’t sound very glamorous. But, this the first thing you should do when you decide you’re ready to exercise after umbilical hernia surgery.

In order to make breathing a rehabilitative exercise (and not just something you do to survive), here’s what you need to do:

  1. Begin in a comfortable seated position.
  2. Inhale through your nose. As you breathe, feel the air fill the bottom of your lungs and work its way up. Feel the air fill the front, sides, and back of your body.
  3. Exhale through your nose or mouth. Feel how your muscles in your low back and abdomen hug toward a spot right in the middle of your body.
  4. Keep breathing. Take deep, slow breaths. Make sure to feel your muscles hug toward the center of your abdomen each time.

2. Imprint

Pilates imprint exercise is a great way to rebuild your body after umbilical hernia surgery

Imprint is a staple exercise for anyone trying to recover from an injury or from surgery. Physical therapists love it, and Pilates instructors are passionate about the healing and strengthening qualities from this one simple exercise.

Here’s what you need to know to get the most benefit from this one exercise.

  1. Begin on your back with your knees bent, and your heels in line with your SITs bones. (Those are the bony parts of your tailbone that press into the floor when you’re sitting on the ground with your legs crossed.)
  2. Inhale through your nose, and exhale through pursed lips. (Use the good breathing technique that you learned in Exercise #1.)
  3. Find a spot about one inch below your belly button. Inhale into the sides of your rib cage and, as you exhale, think of drawing that spot on a diagonal line down toward your spine. Your low back should reach toward the floor, although it probably won’t completely touch or press flat against it.
  4. Make sure that the muscles in the front of your hips (your psoas) and the muscles on your bottom (your glutes) aren’t active. They aren’t supposed to work while you do the Imprint Pilates exercise.
  5. Inhale and find the muscles in your low back to return your pelvis to neutral. When you activate the correct muscles, you’ll feel your back start to lift away from the floor. If you’re not sure how to find the correct muscles for this movement, here’s an idea. Imagine you’re out with a person you don’t really like, and they put their hand on your low back. Possibly you would be polite and wouldn’t pull away or make a big deal about it, but inside of you, every fiber of your being would be trying to get away. This is the image that I use to get my pelvis to return to neutral.
  6. Repeat steps 3 and 4 while breathing. Make sure your neck stays in neutral and your shoulders stay away from your ears.

Related: This exercise is deceptive. If you’re not sure if you’re doing this correctly, check out this post with all the important information about the Pilates Imprint exercise.

3. Leg Slides

Leg slides are a great way to assess whether your core muscles are ready to start working. By sliding one leg at a time, you challenge the strength of your abdominals and low back muscles without significant consequences if they fail.

  1. Begin on your back with your knees bent, heels in line with your SITs bones. (Those are the bony parts of your tailbone that press into the floor when you’re sitting on the ground with your legs crossed.)
  2. Relax your shoulders away from your ears.
  3. Make sure your pelvis is in neutral. If your abdominals are weak, make a triangle with your hands by connecting your pointer fingers and thumbs. Place this under your tailbone to help keep your pelvis in neutral. Otherwise, let your arms rest by your side.
  4. Inhale through your nose into the sides of your ribs, and exhale through pursed lips as you move.
  5. Inhale and slide your right leg away from you, keeping your heel in line with your SITs bone. Use your whole inhale as your leg slides away. Flex your foot and feel like a rubber band is connected from your heel to your SITs bone. As your leg straightens, the tension in the rubber band increases.
  6. When your leg is perfectly straight, immediately exhale and bend your knee. Feel the tension in the imaginary rubber band decrease as your heel draws toward your SITs bone.
  7. Do 5-10 reps.
  8. Switch legs.

4. Pelvic Dips

This exercise is a nice little challenge to make sure all your core muscles are turned on and working when they are supposed to.

  1. Begin on your back with your knees bent, heels in line with your SITs bones. (Those are the bony parts of your tailbone that press into the floor when you’re sitting on the ground with your legs crossed.)
  2. Relax your shoulders away from your ears.
  3. Make sure your spine is in neutral.
  4. Inhale through your nose into the sides of your ribs, and allow your right hip to lower straight toward the floor as your left hip lifts.
  5. Exhale through pursed lips to come back to center.
  6. Inhale through your nose, and allow your left hip to lower straight toward the floor as your right hip lifts.
  7. Exhale and come back to center.
  8. Do several for each side.

5. Sunbird

Sunbird, swimming prep

This yoga pose is yet another way to discover whether the core muscles are strong enough and working appropriately. It can be tempting to relax your abdominal muscles and let your belly sag toward the floor, but resist the temptation!

  1. Begin on your hands and knees with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
  2. Press the ground away through your hands and knees.
  3. Hug your belly button toward your spine.
  4. Inhale through your nose and into the sides of your ribs. Slide your right leg straight behind you.
  5. Exhale through pursed lips as you lift your foot off the ground.
  6. Inhale through your nose to slide your left hand straight in front of you.
  7. Exhale through pursed lips as you lift it off the ground.
  8. Breathe. Hold and balance.
  9. When you are finished, lower your hand and foot.
  10. Return to your starting position.
  11. Switch sides.
  12. Complete several balances for each side.

I Can Do Those. Now, What Do I Do?

Once you are able to easily accomplish those five exercises, you have a couple of options. When you’re ready to intensify your core strengthening, you could start attending a local Pilates or yoga class with a certified instructor.

Both practices will be filled with exercises to help you finish building the core strength you need before you fully resume your favorite activities. Even if your favorite activity is watching movies, you still want to do your best now to strengthen your core muscles.

When you work on strengthening your core muscles when they are at their weakest, you can teach your muscles how to work together correctly. Plus, you greatly decrease the risk of low back and hip pain and injury in your future.

Or, I can teach you how to rebuild your body from the privacy of your own home.

I’ve been helping people use simple exercises to recover from surgeries and relieve pain since 2002. After figuring out exactly what exercises to do to rebuild your post-umbilical hernia surgery self, I’ve created an online course.

Related: To learn more about how you can learn how to rebuild yourself after umbilical hernia surgery recovery (from the privacy of your own home), check out my online course, Rebuild.

Hang in There and Keep Doing Your Exercises

I know you may not want to take the time right now to work on building your core strength. You want to get back to doing whatever activities bring you joy.

However, if you give yourself a few extra weeks of core-strengthening time, you are much less likely to injure yourself in the future.

Although it can be daunting, this post-surgical core-strengthening period is really a wonderful opportunity for your body.

Any time you get to start from the beginning, you have the opportunity to mindfully instruct your body how you want it to move. When this happens, you control how and when your muscles work.

Basically, you have the power to ditch some of your old, bad postural habits and adopt new ones to keep you feeling great and living a pain-free life. So, take the extra time—it’s worth it, I promise—and build core strength before you jump back into your preferred activities.

If you’ve got umbilical hernia-related questions, download your FREE copy of The Beginner’s Guide to Umbilical Hernia Repair now!

What’s your favorite core-strengthening exercise after umbilical hernia surgery? Let us know in the comments below.

About Sarah Stockett

Hi, I'm Sarah! After going through umbilical hernia repair, I recovered and used simple exercises to rebuild my abs so they're stronger than ever. Let me help you do the same.

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