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Tips And Skills For Being A Post-Pregnancy Personal Trainer

post pregnancy personal trainer

If you’re a qualified PT, you may have considered becoming a personal trainer for post-pregnancy. But with so many things to consider about postnatal personal training, it can be hard to know where to start!

That’s why we’ve compiled the ultimate guide to being a postpartum personal trainer, covering:

Before we get started, take the next step in your fitness career and become a Level 4 personal trainer with OriGym! Enquire today, or download our free course prospectus here to browse the full range of courses we offer. 

What Is Postpartum Personal Training?

personal training postpartum 4

Before we get into our tips, let’s first establish exactly what we mean by postpartum personal training. 

‘Postpartum’, also referred to as ‘postnatal’, is simply the term used to describe the period after childbirth. It is generally considered to be 4 to 6 weeks after birth, but postpartum symptoms can go on for as long as a year. 

So we talk about postpartum personal training, we are referring to the personal training for clients who have recently given birth. It is generally about helping women restore strength and maintain weight loss after childbirth. 

It is often thought that exercising after giving birth is dangerous or should be avoided . However, if done safely and correctly, there are actually many physical and mental health benefits of postnatal exercise, such as:

  • Helps restore strength abdominal muscles after childbirth
  • Improves mood and relieves stress, so can help prevent postnatal depression
  • Helps relieve aches and pains
  • Can help with losing the weight gained in pregnancy
  • Reduces fatigue and increases energy levels
  • Improve sleep

With these benefits in mind, many new mums will seek a personal trainer after pregnancy to help them achieve their fitness goals. 

According to the NHS, if they have had a straightforward birth (i.e. without complications), then new mums can start gentle exercises such as walking and stretching as soon as they feel up for it. 

If they have had a more complicated birth such as a caesarean or a diastasis recti (which we will explain later in this article!), their recovery time may be longer. 

It is advised for all post-pregnant women that they should wait until after their 6 week check-up scan before beginning higher impact workouts, such as aerobics and running. 

These timings are something that you should bear in mind as a postnatal PT. When you take on a postnatal client, make sure that they have had approval from a medical professional such as their GP or midwife that they are ready to begin exercising, before you start training them.

The increasing demand for postpartum personal training, paired with the fact that new mums are more likely to be willing to pay a premium for expert services, makes this a highly lucrative personal training niche to get into. 

With this in mind, let’s get into our top tips for being a successful postpartum personal trainer! 

9 Tips For Being A Successful Postnatal Personal Trainer

#1- Conduct a Postnatal Personal Training Initial Assessment 

Before you even begin training a postnatal client, you should conduct an initial assessment. This is important when working with any kind of client, but even more so when in post pregnancy personal training. 

In an initial assessment, you should try to find out as much information as you can about the client. This allows you to ensure that you create a training programme that caters to their individual needs as much as possible. 

Plus, it will also make the client feel more confident in your abilities as a trainer, as it shows that you care about them and their needs. This will help form the foundation of a positive client-trainer relationship throughout the whole programme! 

Here are some things to consider when conducting an initial assessment with a postpartum client:

 

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Make Your Client Feel Comfortable

postnatal pt

This is important when training anyone, but particularly when personal training new mothers!

Many women may have hired a postpartum personal trainer because they are nervous about getting back into exercising after pregnancy. They may not have exercised for a long time, perhaps since before they were pregnant.

With this in mind, you should use this first session to establish a good relationship with them and make them feel as comfortable as possible. 

A good way to do this is to start the session with some small talk. Before you even get into anything fitness-related, ask them some general questions on easy subjects such as:

  • Their pregnancy (how they found it, the birth etc.)
  • Their baby (its name, gender, weight etc.)
  • What they did at the weekend
  • How they are feeling today 
  • What they do for a living 
  • Their family

This will help you build rapport with your client, help them feel at ease in your company and create the foundations for you to build a positive relationship. 

This will also benefit you in the long run, as a client is likely to be more cooperative and make more progress with a personal trainer that they are comfortable with.  

Ask How Long Ago Your Client Had Their Baby

postpartum personal trainer 2

As we have mentioned, how long ago your client gave birth is an important factor to consider when designing a training program. 

As a general rule of thumb, before their 6-8 week check-up, new mothers should only do gentle exercises, such as:

  • Pelvic floor exercises
  • Walking 
  • Gentle stretching 

Only after their 6-8 week check up can they begin higher impact exercises such as aerobics and running. 

However, remember that every mother will be different! For example, just because a mother has had their 6-8 week check-up, doesn’t automatically mean that they are ready to start doing HIIT workouts! 

Instead, as a postpartum PT, you should treat your clients on a case-by-case basis. Whilst how long ago they gave birth is certainly a factor in helping you design their training program, there are other factors to consider too- which we will explore in this article!  

Ask Whether Your Client Had Any Complications During Birth 

personal training postpartum 2

Another factor that can help you determine the nature of your postpartum personal training programme is the nature of their birth.

In other words, whether their delivery was straightforward, or if they experienced complications such as a difficult delivery or a caesarean. 

For example, if your client had a caesarean, their recovery period will be longer before they can begin higher intensity exercise. You may also need to be particularly aware of their abdominals, which may be sensitive and sore after this procedure.

However, the most important thing to remember about this is to never push your client for information regarding their birth. Especially if they experienced complications, it can be a sensitive or even traumatic experience to talk about as a new mother. 

As a postnatal personal trainer, you will perhaps therefore need to be more sensitive to your client’s emotions than you would with other clients.

Find Out if Your Client Had a Diastasis Recti

A diastasis recti is essentially when the two muscles that run down the middle of the stomach separate during pregnancy. 

It is very common, with around half of all pregnant women experiencing it

So if you are serious about becoming a personal trainer for post pregnancy, it is very likely that you will encounter a client with a diastasis recti. If you do, you will need to adapt your programme accordingly, as their abdominal muscles will be weaker than normal. 

If your client does have a diastasis recti, then you should make sure to avoid exercises such as:

  • Supine abdominal crunches
  • Spinal flexion
  • All fours position
  • Plank position 

We will outline some alternative core exercises later in this article!

Find Out About Your Client’s Past and Current Level of Physical Activity

postpartum personal trainer 4

In this first session, you’ll need to get to know how active your client was before and during their pregnancy, and how active they are at the moment. 

You should ask them things such as:

  • How often they normally exercise a week 
  • How long they normally exercise for
  • What kind of exercise do they normally do (i.e. do they mostly do strength training in the gym, running or yoga?)
  • How active they are in their day-to-day life (i.e. do they have an office-based job or a more active profession?)

This will then determine the intensity of the programme you design for them. 

As we have mentioned, remember that if your client wasn’t that active before pregnancy, they should not suddenly start an intensive exercise regime! They should simply maintain or even decrease their activity levels.

Conduct a Postural Assessment With Your Client 

Your initial assessment with a client should also include a postural assessment, which will highlight issues such as:

  • Postural imbalances
  • Muscular weaknesses
  • Range of motion issues

This is particularly important as a postpartum personal trainer, as it can highlight common problems for new mothers such as lower back pain, which you will then know to work around.

Check out our full guide to conducting a postural assessment here for more information. 

 

Become a Level 4 personal trainer with OriGym!

Enquire today about our Ofqual-regulated Level 4 specialist fitness courses

Determine Your Client’s Goals

postnatal pt 4

The initial assessment is also a great time to determine your client’s goals for postnatal personal training. 

It is likely that the goals of your postnatal clients will have a slightly different focus to your usual clients. For example, it is unlikely that they will have the goal to ‘lose weight’ or ‘get abs’. 

Instead, their goals are likely to be more concerned with maintaining their overall health and wellbeing to benefit themselves and to help adapt to their new life as a mother.

For example, they may be wanting to strengthen their pelvic floor and abdominal muscles in order to recover from labour.

Their goals for keeping fit may also be more holistic and mental health-focused, such as:

  • Improve their mood
  • Boost their energy levels
  • Keep active

They may also be more practically-focused. For example, they may want a personal trainer post pregnancy purely so that they can know which exercises are safe for them, and to have supervision and physical support (i.e. someone to spot them during exercises).   

However, it is still beneficial to use the SMART fitness goal criteria to ensure that their goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Bound. 

Determining their goals in this first session is important, as you can then tailor their postpartum personal training programme exactly to their needs!

#2- Keep Workouts Short When Personal Training Postnatal Clients

postpartum personal trainer 5

One of the main differences between regular and postnatal personal training is the length of your sessions. 

You may be used to 45 or hour-long sessions with your regular clients. However, when personal training postnatal clients, you should start with 20 to 30 minute sessions.

This is because new mothers are likely to be fatigued, due to spending so much energy looking after their baby and most likely getting limited sleep. 

Plus, new mothers will be so busy with their baby that they likely won’t have time to fit in a longer workout, or be able to be away from their baby for too long. 

After the 6-8 week post-birth mark, or after a few weeks of training with you, you could then increase the length of your sessions to 40 or 50 minutes. However, this completely depends on your client’s abilities, preferences and how much time they have.

#3- Postnatal Personal Training Should Focus on Strengthening the Abdominal Muscles 

postpartum personal trainer

During pregnancy, the abdominal muscles are stretched and therefore weakened. As we have said, this is particularly the case for women who have a diastasis recti. 

An important part of being a postnatal personal trainer is therefore helping your client build back the strength in this area.

However, ab exercises you might give to your regular clients will not always be suitable for a postnatal client. 

You should avoid giving postnatal clients core exercises that involve any kind of crunching or spinal flexion movement. This is because moving the abdominal wall forcibly forwards can further separate the abdominal muscles, which can make an existing diastasis recti worse, or creating one in an otherwise healthy client. 

With this in mind, some core exercises to avoid are:

  • Crunches 
  • Bicycle crunches
  • Sit ups
  • Reverse crunches
  • Yoga poses such as boat pose

Instead, some alternative core exercises to include in your postpartum personal training are:

  • Basic breathing exercises such as transverse abdominal breathing. This will help your client engage with the breath, targeting the deep internal organs, helping improve stability and coordination. 
  • Lying heel slides
  • Leg extensions
  • Toe taps

Weakened abdominal muscles can also lead to lower back pain, as the muscles are not strong enough to support the spine. Lower back pain is therefore something you should be prepared to deal with when thinking about becoming a postnatal personal trainer.

To help you prepare for this, it is a good idea to take a Level 4 course in Lower Back Pain Management. This will qualify you to safely train clients- such as new mothers, with lower back pain, so you can help them build back core strength without causing injury! 

Enjoying this article so far? Here’s 3 more that we think you’ll love:

#4-  Include Pelvic Floor Exercises in Your Postpartum Personal Training Programme 

postnatal pt 2 

As well as the abdominals, another area to focus on as a post pregnancy personal trainer that you might not with other clients, is the pelvis.

Because of the musculoskeletal changes that go on in the body during pregnancy, the pelvic floor can come under great strain.

The pelvic floor muscles are simply the muscles that support the bladder, bowel and uterus (in women). To find your pelvic floor muscles, imagine that you are trying to stop the flow of urine. This contraction is how to engage your pelvic floor.

Here is how to instruct a pelvic floor exercise:

  • Sit down comfortably and squeeze these muscles.
  • Do this quickly at first, then more slowly, holding for as long as you can before relaxing. 
  • Remember to breathe deeply throughout the exercise. 
  • If this is the first time that your client has done pelvic floor exercises, then have them do this just once or twice. Then over time, work up to 3 sets of 8 squeezes a day. 

You should include pelvic floor exercises at the start or end of your session, as part of a warm-up or cool-down. 

#5-Keep Exercises Low-Impact When Personal Training Postnatal Clients

postnatal pt 3

You may be used to pushing your clients to their absolute limit during training sessions. But as a postpartum personal trainer, this is not always the right approach when working with new mothers. 

It is important that you avoid training postpartum clients to the point where they are completely out of breath, overheated and exhausted. 

This is because during pregnancy and childbirth, the body goes through a lot of changes and stress- particularly if they have undergone a C-section or other birth complications. Their muscles are therefore likely to be weaker, and their stamina may be low. 

Another thing to consider in post natal personal training is stress incontinence. This is when the bladder accidentally leaks urine when put under ‘stress’ such as laughing, sneezing or exercise. It is particularly common in new mothers, due to weakened pelvic floor and vaginal muscles. 

postpartum pt

Plus, a new mother will be running low on sleep and have a lot of other things going on in their life, so it is likely that their general energy levels will be lower than usual. 

With these factors in mind, when planning a postpartum personal training session, you should tone down the intensity by at least 30-50%. That means no hardcore HIIT training, spirints or other high-level cardio exercises! 

Instead, opt for low-impact workouts. But remember that low-impact doesn’t necessarily mean ‘easy’. Low-impact exercises are simply exercises that don’t involve putting a lot of strain on your muscles and joints. 

For example, something like 10 minutes of running on the treadmill may not be suitable for your client. A low-impact version of this exercise suitable for a postpartum client would be walking, or light jogging on the spot. 

Other examples of low-impact exercises for new mothers include:

  • Swimming
  • Rowing machine 
  • Elliptical trainer
  • Bike machine 
  • Step machine

Another good type of low-impact exercise you could include in your postnatal personal training programme is yoga- which we will discuss next! 

 

Become a Level 4 personal trainer with OriGym!

Enquire today about our Ofqual-regulated Level 4 specialist fitness courses

#6- Incorporate Elements of Yoga Into Your Postpartum Personal Training Sessions

postnatal personal trainer 3

As we have said, a post pregnancy personal training session should be much less intense than the type of workout you might plan for other clients. Lower intensity activities such as yoga, are a good idea! 

This could be during the warm-up and cool-downs, or even during the bulk of the session itself.  

There are countless benefits of yoga for everyone, but particularly for new mothers, such as:

  • Relieves muscle tension
  • Builds up strength in a low-impact way
  • Strengthens the pelvic floor and core muscles
  • Improves mood, which may help against postnatal depression
  • Can help restore hormonal balance
  • Encourages spinal flexibility 
  • Can improve sleep

Some safe and effective yoga poses you could use with your postnatal clients are:

  • Mountain pose
  • Child’s pose
  • Cat-cow pose

personal trainer post pregnancy 3

Most of the above poses are low-impact, and should be done slowly and mindfully to prevent injury and overstraining. 

Plus, the joints are typically more supple and flexible a few months after birth, so be mindful of your client overstretching. 

Just like in prenatal yoga, you should avoid poses that stretch the abdomen too much, such as:

  • Backbends such as wheel pose
  • Inversions such as headstand
  • Deep twists 
  • Advanced balances such as crow pose

So, if you feel confident, it may be beneficial to include some of these poses into a postnatal personal training session!

If you want to learn more about yoga and its benefits for your clients, OriGym’s yoga teacher training courses can help you do just that!

#7- When Personal Training Post Pregnancy Clients, Re-Introduce Weight Training Slowly 

personal trainer post pregnancy 5

Many new mothers may be keen to do lots of heavy weights after pregnancy to regain strength as quickly as possible- especially if they were used to weight training before pregnancy. 

However, as a postnatal personal trainer, you should discourage your clients from doing this. As we have said, you should stick to low-impact exercises only- and this includes being mindful of how you use weights with your clients. 

In the first few weeks after birth, you should stick to bodyweight exercises and gentle movements. At this stage, it is just about getting the body moving and slowly returning to exercise. 

This is because using heavy weights and explosive movements such as lifting, squatting and pushing can put pressure on the abdominal wall- particularly if your client has a diastasis recti. It can even cause injury. 

Remember that the priority with prenatal personal training is rebuilding core strength, before you start hitting the squat rack!

That said, if you feel that your client is ready to start weight training, the key thing to remember is: lower weights, higher reps. 

In other words, instead of getting your client lifting heavy weights for a few slow reps, focus more on lower weights for more reps. This is because lifting heavy weights puts more strain and tension on the body, which should be avoided.

postnatal personal trainer 2

For example, instead of sets of 8-10 heavy squats in a squat rack, ask the client to try sets of 15 with a light kettlebell or two low-weight dumbbells or even just bodyweight squats. This is still just as effective in building strength, but is a lower-impact option for prenatal clients.

A good alternative to intense weight training are resistance bands. They are a good low-impact alternative that still helps to build strength and tone muscles, without the risk of injury.

When it comes to including weight training into a training postnatal personal training program, it should be treated on a client by client basis. 

#8- Keep Communicating With Your Client Throughout the Postnatal Personal Training Session

postnatal personal trainer

Another essential tip for being a personal trainer for post pregnancy is to always communicate with your client throughout the session. 

This is one of the things that makes a good personal trainer in general, but it is particularly important as a postnatal personal trainer. 

This is simply because there are more things to consider when training postnatal clients, and there’s also a higher risk of injury. 

You should therefore keep checking in with your client throughout the session. This could be by directly asking them how an exercise feels, or assuring them at the start of the session that they can take a break at any time.

By maintaining a good line of communication throughout the session, you can pre-empt any problems that may arise, rather than them being a surprise. This will then help you conduct a safe and effective session with them.

For example, say your client has just done some squats, and you ask your client how they feel afterwards. If they say it felt easy, you can continue with the session or even give them a more advanced exercise. 

However, if they say that they are feeling pain in the lower back, for example, you can react accordingly. You could say that they can take a break if they need, and you may need to remove some other exercises you had planned for the session that may also aggravate the lower back. 

Without regularly asking your client how they feel, it is much more likely that it could result in injury.

Check out our guide to personal trainer communication skills for more tips for communicating with your clients! 

#9- Consider Taking Further Qualifications to Help You Become a Post Pregnancy Personal Trainer

personal trainer post pregnancy

The tips we have covered thus far will certainly help you be a successful postpartum personal trainer. However, taking further qualifications can help you even more!

You may be wondering if you need a specific postpartum personal trainer certification. 

Whilst these certainly exist, you technically do not need it to become a post pregnancy personal trainer. If you are already a qualified Level 3 personal trainer, then you are qualified to work with postnatal clients.

This is because any Ofqual-regulated Level 3 personal training course includes a module on training ‘special populations’. Special populations refers to clients with specialist fitness needs, including pre and post-partum clients. 

By choosing a regulated Level 3 PT course such as OriGym’s, you can guarantee that you will learn how to create and deliver training plans for postpartum clients.

So, if a specific postpartum personal trainer certification is not required to work with postnatal clients, what kind of specialist courses are worthwhile?

postpartum pt

Instead, we recommend taking Ofqual-regulated Level 4 specialist courses in areas that will help you become a better postnatal personal trainer.

For example, a highly beneficial course to take for becoming a postnatal personal trainer is a Level 4 Advanced Sports Nutrition course. This will give you an in-depth knowledge of sports nutrition, which you can then apply to your postnatal clients. 

It is likely that most new mothers will seek a personal trainer postpartum not just for a physical exercise program, but for nutritional guidance too. So if you are qualified to do this, you will be able to take on clients who are looking for this, expanding your clientbase and increasing your earning potential.

Another beneficial course to take as a post natal PT is a Level 4 course in Lower Back Pain Management. Since lower back pain is common amongst new mothers, this will give you the knowledge and skills to safely train new mothers with lower back pain. 

So, by taking a specialist qualification, you will not only benefit your clients by having a wider range of services to offer them, but you can also increase your earnings!

 

Become a Level 4 personal trainer with OriGym!

Enquire today about our Ofqual-regulated Level 4 specialist fitness courses

Skills To Develop As A Post-Pregnancy Personal Trainer

When it comes to postnatal personal training, many of the skills required are similar to the general skills required to be a personal trainer listed here

However, there are some which are particularly important for becoming a personal trainer for post pregnancy.  

#1- A Post Pregnancy Personal Trainer Should be Able to Adapt Around Your Client’s Life as a New Mother  

post pregnancy pt

One of the most important skills for a postpartum PT is the ability to be flexible and adapt to everything that comes with being a new mother. 

The main thing to remember is that your client’s number one priority is their baby- and babies can be unpredictable!

For example, they may have to suddenly leave mid-session to look after their baby, or even cancel a session last-minute. 

Instead of letting this throw off your whole training plan, a key skill to have as a postnatal personal trainer is the ability to quickly adapt around your client’s needs. 

So in the event of your client having to leave mid-session, assure them you will simply carry on where you left off in the next session. Remember that a new mother will be stressed enough, without having to worry about their personal training session!

Similarly, it is common for new mothers to experience unexpected issues such as fatigue, lower back pain, stress incontinence or vaginal bleeding.

For example, you may have planned a particular session to have your client doing weighted squats with dumbbells. But your client may then turn up to the session feeling particularly fatigued or suffering with lower back pain. 

Instead of making them do the dumbbell squats anyway, you should observe and listen to how your client is feeling and adapt the session accordingly. For example, you could see if they can manage some bodyweight squats instead, or even switch to more of a stretching-based session instead to reduce the intensity. 

In other words, you should treat each session individually. Be aware that every new mother is different. You cannot always predict how your client will feel on that particular day- but that’s ok!

Another way to adapt around a client’s life as a new mother is to consider becoming a postpartum online personal trainer. Many new mothers prefer this, for reasons such as:

  • Cuts out travel time to the gym
  • Allows them to be close to their baby if needed
  • They feel more comfortable at home than in a busy gym environment

Check out our guide to how to become an online personal trainer for more detail on how to offer online sessions to your postnatal clients.

#2- Postpartum Personal Trainers Should be Able to Motivate Their Clients

personal trainer post pregnancy 4 

Another key skill to have as a post pregnancy personal trainer is the ability to motivate your clients. 

Whilst this is a skill that all types of personal trainers should have, this is particularly important in postnatal personal training. When personal training new mothers, you may find that they need a little bit of an extra push to reach their goals compared to your other clients. 

This is because many new mothers may have lost confidence in their fitness ability after pregnancy. 

And this is completely understandable! Pregnancy is a huge mental and physical change, and loss of confidence is very common for new mothers. In fact, it is a common symptom that can lead to postnatal depression, which affects 1 in 10 new mothers a year after birth.  

For example, you may have a client who used to do lots of weight lifting before they were pregnant. But since birth, they have lost a lot of their strength and cannot lift what they used to, and you can see that it is making them down and frustrated. 

As a personal trainer, it is your job to motivate your clients and give them that extra ‘push’ they need. Whilst you should always take things slowly, you should also still push your client to reach their full potential! 

The best way to do this is through words of encouragement and praise, either whilst they are doing an exercise or as feedback at the end of a session. 

Finding a balance between training safely but also pushing your client to reach their full potential, is the key to being a successful postnatal personal trainer!

Check out our article on how to motivate your personal training clients for more tips on getting the most out of your clients.

#3- Postnatal Personal Trainers Need to Have Empathy for New Mothers

post pregnancy pt 2

Perhaps the most important skill to have as a personal trainer for post pregnancy is the ability to empathise with your clients.

Empathy is simply about trying to understand the feelings of another. In other words, ‘putting yourself in their shoes’.

So even if you have not been pregnant yourself, you should try to understand the kinds of feelings and issues they could be experiencing as a new mother. 

Whilst empathy is an important skill for any kind of personal trainer, it is particularly important when working with postnatal clients, since their needs are a lot more specific and different to other types of clients. 

The best way to develop empathy as a postnatal personal trainer is to do as much research as you can into pregnancy. 

Some means of doing this are:

  • Online forums such as Netmums and Mothering
  • Books on pregnancy
  • Asking friends and family who have children about their experiences

We’re not saying that you need to become a complete expert in all aspects of pregnancy and childbirth! But the more you familiarise yourself with what it involves, the more you can cater to your client’s needs and provide them with the best service you can. 

Before you go!

So, we hope that you now have everything you need to know about being a personal trainer for post pregnancy. 

Feeling inspired? Take one of OriGym’s specialist Level 4 personal training courses to expand the services you can offer to your clients as a postnatal personal trainer. 

You can also browse the full range of courses here at OriGym by downloading our course prospectus for free here.

Written by Alice Williams

Content Writer & Fitness Enthusiast

Alice is a content writer at OriGym. With a first-class degree in French and Linguistics, she loves all things language, fitness and culture. As part of her degree, she spent a year living in France where she worked for a lifestyle blog, gaining professional experience in both translation and content writing. 

When she’s not writing, you can usually find Alice practicing yoga and she hopes to one day become a yoga instructor herself. She also loves running, tennis and cooking up a vegan storm in the kitchen! It was this passion for health and fitness, combined with her love for writing, that brought Alice to OriGym.

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