i amDuring the last two weeks of my pregnancy I spent more time on the couch than I ever had. Any time I tried to take a step, my SI joint felt like it was going to tear, making even walking on the sidewalk almost impossible. By the time my daughter arrived, I wanted to do any kind of movement.

Of course, I didn’t want to go back to my old workouts. Even more than pregnancy, I definitely need some structured guidance from a professional to stay safe; my body felt Probably 95 percent fine, but I knew things were still healing underneath. I looked for classes that were specifically designed for postpartum — with exercises that would strengthen weakened muscles, without over-taxing something that wasn’t ready to work yet — and found that there were actually quite a few options online. Overwhelmed by all the choices, I decided to try as many as I could.

And I quickly learned that there’s a pretty wide range of what a “postpartum workout” consists of. Some do more than deliberate breathing, others high-intensity cardio to burn major calories and “get your pre-baby body back.” Sometimes, it’s hard to even tell which extreme you’ll get until you’re already in the middle of a class.

But I also found several high-quality platforms that helped me reconnect with my body. After testing 18 different postpartum workout programs, these are the eight I’d recommend the most to other new moms.

1. Bromley method

Benefits: A complicated vagina is safe to start just two weeks after birth.
Disadvantages: Classes can feel too slow—you won’t get quite the endorphin rush you get from exercising.
Cost: $147 one-time payment for on-demand classes, or $97 per month for additional access to live group classes. Sign up at thebromleymethod.com.

This 12-week series, led by postpartum Pilates expert Emma Bromley, focuses on getting back to your core using Pilates-inspired movements. Each day offers two or three 10-20 minute workouts (allowing you to easily slip them in throughout the day when you can) and always includes one focused on the pelvic floor. Bromley shares a lot of detailed form tips, which slows down the workouts, but I found that his explanations finally helped me “find” my pelvic floor for the first time.

2. P. turn

Benefits: These workouts are super-targeted for postpartum, and since they were created with input from a PT, you can trust that they’re safe and effective.
Disadvantages: You need some equipment specific to P.volve to do most of the classes.
Cost: $95.58 annually or $19.99 monthly. Sign up at pvolve.com.

This three-week series offers 12 classes filled with unique movements that I’ve never done before in another fitness class—which keeps me engaged even on days when I’m dragging. Designed in concert with physical therapists, these exercises focus on mobility, balance and strength lost during pregnancy, plus what feels good to tired new mothers who spend hours holding and feeding their babies. I found that they activated postural muscles that left me feeling taller and better aligned hours after I finished working out.

3. Bodylove Pilates

Benefits: The platform has a huge library of Pilates, yoga, stretch and barre-based classes.
Disadvantages: It’s not always smooth production quality and there’s no music in the workouts.
Cost: $181.25 annually or $19.48 monthly. Sign up at bodylove-pilates.com.

This program was the only one that really worked on my stiff, sore upper back the way I was thirsty after hours of nursing. I loved the wide variety of classes—I never felt like I had to do the same one twice (as effective as that can be), and I could always find a video that matched my energy level. Trainer Ali Handley even offers a “Birth to BodyLove” program that you can start from day one in the hospital. There are some basic and stretching classes designed to be done with your baby, although I wasn’t brave enough to try it myself.

4. Both

Benefits: An algorithm gives you class recommendations based on your interests and preferences.
Disadvantages: There’s no structured postpartum “program” to follow, just a few classes for a choose-your-own-adventure.
Cost: $169.99 annually, or $24.99 monthly. Sign up at obefitness.com.

High-energy Obey instructors offer dozens of workouts — including strength training, barre, boxing and stretching — designed specifically for postpartum safety. I especially appreciated that the trainers give advice on working out after delivery as they demonstrate the movements, so you get information and insight while you’re moving and sweating. As any new mom can tell you, multitasking is essential for life with a little one.

5. Bloom’s method

Benefits: In addition to workouts, you get access to educational videos that really explain things like doming, diaphragmatic breathing, and pelvic floor anatomy.
Disadvantages: Some trainers can feel a bit like motivational speakers at times, which can be great or grating depending on your taste.
Cost: $240 annually, $74 quarterly, or $29 monthly. Sign up at thebloommethod.com.

The program includes dozens of postpartum-specific workouts, including some for pelvic pain and pelvic organ prolapse. There’s boxing and cycling as well as traditional strength, barre and yoga, and even on-the-go audio workouts. Most of them made me sweat. My favorite class was the 34-minute grounded flow that knew exactly what my body needed: stretching the side body and upper back, strengthening the hips, and challenging my balance (something that had been sorely neglected since my center of gravity. Front shifted, and then back again).

6. Glo

Benefits: The site regularly releases new postpartum-specific classes, including some designed for breastfeeding, midnight meditation, and feeling overwhelmed.
Disadvantages: Although Glo offers other workouts like pilates fusion and strength training, its best element is its yoga content.
Cost: $245 annually or $24 monthly. Sign up at glo.com.

I had forgotten how difficult Chatranga was except for so many months in a pregnant belly. But these 20-60 minute classes, some of which involve your baby, offer a nice amount of challenge—you feel the burn (with variations offered), yet they’re balanced with more restorative poses. The yoga instructors are top-notch, and offer vinyasa, hatha and restorative flows.

7. Fluidform Pilates

Benefits: You start with a personalized 21-day program designed by one of Fluidform’s trainers—including some workouts that repeat, so you can see your progress over time.
Disadvantages: The classes are all Pilates-based, so if you’re looking for variety, this isn’t for you.
Cost: $13 per month for an annual subscription or $22.74 monthly for a quarterly subscription. Sign up at fluidformpilates.com.

Pilates instructor Kirsten King’s five- to 25-minute classes focus on short, concentrated movements performed with proper form—she points throughout to remind you which muscles to engage and how. Exercises are slow but specific, with high reps, and focus mainly on engaging your core and reshaping your body. Several times, they left me the next day in a place I had never felt before. Membership comes with a resistance band equipment pack, a small ball and disc—the only thing missing is the ballet barre.

8. Sculpt Society

Benefits: Set to pop music, these workouts really get your body moving for a heart-pumping, endorphin-boosting release.
Disadvantages: With her sassy personality and Hollywood body, celebrity trainer Megan Rupp is somewhat of the ideal “workout barbie,” which can be more intimidating than inspiring in those postpartum days.
Cost: $179.99 annually or $19.99 monthly. Sign up at thesculptsociety.com.

After a six-week pelvic floor-and-core rehabilitation program, the six-week postpartum program offers a weekly calendar of five- to 30-minute sculpting workouts, stretch sessions and meditation. I loved that these classes often included dance-y movements that released all the stiffness my body had built up from so much sitting and nursing and stress.

Start your postpartum fitness journey with this free full-body workout:

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