Post-Operative Abdominal Core Health Exercises

These exercises are intended to strengthen your abdominal core following hernia surgery and assist with recovery. Please follow general guidelines below and watch videos of the exercises on our YouTube channel. Contact your physician’s office if you have questions.

Exercises to perform 0-2 weeks post operation

Pelvic Tilt
Lie on back, place hands on hips, tighten abdomen to pull belly button to the ground, tilt hip bones backwards.

Lying Knee Raise
Lie on back with knees bent, raise right knee up/down, repeat on left.

Core Tightening
Standing, tighten core, pull belly button to spine.

Standing Front Knee Raise
Standing upright, hold chair/counter for balance, knee raise right then left.

Walk 10 minutes daily
Walk slowly, practice deep breathing and get outside if weather allows.

Deep breathing exercises
Perform at least 4 times per day.
– Let all the air out of your lungs and then take very slow deep breath in, filling your lungs.
– Use your incentive spirometer to assist you.

Coughing with pillow
Use a small pillow against your abdomen when coughing to give support with gentle pressure.

Exercises to perform 2-6 weeks post operation

In addition to these exercises, continue performing the pelvic tilt, core tightening and deep breathing exercises.

Lying Heel Taps
Lie on back, raise knees 90 degrees, drop right leg, tap heel, return to starting position, repeat on left, remember to keep core tight, pull belly button to the floor

Lying Bird Dawgs
Lay on back, knees at 90 degrees, extend right arm and left leg, return to start, repeat on left, remember to keep pelvis tilted back, pulling belly button to the floor

Cat / Cow
On your hands and knees, round your back tightening your core and pulling your belly button to your spine, then gently blowing out your breath relax your core and rotate your hips forward stretch your core muscles.

Walk 20 minutes daily
Try to walk without stopping.

Exercises to perform 6+ weeks post operation

In addition to these new exercises, continue performing pelvic tilt, core tightening, bird dogs on back, cat/cow and deep breathing exercises.

Exercises below are progression exercises and are described in three levels of difficulty with #1 being the easiest and #3 being the most difficult. Progress through as tolerated to your physical ability.

Plank Low or High

  1. Plank on knees
  2. Plank on knees with feet raised
  3. Full plank


  1. Chin tuck – pull belly button to floor, lift chin and shoulders to the sky
  2. Knees raised – raise knees to 90 degrees, pull belly button to floor, lift chin and shoulders to the sky
  3. Full crunch – Lay flat, pull belly button to floor, simultaneously pull knees in and lift chin/shoulders to sky, return to starting position.

Flutter kicks

  1. Single leg raise- lay flat on back, pull belly button to floor, lift right leg 45 degrees, lower, repeat on left
  2. Flutter kick – lay flat on back, prop on elbows, hold core tight, pull belly button to spine, flutter kick
  3. Balance (no hands) flutter kick


  1. Lying flat- lay flat on back, knees bent with feet on the floor, palms facing up, reach to right heel, keep core tight, pulling belly button to floor, return to starting position, then repeat on left
  2. Standing- Hold core tight, pull belly button to spine, slowly/gently drop right shoulder to slight side bend, return to standing upright, then repeat on left side, remember to hold core tight
  3. Standing with weights (1 to 2 lbs)- increase difficulty by adding some weight to hands, keep core tight, move slowly, increase weight as tolerated, recommended to start light and increase from there.

Reverse Knee Roll / Curl

  1. Knee roll – knees bent, hold core tight, pull belly button to spine, roll knees to chest, imagine one vertebra at a time, then roll back to start, repeat
  2. Reverse curl – knees raised, keep core tight, roll hips and lift hips
  3. Full reverse curl (leg raise) – Legs extended, keep core tight, bend knees to 90 degrees, roll hips, lift hips while legs extend up skyward, tuck knees back down and then extend to starting position.  Remember to keep core tight, belly button pulled to sky, slow and controlled movements.

Walk 30 min daily
Try to keep your heart rate up and increase the distance each week.