Pregnancy & Exercise: Dos and Don’ts
Finding out you’re pregnant can be overwhelming. Figuring out how to properly care for your body is of utmost importance, but there is so much information out there and it can be daunting.
I’ve put together a basic list of exercise dos and don’ts for you to put your mind at ease!
Do: Work on learning the deep core breath
I would recommend working with a pelvic floor physiotherapist throughout pregnancy and post birth. The more control you have of your pelvic floor muscles, the better your delivery and recovery will be!
Here is a deep core breathing exercise you can practice starting from now!
Do: Work on your Balance
Try a Single Leg Deadlift:
Start position: stand tall, engage your core and find your balance on one foot
End position: Hinge at the hips, keeping the back straight and a soft bend in the standing knee. Return to start position and complete 15 reps on one side before switching to the other leg.
This exercise will help to strengthen the muscles that stabilize your legs and will help prevent injuries like rolled ankles, which are very common for pregnant women due to the hormone relaxin being produced to loosen up the body tissues in preparation for birth
Do: Work on Core Stability (Transversus Abdominis & Multifidus Muscles)
The best way to work on these muscles is on the floor, however it is not advised to spend too much time on your back while pregnant because of the pressure you may put on your large blood vessels)
Try a Flat Back Front Raise.
Start position: Stand with your knees a foot away from the wall with soft knees and press your back into the wall.
Start to lift your arms overhead with palms facing down, keeping your back against the wall.
Without changing the back position, lift the arms overhead and try not to shrug the shoulders as you do. Return and repeat 15 reps.
This will also help to strengthen the anterior deltoids as well as improve the range of motion in the shoulder joint (very helpful for lifting babies out of cribs). Once you pass shoulder height, it is important to draw the shoulder blades down the back. For a more advanced version, do the same exercise away from the wall
Do: Work on your Squat Depth
Squatting is the natural birthing position. Making sure that you have mobility here will make for an easier birth, and stronger legs and core.
Try a Goblet Squat:
Hold a weight in your hand (15lbs minimum) at shoulder height and engage your core, being careful not to lean into your lower back.
Squat down, keeping lots of weight in your heels but the whole foot planted. Push the knees apart so that they are in line with the ankles. Complete 20 reps,
This type of squat will allow you to sit deep into a squat due to the extra weight in your hand. If you are unsure of how much control you have in a squat, make sure you have a low seat under you to catch you if you go too low. The trick is to keep the back straight and the core engaged, losing this will negatively effect the lumbar spine and cause low back pain. Pushing the knees out wide without too much turnout in the foot is key here.
**Note: If your baby is in a “sunny side up” position (facing forward) towards the end of the pregnancy, deep squats may cause discomfort to the baby, so listen to your body. If it feels uncomfortable, don’t do it!
Do: Work on Posture
Try a Reverse Fly:
Start in a bent over position with a straight back, engaged core and upper back, and slightly bent in the knees. Hold 2-5lbs in each hand.
Keep your body in the same position, and lift your arms straight out to the side without shrugging your shoulders! Repeat for 15 reps.
As your belly grows, your posture will start to change unless you pay close attention to keeping your lower back stable and your upper back strong. The rhomboids are muscles that help pull your shoulder blades together and prevent you from slouching. It is important to keep your shoulders away from your ears while you pull your arms apart. Turning the palms to face forward will help with this. This exercise will help strengthen and stabilize the whole spine, preventing back pain.
Don’t: Do situps or agressive twisting
This type of movement will encourage your rectus absominus muscles to work hard causing diastasis recti, also known as abdominal separation. This happens when the linea alba separates to make room for the growing baby. These muscles may work themselves back together, but can stay separated after birth. Sit ups should be avoided during and after pregnancy. The good news is, you can strengthen your abdominal muscles in many other ways that will benefit you
Don’t: Do excessive impact exercises
Exercises like sprinting, jumping and plyometrics can put a lot of pressure on your pelvic floor which will carry a heavy load throughout your pregnancy. Jumping will weaken your pelvic floor making postpartum issues more likely to occur post birth.
Don’t: push yourself beyond your limits
Now is the time to keep moving, maintain your strength, and improve your stabilizer muscles. It is not a good idea to tax your system to the point of exhaustion, dizzyness or nausea. Stay within your limits and keep the blood flowing!
Thanks to my beautiful mama model Erica at 31 weeks pregnant!
Also, here are a couple great stretches you can do before and after your workout to lubricate the spine and get the legs moving through a full range of motion: