Exercise for Pregnancy with Alison Desmond
Keeping active and fit throughout your pregnancy is of huge importance. It helps your body adapt to the changes it goes through in each trimester and also helps keep you fit for an easier recovery following the birth.
Not to mention the confidence and endorphin boost as a result of exercising regularly, is hugely beneficial to the mental health of mummies-to-be as they adjust to their growing body.
Six things to remember when we are thinking about training safely during pregnancy
- Always check with your doctor or midwife
- If you have been training preconception then you can continue to do so but making modifications to each exercise if and when needed
- Listen to your body nobody knows your body like you do
- Take more breaks – avoid becoming completely out of breath. If you aren’t getting the oxygen you need neither is your baby
- Be mindful that increased relaxin hormone causes ligaments of joints to stretch and can increase the risk of injury so keep everything slow and controlled
- I would eliminate any exercises where you are lying completely flat on your back especially after trimester one as this decreases blood flow to the uterus
Exercises that are most beneficial to overall strength, health and posture throughout pregnancy
The big one and definitely one of the most beneficial! Squats can help you at each stage of pregnancy.
They will help to reduce backache, strengthen pelvic floor, increase mobility along with making you feel fitter, healthier and stronger overall.
They are an excellent exercise through pregnancy to maintain strength and range of motion in hips, glutes, abdominal muscles and pelvic floor and are also one of the most beneficial positions for giving birth.
Right from conception through each trimester and even to delivery, and make labour that much smoother, progressing and regressing to tailor to each woman’s ability through each trimester.
Complete: 3 sets of 12 repetitions of banded Body weight squat
Position band above knees, sit backwards and down into your hips, keeping that great neutral spine position as you get to the bottom of your range of motion feel the tension from the band making your glutes work harder.
Make sure to keep hips back, chest up and driving your feet through the floor. Inhaling to squat down and exhaling to stand up.
Cat/Cow & Superman pose
The core isn’t just your abdominal/belly area. The core makes up all the muscles in the midsection abs, and are just a part of this, this exercise also involves your hips, lower back, pelvic floor and all muscles in the torso.
While there is a lot of advice to avoid core work altogether in pregnancy there are some safe and effective exercises that can be performed. These can relieve lower back ache in the expectant mother almost instantaneously, movements like the cat/cow stretch the muscles of the hips, back, abdomen, chest and lungs.
During pregnancy, most weight is added to front of the body putting more pressure on the lower back, having a stronger core in general during pregnancy will result in less back pain.
Complete: 3 sets of 10-20 holds
Get on all 4’s making sure to keep back straight. Gently pulling the muscles of the abdomen in and out breathing along with the exercise.
A progression from the cat cow position if balance is good would be the superman pose:
Starting from the same position as above, lift the opposite arm and leg simultaneously, holding for 5 seconds before releasing.
A regression if finding both too difficult or if further along in pregnancy would be a basic chair sit, and pulling in of tummy hold. Sit on chair place hands on belly and imagine tightening and releasing your belly.
Always listen to the body if an exercise feels too much then regress back to something that feels a little more doable for you.
Every individual, every pregnancy and every person in the world is different be aware of your ability and your feelings throughout each trimester. Remember we are training for strength, mobility and good function of movement in pregnancy. Nothing to do with the way we look.
So this core work is about strengthening all core muscles especially the pelvic floor to help with delivery.
Seated low cable row
As the weeks and months go by, the female body goes through many changes in pregnancy. One of these is the changing in size and weight of the breasts.
This in turn causes many women to almost hunch over with rounded shoulders and all-round bad posture.
Training the back muscles will help to counter-act this and strengthen up the back, making it stronger and more able to deal with this added weight.
There are many variations of rows that can be done however in my opinion a seated cable row is the best option in pregnancy taking the impact off the lower back completely.
Complete: 3 sets of 12
Sit at a low-pulley cable machine. Place the feet flat on edge of a step grab bar with both hands using an overhand grip. Using your legs (not your back), sit back with arms fully extended supporting the weight. Keeping your torso stationary, drive your elbows past your sides and pull the cable attachment towards the waist. Pause and squeeze shoulder blades together at the top of the row before returning to the starting position.
Keep it slow and controlled making sure to slow down the movement on the way back before beginning the exercise again.
Seated dumbbell curl to press
In my opinion strengthening the arms and shoulders throughout pregnancy is a must!
After your new born arrives the arms and shoulders will be tried and tested.
An 8lb new born baby may not feel like much weight at first but after a few hours of holding, feeding, soothing and comforting that little bundle of joy starts to feel a lot heavier than they did originally… not to mention the 101 bags and other things you will have hanging off you at the same time!
I like to do these two movements as combination as it brings the biceps and shoulders into one movement.
The biceps which we use in a pulling movement and shoulders to push.
I also prefer in pregnancy to do these as a seated movement to protect the lower back especially in the pressing movement where many tend to over arch if not holding a tight core at the same time.
Complete: 3 sets of 12 of each exercise
Siting tall on a bench or chair hold dumbbells in and underhand grip at your side. Tighten tummy and curl dumbbells to shoulders while keeping elbows tucked into your sides. Once at this position push dumbbells overhead. We then begin returning to the beginning of the exercise and slowly lower the dumbbells back to shoulder then back to sides again to the start position
Make sure to hold core tight throughout and have back nice and flat against the chair or bench you are preforming the exercise on.
Banded Hip thrusts
Glute muscles should be a huge focus throughout your pregnancy training. Strong glutes will help support the lower back and help align your pelvis into a good position for baby’s development.
Hip Thrusts are arguably one of the best glute activation exercises you can do. They are great for any level of exercise experience and have many possible progressions and regressions depending on your ability.
Banded hip thrusts like the banded squat earlier make the glute muscles work even harder again!
Starting on the floor roll to side onto bench. support yourself then roll onto back. Keep feet about hip width distance apart and heels planted on the floor.hook shoulders onto edge of bench Keeping chin tucked in and hands behind head to support the neck. bring bum down towards floor inhaling as you do so then raise the hips until you have a straight line from knees to shoulders. Lower hips back towards the floor to starting position to begin again
Complete: 3 sets of 12
Remember you are working out to benefit you, your body and your unborn baby so don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Keep all movements slow and controlled and if an exercise doesn’t feel right for you then don’t do it.
Your muscles may be sore post exercise but you should never feel unexplained pain in back, pelvis, groin, glutes or legs. If this happens please immediately stop exercising and contact your GP or health professional. Visit our Pregnancy page to learn more about Active Iron Pregnancy.
Happy training you beautiful mummies to be 😊
Ali & The Active Iron Team