Do these quick exercises to prepare your muscles for the work of carrying and nurturing a baby.
Many expectant moms today have a problem getting to prenatal exercise classes and even though this is always first prize, we have put together a few exercises that you can do at your desk during lunchtime or whenever you have 15 minutes to spare.
Try and get your circulation going by walking as much as you can. Stretching your muscles during pregnancy feels fantastic and improves your posture, as well as reduce the many discomforts of pregnancy.
Light, limbering movements done after a “workout” moves toxins out of the muscles into the blood stream and out of your body. Be sure to drink a glass of water or two after your session.
Upper body strengthening
Purpose - strengthening the muscles of the arms, chest, upper back and shoulders.
Strong arms and shoulders will help with all the work of carrying your baby, breastfeeding as well as hauling around baby goods.
A strong upper back will ease postural complaints and enhance good posture. Arms usually get a great workout when you are working upper back and chest and you do not always have to do a separate arm exercise.
This exercise is a wonderful all round upper body conditioner. As your pregnancy progresses, push-ups may become more difficult. In the first half of pregnancy you can do them without restriction, as long as you follow these guidelines:
- Get onto all fours, with your fingers pointing slightly inward. Your arms should extend in a straight line down from your shoulders.
- Take your knees slightly back from under your hips. Your back should be straight – no sagging in the middle.
- Pull your midsection in as tight as you can and keep your hips up.
- Inhale as you lower your chest towards the floor, exhale as you press up.
- Do 8 then rest before repeating a second time.
As you move into your third trimester you may find this difficult to do. Modify this exercise by doing a standing push up, against the wall. If push-ups make you dizzy or hurt your back, stop doing them.
- Sit on the edge of a heavy chair with your feet placed hip width apart.
- Grip the sides of the chair with your hands and slowly raise your buttocks off the chair.
- Move your buttocks forward away from the chair inhale and then as you slowly exhale, drop your buttocks towards the floor. Don’t drop too far as you may struggle to push yourself back.
- Once your arms are bent half way, pause and then push back to start position.
Do this 8 times before resting and shaking out your wrists. Do not do this exercise if you have carpal tunnel (extreme discomfort and pain in the wrists). Do 2 or 3 sets of 8 repetitions.
Lower body strengthening
Purpose - strengthening of the muscles of the legs, hips, buttocks. Having strong legs and buttocks will put less strain on your back and assist with correct lifting and bending.
Full range calf raises – those that require you to lift your heels off the floor, may cause cramps. Try these partial raises instead.
- Use a chair, a wall or a banister for support. Place the balls of your feet on a large book or better still place the balls of your foot on the edge of a step and let you heels hang over.
- Lower your heels towards the ground, stretching out the calf muscles, and inhale.
- Flex your calves, lifting up to the horizontal position and exhale. Slowly do 2 sets of 8 reps.
- Stand beside a sturdy chair. Hold onto the back of the chair for balance. Stand with your feet parallel hip width apart. Then place one foot in front of the other at a distance that is comfortable. If you are just beginning keep the distance small.
- Inhale and bend the front knee to the point where the knee is directly over the ankle. This will bring your torso forward and down.
- Let the back heel lift off the floor. Do not bend the front leg more than 90º at the knee.
- Exhale and push your weight back and up to starting position.
- Repeat 8 to 12 times. Turn around and do the same on the other leg.
This exercise is fantastic for strengthening the legs and the buttocks.
Go to page 2 to find out how to work your abdominals and incorporate some general stretching into your routine
Purpose - strengthening of abdominal muscles that provide support for the back and internal organs and gain body awareness of abdominal muscles that assists the second stage of labour (pushing).
Most of these exercises should be done on all fours. This works the large transverses muscle as well as the lower back.
Kneeling Abdominal Curl
- Using a chair kneel and place your elbows and folded arms on the seat of the chair.
- Breathe in as you tilt your pelvis and draw your baby up into your body as you lift and round your back towards the ceiling, imagining that your belly button is trying to touch your spine.
- Round the spine up and tuck the hips and pelvis in and under.
- Add a pelvic floor lift at this point (kegel exercise). Release as you inhale.
Repeat this exercise for 2 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions. This can be done throughout pregnancy.
Opposite Arm and Leg Raise
This is the only exercise you can do during pregnancy to strengthen your back as you strengthen your abdominals.
- Position yourself on all fours with back straight and abdominals tight.
- Slowly extend the left leg, then the right arm in a straight line. Pause for a few seconds before lowering.
Do 10 to 12 repetitions, and then repeat using the opposite limbs. In the third trimester, extend one leg or one arm at a time.
Reach for the Stars
- Start by sitting back to front on an office chair that has no arms. Hang limply but not floppily over the chair.
- Inhale as you start to straighten up and stretch one arm up strongly, feeling the stretch on that side of the body. Breathe out.
- Enjoy the sensation of feeling yourself “pulling” free from your pelvis. Repeat this on the other side.
- Then repeat bringing both arms up to the sky. Look at your hands and hold for a count of 8.
Do these slowly until you feel all “stretched out”. This movement helps to combat breathlessness, sore ribs and painful upper back strain.
- Lie on your left side with cushions between your knees to balance your pelvis and avoid strain.
- Stretch your right arm up, then extend it along your right side and rest it on your hip.
- Let go of the weight of your body, allowing the earth to cradle you. Relax deep within your body, letting go of all thoughts.
- To come out of this position, place your right arm on the floor beside you at breast level, and bring your right leg over to hip width below your arm. Shifting your weight over to your upper body, bring your left arm out, and slowly kneel up before standing.