Pregnancy-Friendly Core Exercises
|September 29, 2013||Posted by The Fit Scoop under Workouts|
People tell me I’m lucky I haven’t had any back pain or round ligament pain during my pregnancy, but the truth is I’m not lucky – I’ve just been working hard to maintain my core strength as much as possible. Being a personal trainer and a prenatal exercise fitness specialist, I’ve read over and over again about how important it is to have a strong core, especially when you are pregnant. With extra weight concentrated in your midsection, you are at risk for back pain, poor posture, pelvic floor issues, and round ligament pain if you have a weak core. Ideally you want to enter pregnancy with a strong core and then work to maintain that strength throughout your pregnancy. However, even if you didn’t develop a strong core prior to pregnancy, you can still work on building core strength to support you and your growing baby.
There are two things to be aware of when performing core exercises during pregnancy:
- First, there are a LOT of warnings out there about exercising in a supine position after the first trimester. The general advice is to avoid lying on you back because it may cause reduced blood flow. There is some debate however whether this advice is actually necessary. Dr. James Clapp, a.k.a. the pregnancy exercise guru, notes that “floor exercises on the back appear to be OK unless the woman gets dizzy or the fetal heart rate response is abnormal. If one of these problems occurs, the woman should turn on her left side. Remember, lying still under the weight of the enlarged womb compresses and blocks the large vein that returns blood to the heart (inferior vena cava). My experience indicates that as long as the legs and torso are moving, interference with blood flow back to the heart should not be a problem.” Whether you decide to perform exercises on your back after the first trimester is a personal decision based on how you feel and what your doctor recommends. Just be aware that you won’t necessarily cause harm to your baby or yourself if you do.
- Second, it is important to be aware that a separation of the abdominal muscles can occur during pregnancy, called diastasis recti. Diastasis recti results from the growing uterus pushing against the abdominal wall, which is susceptible to separating because of a hormonally-induced softening of the fibrous band that connects the recti muscles. Factors contributing to an increased risk of diastasis recti are being over 35, having poor abdominal muscle tone, having a multiple pregnancy, delivering a baby with a high birth weight, and engaging in aggressive abdominal exercises, especially crunches, during pregnancy. Be sure to monitor your midsection or have your doctor monitor you for diastasis recti. I generally recommend not doing crunches during pregnancy for this very reason and the exercises below offer better alternatives to crunches.
Here are some illustrations and descriptions of the exercises I’ve been doing to keep my core strong during pregnancy. I recommend doing at least two to three core exercises three days a week throughout your pregnancy. Be sure to check with you physician first if you haven’t been doing core exercises regularly and stop if you ever feel any pain or lightheadedness.
Side note: the pictures below were taken at 33.5 weeks – here’s hoping I can keep this up for another 6.5 weeks!
You can also perform standard strength exercises either while balancing on one foot or on a bosu to challenge your core and stability. (i.e. shoulder press while standing on a bosu or bicep curls while standing on one foot). Since you generally can’t lift as much when you are unstable as when you are stable, this works well during pregnancy because you will be forced to lift a bit lighter than normal.
Exercising Through Your Pregnancy, James Clapp, p 201