5 Ways To Still Work Your Core While Pregnant
BY LUCY D'AGUILAR, FIT & EATS
Mar 26, 2018
Congratulations, you’re pregnant and growing a human! As if that isn’t scary enough, now you want to figure out how you should modify your exercises to suit your changing body.
Well the good news is you do not have to stop exercising (unless a medical professional has rendered exercise as unsafe for you). The bad news is that you are going to have to alter what you do and how you do it, the key word being how you exercise. A lot of the exercises can stay the same, but the intensity and weight are going to change as your body changes. The further along in your pregnancy, the more you will need to modify in order to protect your body.
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What To Be Aware Of When You're Pregnant
So what is going to change when it comes to your old abs and core routine? First of all, depending on how you feel, you may need to stop lying on your back. At around 14-16 weeks pregnant, the baby and uterus are big enough to compress major blood vessels, causing you to feel light headed, faint and numb. Not everyone will feel it this early, but if you start to feel unwell when lying on your back, you will need to prop yourself up 15-20 degrees or eliminate back-lying exercises.
As your baby belly grows, the connective tissue stretches and the abdominal muscles separate to make way for your bundle of joy, which is absolutely normal. However, you can help reduce the amount of stretching that occurs. To do this what you need to look out for and avoid is coning of the belly (here's a blog post I wrote about what coning of the belly is). Coning causes issues along the way and puts additional stress on the abdominal wall and connective tissue. It can also have a knock-on effect in postpartum recovery. If any exercises or movements cause coning, stop immediately.
Exercises To Avoid Or Be Wary Of During Pregnancy
- Crunches (after the first trimester)
- Situps (after the first trimester)
- Full planks (after the second trimester)
- Four-point exercises — when you are on your hands and knees (after the second trimester)
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What Can You Do?
You may have already watched the video showing you the exercises to include in your weekly routine, so here I will explain them a little deeper.
- Core breath: This is the foundation for everything both pre- and postnatal — in fact, for life at all stages. Learning how to breathe effectively will create stability and control of your core muscles (transverse abdominis, multifidus, diaphragm and pelvic floor) and allow your body to function in the most optimal way. Check out this blog post for full instructions on how to take a core breath. Do 10-15 breaths before bed every night.
- Stability ball march: Seated on a stability ball, spread your sit bones evenly across the ball and plant both feet hip-width apart on the floor. Focus on the core breath you have just learned. As you exhale, slowly lift one foot off the floor (without moving your hips). As you inhale, lower the foot back to the ground. Alternate the feet until you have done 10-12 repetitions on each leg. It's OK if you can only lift your foot one inch off the ground, you will get better the more you practice. If you are very unstable, put the ball in the corner of a room to add support.
- Side plank/modified side plank: During your first trimester you can start with both legs straight, supporting yourself on your hand or elbow. Make sure your ankles, knees, hips and ribs are aligned. As you progress in pregnancy you will need to modify the pose. First of all, try bending the bottom leg and keeping the top leg straight — again, you can do this on your elbow or hand. Toward the end of your pregnancy, side plank with both legs bent and on your elbow or hand. Aim for 30 seconds per side and focus on your core breath. Do not hold your breath!
- Dead bug: This is one of my favourite core exercises. In the beginning of pregnancy, you can still perform this on a flat back, with your arms and legs straight up in the air. As you progress and become more uncomfortable, either prop yourself up with pillows or use a half-seated position against the wall. Now focus on lowering the opposite arm and leg to the floor, then lift them back to the starting position. If straight legs are too hard, add a 90-degree angle to the knee. As your pregnancy progresses, you may want to rest the non-working foot on the ground and slide the working leg out as opposed to lowering the leg. Complete 10-12 repetitions per side.
- Bird dog/modified bird dog: At the beginning of your pregnancy you can do this exercise on all fours. As you exhale, lift the opposite arm and leg straight out. Make sure your hips do not wobble or tip, and use slow and steady movements. Inhale and bring them back to the floor. As the weight of your belly increases, you are going to want to modify the move (for the sake of your abdominal muscles, not because you physically can’t do it) by moving leg and arm in and out instead of holding. Halfway through your second trimester, it is good practice to elevate the movement. You can turn the bird dog into a standing exercise and focus on balance along with breathing. Complete 10-12 repetitions on each side.
Please reach out and ask if you have any questions at all. I would rather you perform the exercises safely than not at all — unless a medical professional has told you not to!
Happy workouts mamas, and congratulations once again on your pregnancy.
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