5 Strength Moves for During & After Pregnancy
You're expecting. Congratulations! Now, what to do about exercise (besides Lamaze breathing and Kegels)? Even as a dietitian and personal trainer, I felt a little lost when it came to working out with baby on board the first time around. Doctors' advice is usually vague, generalized, and on the overly cautious side. "Don't do anything you haven't done before and avoid high impact or contact activities." Sound familiar? The same goes for legitimate websites and magazines. And there's so much to think about, research, and plan for, especially if this is your first child.
These five strength exercises are meant to compliment doing aerobic workouts (walking, biking, TreadClimber, Max Trainer, swimming, etc) 3-5 days/week to help you stay fit during pregnancy, prepare your body for the physical demands of labor and caring for your little one, and focus on the most essential muscle groups when you're short on time or energy.
If you're new to strength training, start out slow and enlist the help of a personal trainer for at least a few sessions to get started. Aim for 2-3 sets of 12-15 repetitions 2-3 days per week. Avoid doing exercises to fatigue or exhaustion and avoid exercise lying on your stomach or flat on your back. The most important thing is to keep moving!
- Overhead Shoulder Press (on machine or with dumbbells) - Building upper body strength during pregnancy will make holding and carrying your baby so much easier! Although a 7-8 lb infant doesn't seem like a lot, if you don't prepare it will take its toll.
- Seated Row - When I'm really short on time, I always include this exercise for the middle back and rhomboids. This was the sorest part of my body a few weeks into motherhood due to holding and nursing my daughter. I added it to my current strength training routine in hopes of preventing aches, pains, and fatigue this time around.
- Wall Squats - As you get into the later stages of pregnancy, squatting during daily activities becomes essential in order to pick things up (such as another child!) and building up quad strength is absolutely crucial!
- Back Extension (on a machine) - Back pain is all too common during pregnancy but to offset the extra weight you're carrying in front, having a strong back will help reduce back pain.
- Plank - Working your abs and back simultaneously, the plank is a super-efficient exercise to build strength and stamina.
One last piece of advice: Exercise might be the last thing you want to do, especially during the first trimester and last 4-6 weeks, so listen to your body. Rest is equally important, but maintaining consistent exercise, even if it's 15-20 minutes/day a few times per week, will give you a boost of energy, help with mood swings, and prepare your body for the rigors it's about to endure.
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