When our moms were pregnant with us, chances are that they were told to avoid exercise, but like other outdated parenting advice, such as putting a baby to sleep on their stomach, times have changed. Research has shown that exercise may help to reduce many maternal aches and pains, increase energy during pregnancy, and may speed the labor, delivery, and recovery process. In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) have stated that exercise is just as important during pregnancy as any other time of life.
As a pre-and postnatal fitness professional, the number one question I get asked by moms-to-be is about how to develop and maintain core strength during pregnancy.
Here are three of my favorite, and safe, core exercises for expecting mamas:
Cat-Cow: A perennial favorite in yoga studios, Cat-Cow is safe during all stages of pregnancy. Cat-Cow gently tones the core, releases tension from the lower back (a common pregnancy ache), tones the arms and shoulders, increases energy, and improves your mood.
How To Do It:
Start on all fours with a neutral spine.
On your exhale, round your back, releasing the tension from your neck and shoulders and ‘hugging’ your baby with your core.
On your inhale, lift your tailbone, gazing softly out. Continue to flow between ‘cat’ and ‘cow’ for eight breath cycles (inhale, exhale) and then return to a neutral spine.
Bird-Dog: When people think about their core, they generally think only about the rectus abdominis muscles (the abs). Who wouldn’t love a nice six-pack to showcase in a bikini at the beach? Me, me! But to truly engage and strengthen the core, it’s important to remember that the core is three-dimensional involving not only the muscles of the rectus abdominis, but also all the muscles in the abdominal area that are responsible for functional strength and stabilization. The bird-dog exercise is great for developing that stability and strength
How To Do It:
Once again, start on all fours with a neutral spine. Extend one arm straight in front of you while the opposite leg simultaneously extends straight back. Hold for four breath cycles, then return to all fours and repeat on the other side.
Modified Side Plank: I love side plank. I think it’s such an empowering, sexy exercise that makes you feel so fierce after you complete it! Planks are also incredible for your core, arms, deltoids, and side obliques.
How to Do It:
Lie on your side with your forearm resting on the mat or floor. Place your elbow directly under your shoulder, bend your knees and stack them on top of one another. Create tension in your core muscles to squeeze your hips and lift your torso on your inhale breath. Keep your head and neck straight. Hold side plank for up to thirty seconds, exhale, bend your knees, and repeat on the other side.
Maintaining physical activity during your pregnancy has numerous benefits both before and after you deliver your beautiful baby. Always listen to your body and be kind to yourself during this season of immense change. Your baby needs a healthy, happy mama and exercise during pregnancy is one way to maintain both.
Disclaimer: Always check with your doctor before beginning any fitness routine.