In Episode #141 with Cassandra Forsythe (What Is A Good Pregnancy Exercise Routine?), we discussed why most recommended exercise and nutrition routines for pregnant women during or after pregnancy leaves you way more fat and out-of-shape than you need to be after you've had a baby. In reality, exercise should be considered an acceptable and regular part of pregnancy, and in most cases, you can do more than you think you can.
So while I definitely recommend you go back and listen to that podcast (or read the transcript), in today's article I'm going to give you 15 core exercises for when you're pregnant. Consider this a cheat sheet for getting your abs back after you have a baby.
But first, it's important to understand why it's crucial that you be doing core exercises when you're pregnant.
During pregnancy, you gain significant weight, and since the weight is primarily distributed in front of your body, it shifts your center of gravity forward, which creates a bend in the lower (lumbar) spine called a “lordotic” curve. This shift not only affects your posture and balance, but can also cause significant low back pain – both during and after your pregnancy.
Unfortunately, most of the resources you'll find in books, magazines and the internet simply recommend that you limit your choice of exercises to pelvic tilts (literally just standing there and tilting your pelvic muscle back and forth) or Kegel exercises. News flash: these really don't get rid of a lordotic curve or prevent low back pain.
And that's not all.
If you're concerned about getting back into shape fast, or you've developed some nice abs that you don't want to disappear for the rest of your life, pelvic tilts and Kegel exercises during pregnancy just don't get the job done.
But these exercises below will keep your stomach strong, your low back pain at bay, and let you bounce back into flat stomach shape as soon as possible after you've had your baby:
Ab Exercise for Pregnancy #1 (1st-2nd Trimester only): Front Plank Variation (i.e. Front Plank Taps are shown in the video)
Ab Exercise for Pregnancy #2 (1st-2nd Trimester only): Kneeling Ab Rope or Elastic Band Crunch
Ab Exercise for Pregnancy #3 (1st-2nd Trimester only): Standing Ab Crunch
Ab Exercise for Pregnancy #4: Bent Knee Raises (single or double leg)
Ab Exercise for Pregnancy #5: Opposite Arm/Leg Extension
Ab Exercise for Pregnancy #6: Can-Can
Ab Exercise for Pregnancy #7: Cable or Elastic Band Torso Twists
Ab Exercise for Pregnancy #8: Saxon Bends
Ab Exercise for Pregnancy #9: Russian Twists
Ab Exercise for Pregnancy #10: Modified V-Sit (try to keep back at 45 degree angle for this one)
Ab Exercise for Pregnancy #11: Seated Bicycle Crunches
Ab Exercise for Pregnancy #12: Reach For The Sky
Ab Exercise for Pregnancy #13: Seated Side Bend
Ab Exercise for Pregnancy #14: Standing Medicine Ball Rotations
I'd recommend you choose 2-3 exercises from the ab exercise list above, put all of them together as a back-to-back circuit, or make 2-3 of them part of a full body workout routine with other exercises. Try to work your core three times per week consistently during your pregnancy.
For example, you can do a Monday sequence three times through of 10-15 reps of:
-Bent Knee Raises
-Opposite Arm Leg Extensions
A Wednesday sequence of:
And a Friday sequence of:
-Reach For The Sky
-Seated Side Bend
-Med Ball Rotations
Let's finish with a few quick tips for safety during pregnant exercise:
1) An increase of more than 1.5° Celsius in the your temperature could potentially harm your baby and cause congenital defects. So avoid exercising in hot environments and stay very well hydrated.
2) There's a reason none of the exercises above are done in a traditional crunch or sit-up position. Lying supine (on your back) creates a decrease in cardiac output by blocking venous return, and can decrease oxygen delivery to your baby.
3) During exercise, your body tries to keep up with oxygen demands, and if you exercise too hard, it can cause fetal tachycardia (irregular heart beat) and increased fetal blood pressure as your baby's body tries to protect itself. So you should never exercise at more than 75% of your heart rate reserve (click here for an easy calculator to find out your personal heart rate reserve).
4) Avoid any exercises that put you at risk of abdominal trauma. If you have any difficulty balancing and are nervous at all about falling (which can lead to fetal injury), then avoid any activities that involve abrupt or jarring movements.
5) Finally, there are absolutely situations where you should not be exercising during pregnancy. Here is a full list.
Questions, comments or feedback? Leave them below.
And if you're planning on having or trying to have a baby any time soon, you should click here to check out the Healthy Baby Code program, which teaches you the absolutely essential steps you should take before, during and after pregnancy to set the stage for fertility and lifelong health for your baby.