With so much contradictory information out there, it can be hard to know exactly which exercises and movements you can and can’t do when pregnant, but try not to worry – there’s plenty of physical activities that are safe for both you and your baby. One thing to hold in mind is how it feels when you are exercising: if it doesn’t feel good, stop, and if it feels ok, then you can continue. Be mindful though as this will differ from day to day and throughout the different trimesters.
For me, exercising throughout pregnancy is all about focusing on strengthening and mobilising your body to help relieve any pelvic discomfort (SPD), as well as any lower or upper back pain. It’s also about feeling confident in your body’s overall fitness levels and developing a strong mindset to support you through your pregnancy and beyond.
To help you get started, I’ve outlined some key things to think about when you exercise, all centred around improving your core and pelvic floor strength, while still ensuring you get a highly efficient and effective workout. There’s also a link at the end to a ten-minute workout you can do at home that puts all these principles into practice.
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR CORE DURING PREGNANCY
Your ‘core’ is very different to ‘abs’ and refers to the muscles around your pelvis, hips and abdomen, which are used in most everyday functional movements. Each of your five core muscles work together to support your internal organs and your spine, and to facilitate various movements. You still have a core when you’re pregnant – it doesn’t just go away – but it does need to be trained a little differently during this time.
There are some more isolated exercises you can do for your pelvic floor and core, however, in general, any movement you perform will intrinsically engage your core. This is because your core muscles have to activate in order to support your spine when you squat, lunge, reach, pull or push. So when pregnant, rather than performing traditional abdominal exercises, it’s all about getting up on your feet, lifting, pushing, pulling, moving and getting your body working in a functional way while engaging your core.
To exercise safely, you need to check for any doming or triangular-like shape to your bump. If this is present it indicates that pressure is being driven through your linea alba (which runs down the midline of your abdomen) and could increase your risk of diastasis, the separation of the abdominal muscles. If you have any doming, reduce the intensity of the exercise and focus on your breathing and pelvic floor activation. Additionally, if you ever feel out of breath or dizzy when working out, it’s important to listen to your body and take a moment to rest, as it could be a sign you’re increasing your blood pressure. This isn’t a reason to panic or to think it’s not safe to exercise during pregnancy, it’s just important to be kind to your body and not push things too far as you adapt to a new way of working out.
TRAINING THE PELVIC FLOOR WHEN YOU EXERCISE
Try to think of your pelvic floor as being like a ‘hammock’ that attaches itself to the top of your thigh bones on each side, your pubic bone, and your coccyx. When engaging your pelvic floor, nothing should move. The best way I have found to describe the ‘pelvic floor connection’ over the years with the women I have trained, is to imagine you are trying to hold in some wind. When you do this, just be mindful that you don’t overcompensate the movement by scooping under the hips and tensing your butt or thigh muscles. It should be a gentle lift from only your pelvic floor, rather than tensing your butt and legs with it. When working out, just before lifting a weight or performing the ‘hardest’ part of the exercise, think about engaging your pelvic floor in this way and keep that strong connection going throughout the movement.
Now it’s time to workout!
Now that you have all the right information, it’s time to get moving! I’ve recorded a quick home workout, which will help you to understand and feel for yourself all the things I have discussed in this article. It’s a ten-minute sequence designed to train your core and pelvic floor. I hope that you enjoy the workout, and that by focusing on your pelvic floor connection you feel physically stronger, as well as more confident and empowered as you celebrate the changes taking place in your body throughout pregnancy.
|Exercise 1||Get ups||10 each side|
|Exercise 2||Bent over row||10 each side|
|Exercise 3||Side lean over||10 each side|
|Exercise 4||Dumbbell deadlift swing||15|
|Exercise 5||Rotating shoulder press||10 each side|
EQUIPMENT LIST AND ALTERNATIVES
|Exercise||Lowest weight||Highest weight||Equipment||Substitution|
|Get ups||Just bodyweight||Up to anything you like but just so long as you can maintain the technique||Dumbbell or Kettlebell||Tin of beans / bottle of wine|
|Bent over row||2kg es||Up to anything you like but just so long as you can maintain the technique||Dumbell x 2 or Kettlebells x 2||You can use a band under the feet if you only have a band / bottles of wine|
|Side lean over||1kg||4kg||Dumbell||Tin of beans / bottle of wine|
|Deadlift dumbbell swing||2kg es||Up to anything you like but just so long as you can maintain the technique||Dumbell x 2 or Kettlebells x 1||Tin of beans / bottle of wine|
|Rotating shoulder press||1kg||5kg||Dumbell||Tin of beans / bottle of wine|
LIVE ZOOM WORKOUT!
On Tuesday 12th January 2021, Siobhan will be running a FREE live zoom full-body workout, focused on Prenatal pelvic floor. To book your free place, sign up here.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Siobhan Middleton is a fully qualified personal trainer, movement specialist and nutritionist who specialises in pre and postnatal fitness and applied functional science. She is passionate about helping women to improve their overall health and fitness levels and grow their body confidence.