While research indicates that prenatal exercise is not only okay but recommended, myths and misconceptions about physical activity and pregnancy persist in the minds of pregnant women, personal trainers, and the general public.
One of the most important points of fear in the world of prenatal health is core strengthening exercises. From the anxiety of hurting the baby to the fear of damaging the musculature of a pregnant woman’s core, to ignoring the core completely because of the misconception that it is ineffective during pregnancy, many women don’t train their abs well or with mind function.
Let’s define “core” before we continue. Our abdominal musculature goes far beyond your “package of six. Think of your core as a three-dimensional cylindrical unit, with muscles that run in several directions. These muscles include: the transverse abdomen, the obliques, the abdominal rectuses and the erector spines, with the diaphragm at the top and the pelvic floor at the bottom of the cylinder. This three-dimensional unit acts as a support for the spine.
With the weight shifting forward as the baby grows, the strength of the pregnant woman’s central musculature is critical to maintaining a neutral spine and ultimately helping to decrease muscle fatigue and pain. Without good trunk strength, the growing baby’s weight can push the pelvis forward, causing a backward swing (lordosis). This prolonged position can lead to very uncomfortable misalignment of the spine. Increased core strength during pregnancy will help the pelvis return to its neutral position. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “…more than 60% of all pregnant women experience low back pain. Strengthening the abdominal and back muscles may minimize this risk.
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3 Basic prenatal exercises that are safe and effective:
Before beginning any prenatal exercise to develop core strength, it is essential to first establish abdominal involvement.
Functional resistance to rotation (resistance band required)
Place a handle on the floor and stand on the band with both feet. Grasp the other handle with both hands. Create tension in the abdominals. Squat, with weight on your heels and neutral spine. Stand and turn your arms out at the front of your body, turning in the rib cage with your hips squared forward. Keep knees soft at the top of the movement.
Bird Dog – three-dimensional stability force (no equipment needed)
Extend one arm forward while the opposite leg extends backward (hold for 8-10 seconds and repeat on the other side).
Note: For balance problems, perform arm and leg movements separately.
Prone Plate Variations – Resistance to Three-Dimensional Stability (No Equipment Needed)
Begin with knees and hands to begin with an inclined board (if there is pain in the wrist, try a board in the forearm). Create tension in the abdominal keep it that way for 15-30 seconds; rest and repeat.
Note: For a greater challenge, exercise on your feet at the same time.
The key to getting the most benefit from any major exercise during pregnancy is to establish a good core contraction before the exercise begins. If that is not available, the advanced step of exercising may result in decreased performance.
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Disclaimer: Before starting a prenatal exercise routine, talk to your doctor about whether it’s safe for you to exercise.