When my wife was pregnant with our four children I had the opportunity to see first hand what a mother’s body experiences during pregnancy. As the stomach gets bigger it creates additional strain and pressure on the back, which can be very uncomfortable. To help prepare your back for pregnancy, I’ve written about some simple exercises and stretches that will help to not only strengthen your back, but improve your flexibility as well.
It is best to start a strengthening and flexibility program prior to pregnancy as this will prepare the body ahead of time for what is to come. Typically after the first trimester it becomes more difficult to exercise and in some cases your doctor may want to limit certain activities depending on your situation.
Before getting into the exercises themselves, it’s important to warm up by running in place, on a treadmill, or going for a brisk walk around the block. From there, move on to…
Flexibility is as important as strengthening. Stretching should be performed daily after you are warmed up. Hold stretches for 20-30 seconds and never bounce.
The Goddess pose – position feet wider than shoulder width. With feet pointed out to the side, bend your knees deeply out to the side and drop your hips toward knee height. Bring your arms out to the side at shoulder height and bend your elbows with your fingers pointing upward. Tighten your stomach and imagine your tailbone going toward the floor. Hold for 30 seconds then rest and repeat 5 times.
Standing hamstring stretch – stand in front of a chair. Lift your right leg and place your heel on the chair where you would sit, keep that right leg straight. Have a slight bend in the knee of the left leg, as you bend forward exhale. You should feel a slight stretch in the back of your right leg. Hold for 30 seconds then rest and repeat 3 times. Switch legs and repeat.
Now that you are all warmed up and stretched out, it’s time to focus on strengthening. For this purpose, we want to focus on several areas including: the stomach, back and legs.
A pelvic tilt will help strengthen the abdominals. To achieve this, lie on the floor with your feet flat and knees up. Inhale first and as you raise your hips up, begin to breathe out. When your hips are fully up, hold for 3 seconds and then lower your hips back down. Repeat this 10 times for one set. Rest and then repeat for two more sets.
To strengthen the back and buttocks, perform an arm/leg raise. Start on the floor on your hands and knees. Tighten your stomach and then lift your right leg and left arm. Both should be straight out. Hold for 30 seconds then switch sides. Do this three times on each side. Be sure to breathe.
To strengthen the legs and buttocks, perform a wide squat. Place feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart with toes pointed slightly out. Lower your body to a sitting position with your thighs parallel to the floor. Your knees should not extend past the tips of your toes. Push through your heels and back up into a standing position. Breathe in on the way down and breathe out on the way up. Do this 10 times for one set, rest then repeat two more sets.
Once you have completed the exercises, go through the stretching again for a cool down.
As a result of all the changes in a pregnant body, strengthening and flexibility exercises are an easy way to both prepare for pregnancy and stay fit for keeping up with your other little ones. A fit back also offers more comfort and relief as your body undergoes extra stress. The best way to reduce pain and discomfort is to prepare before, so start today on your way to a healthier back.
Note: Please consult with your doctor before starting any new exercise program.