Pregnancy exercise prescription needs to be specific to your stage of pregnancy and to your individual circumstances, in order to be safe, let alone effective. Pregnant women are often surprised to hear that certain exercises will make diastasis recti in pregnancy (split abdominals) WORSE… but these exercises have been included in their personal training or gym programme.
Does your pregnancy exercise programme includes long workouts on cardio machines (treadmill, bike, cross trainer) at steady speeds? Does your pregnancy exercise regime exercise all muscle groups evenly and equally, despite the postural shifts of pregnancy and mothering? Are you spending time doing small muscle-group exercises, like bicep curls?
If so, you’re not getting the best advice and won’t get the results you’re after! Here’s a few tips to make sure that the pregnancy exercises you;ve been given is going to really work for you:
- Forget the fat burning zone! IE long sessions of steady cardio. The most effective way to lose postnatal fat and build lean muscle mass is to INTERVAL TRAIN. You need to be constantly surprising and working your body by changing intensity, speed and duration of your workout.
- Pregnancy (and then mothering – feeding, lifting and cuddling!) puts us in a permanently hunched posture, shortening and tightening the muscles of the chest and front of the shoulders, whilst stretching and weakening the upper back. Strengthening exercises should concentrate more on working the upper back (IE rowing, or pulling type movements), than the chest (pushing movements). Aim for a ratio of 3:1 upper back work: chest. The upper back needs strengthening and the front needs stretching to ‘even you out’. Push-ups are great exercises, but need to balanced with upright rows, pull ups and the dumb waiter.
One Great Pregnancy Exercise: The Dumb Waiter
To perform the Dumb Waiter exercise, keep shoulder blades relaxed and down, then move hands out to the side, keeping elbows in and squeezing shoulder blades together.
- Any crunch, sit-up or jack-knife movement will make diastasis recti (the gaping of the abdominal muscles experienced by up to two thirds of pregnant women) WORSE. Core work is absolutely vital during pregnancy and afterwards, and should concentrate on activation of the TVA + pelvic floor muscles. You need to work the rectus muscles (the split ones) in a linear, not gaping direction. A plank is great, a crunch is not!
- For maximum efficiency, core strength and stability concentrate on large muscle group exercises using body weight. Examples are squats, lunges, pull-ups or planks. Or use multi-tasking exercises such as squats with a shoulder press or upright row with a resistance band. Standing there doing a bicep curl is boring, inefficient and won’t burn any fat!
- Your CORE should be involved in all these exercises, not just the specifically abdominal exercises. Again, multi-task your exercises, it’s what we’re supposed to be good at, and it’s realistic for busy mums!
- Are you getting expert instruction on dealing with your symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) or back ache caused by postural and hormonal changes or imbalances?
For general safe pregnancy exercise guidelines see here, but if you’d like anything clarified or explained further, please just leave a comment here or contact me – I want to DE-mystify pregnancy and postnatal personal training and exercise so please let me know what you’d like more on!