The exercises you really need during pregnancy
We promise that if you do the following four exercises for the duration of your pregnancy, you’ll thank us after your baby is born. “These moves will make pregnancy more comfortable because you’ll feel stronger, you’ll increase your circulation, and movement will be easier,” says Linda Shelton, Fit Pregnancy’s fitness editor.
These exercises work the major muscle groups that pregnancy most takes a toll on: the abdominals, legs and back. You’re susceptible to back pain and postural changes during pregnancy because your center of gravity shifts as your belly and breasts expand. After the baby is born, you’ll be bending, lifting and carrying more than ever before. And you’ll feel it in your back, legs and abs.
Do these exercises two to four times a week throughout your pregnancy.
1. Pregnancy Pliés Stand holding onto the back of a chair, feet separated a little more than hip-width apart. Turn your toes and knees out to an approximate 45-degree angle. Keeping your spine straight and tailbone pointing toward the floor, bend both knees, lowering into a squat. Stop before your pelvis shifts forward or backward (A). Straighten your legs, push back to the starting position and complete 1–2 sets of 10–15 repetitions. On your last rep, lower your hips all the way to the floor toward your ankles, keeping your body weight back toward your heels (B). Relax in this position for 1–2 minutes and do some Kegels (see box on page 46); then push back up to standing. Strengthens quadriceps, hamstrings, buttocks, inner thighs and pelvic-floor muscles.
2. Squat-and-Curls Holding a dumbbell in each hand (3 pounds for beginners, up to 8 pounds for advanced exercisers), lean back against a wall and walk feet out in front of you 2–3 feet, hip-width apart. Let arms hang by your sides, palms forward. Slide down the wall, bending knees until thighs are parallel to floor (A). Hold position and pull navel toward your spine; continue to breathe. Bend elbows, curling dumbbells toward shoulders (B). Do 8–12 curls; then slide up the wall to standing position. Rest and repeat. Strengthens legs, abdominals and biceps.
3. Bent-Over Combo Sit on the edge of a chair with your feet flat on the floor, knees aligned with ankles. Holding a dumbbell (3 pounds for beginners, up
to 8 pounds for advanced exercisers) in each hand, lean forward so your chest approaches your thighs (if necessary, place a pillow on your lap for support). Let your arms hang by your sides in line with your shoulders, palms facing rear. Bend your elbows up and out until they’re even with your shoulders (A). Straighten your arms downward, turn palms in and do a row, bending your elbows back toward your waist (B). Lower and repeat the entire combo to complete 10–15 reps. Strengthens back muscles, shoulders and biceps,
and improves posture.
4. Tricky Cats Kneel on all fours with wrists under your shoulders and knees under your hips, separated comfortably. Exhale and pull your navel in toward your spine so your body forms a straight line from head to hips. Inhale, extending your right arm and left leg to hip height (A). Exhale and return to the starting position, pulling your navel toward your spine and rounding your back like a cat (B). Inhale, return to starting position and repeat arm and leg lift, alternating sides to complete 10–15 reps on each side. Strengthens abs and back, and improves core strength and balance.