Strong legs are crucial during pregnancy: They are your foundation, supporting your belly and back. “As pregnancy progresses and your abdominal muscles are stretched to the max, strong legs are more essential than ever,” says Debi Pillarella, M.Ed., a pre- and postnatal fitness expert and fitness director at The Community Hospital Fitness Pointe in Munster, Ind. “They literally carry you through your pregnancy.”
Pillarella suggests doing the following exercises because they use multiple muscles at once. In just three moves, you target all of the muscles in your lower body, from the glutes and hips to the inner thighs and calves. (Bonus: The entire workout only takes about 10 minutes!)
Do these exercises 2–4 times a week. Before each workout, warm up with a 5- to 10-minute brisk walk. If you experience calf or leg cramps, stop immediately.
1. Rear Pressback: Place your hands on the back of a chair. Bend your left knee so that your left shin is parallel to the floor; bend your right leg slightly. Pull your abs in and drop your tailbone down [A]. Contract your buttocks and press your left heel straight back [B]. Return to the starting position. Repeat 8–15 times; switch legs and repeat. Work up to 2 sets on each leg. Strengthens buttocks and hamstrings.
2. Dancer’s Plié: Stand with your hands on the back of a chair and place your feet wider than hip-width apart, toes and knees turned out. Bend your knees and lower your torso as far as you can [A]. Stand up slowly and rise onto the balls of your feet while squeezing your inner thighs [B]. Lower to return to starting position; repeat 8–15 times. Work up to 2 sets. Strengthens quadriceps, hamstrings, inner thighs, buttocks, calves and shins.
3. Skate Lunge: Stand with your hands on the back of a chair. Shift your weight to your right foot and bend your left knee so just the toes of your left foot touch the ground [A]. Bend right knee and push left foot out to the side [B]. Lower left leg to return to starting position; straighten right knee. Repeat 8–15 times; switch legs and repeat. Work up to 2 sets. Strengthens quadriceps, hamstrings, buttocks, upper hips and inner thighs.
- Inhale on the preparatory phase of the exercise and exhale on exertion.
- Keep your abdominal muscles contracted while doing each exercise. This helps protect your spine by keeping it in a neutral position.
- Never lock your knees; always keep them slightly bent.
- Stand tall, with your shoulders back and down.