Keep them in better-than-ever shape.
One of the biggest worries of expectant women is whether they'll be able to keep their lower bodies in shape while pregnant. With this in mind, we devised the following lower-body toners, which will help keep your legs, thighs and butt strong throughout your entire pregnancy. Simple and effective, these exercises should take only about 15 minutes to do.
Using a Dyna-Band, a simple piece of stretchy latex, provides the resistance to give these exercises their oomph. The beauty of the band is that you control the tension by how much you pull up on it. (For less resistance, don't pull it as tight.) You can also substitute 1- to 3-pound ankle weights for the bands.
The leg press strengthens your whole leg: quadriceps (front thighs), hamstrings and calves. The hamstring curl concentrates on the buttocks and rear thighs, while the leg lift works your upper hips. Leaning against a wall during all three exercises will help you maintain proper alignment so you can do each exercise correctly and comfortably as your belly grows.
With these moves, your legs will be strong and toned before and after the big day without stepping foot in a gym.
Do 1–3 sets of 10–15 repetitions of each exercise, 2–4 times a week on alternating days. If you're feeling strong, do all the sets on one leg, resting 30 seconds between sets; then switch legs. If you're tired and want to go easy, alternate your legs.
1. Leg Press: Sit on the floor with your back and hips against a wall; place a sturdy pillow behind your back. Bend both knees, heels on the floor, and place a rolled towel under your knees. Loop a resistance band around the arch of your right foot; hold one end in each hand, elbows bent and close to your sides with palms facing in [A]. Keeping your torso still, straighten your right leg without locking your knee [B]. Bend knee to starting position and repeat; then switch legs. Strengthens quadriceps, hamstrings and calves.
2. Hamstring Curl: Tie the ends of the resistance band in a knot to form a circle; then wrap it around your right ankle and left arch. Stand facing a wall and place your forearms on it at about chest height. Separate your feet hip-width apart; then put your right foot in front of your left with your left toes just touching the floor until you feel tension on the band. Contract your abs, dropping your tailbone toward the floor; keep your right knee slightly bent for balance [A]. Maintain position and bend your left knee, bringing your left heel up toward your buttocks [B]. Press heel back and away from you without arching your back. Slowly lower to starting position and do reps. Switch legs and repeat. Strengthens buttocks and hamstrings.
3. Leg Lift: Place the tied band around your thighs just above your knees so you feel a slight tension; lie on your right side with your body against a wall. Rest your head on your right arm and place your left hand on the floor in front of your chest for balance. Bend your right leg about 45 degrees and keep left (top) leg straight, toes pointing forward [A]. Lift left leg to about hip height [B]. Slowly lower leg and do reps; switch sides and repeat. Strengthens upper hips.