Keep your abdominals strong and you'll benefit during and after pregnancy.
Abdominal exercises may be the farthest thing from your mind while pregnant, but Fit Pregnancy’s fitness editor, Linda Shelton, has this reminder: “A strong center will help support your lower back and prevent that dreaded back pain during pregnancy. Strong abs also can help during labor by giving you more muscle control during contractions. Your recovery from giving birth will be easier, too.” To help keep your abs as strong as possible, Shelton recommends doing these three simple exercises every day throughout your pregnancy.
1. Chair abs Sit on the edge of a chair with your toes on the floor and your knees bent. Keeping your abs tight, hold the sides of the seat for balance and lean back so that the back of the chair supports your upper back. Contract your abs to keep your spine in a neutral position [A]. Inhale and lift your right knee toward your chest. Keep your knee lifted, then exhale and use your abs (not your butt) to tuck your tailbone under, doing a gentle crunch [B]. Slowly lower your right foot until your toes touch the floor. Alternate legs, doing 8–15 repetitions per leg.
2. Belly up Get down on your hands and knees with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees in line with your hips; look at the floor without dropping your head. Pull in your belly and lengthen your spine so your torso forms one line from your head to your hips. Inhale, then exhale, using the exhalation to contract your abs as hard as you can while pulling your belly up and in toward your spine. Hold for 2 counts, then inhale to release. Do 1–2 sets of 6–8 reps, resting 60 seconds between sets.
3. Incline crunch Sit on the floor and lie back against a stack of pillows or blankets at a 45-degree angle; make sure your head and shoulders are higher than your belly. (If you’re in your first trimester, you can lie flat on your back.) Bend your knees, placing your feet flat on the floor, about hip-width apart. Lightly place your hands behind your head; don’t interlace your fingers. Contract your abs to bring your spine to a neutral position [A]. Inhale, then exhale, pulling your navel in toward your spine as you curl your head and shoulders up and off the pillows [B]. Don’t pull on your head and neck. Inhale and return to starting position. Do 2 sets of 10–12 reps, resting 60 seconds between sets.