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Exercising in the water is a refreshing way to update your prenatal workouts. Besides offering a buoyant medium for heart-pumping moves, water supplies gentle resistance for toning exercises. All of this may help ease the strain of delivering your baby.
“By moving or simply standing in water, you work the core stabilizing muscles that improve posture and balance,” says Marjorie Johnston, a clinical exercise specialist and master trainer for Speedo’s WaterArt program in Naples, Fla. “By working those muscles regularly, your delivery and recovery will be easier.”
Do these exercises, adapted from WaterArt’s prenatal-fitness program, 2–3 times a week during pregnancy. Warm up for 5–10 minutes by walking fast in chest-deep water. Stop if you feel chilled or fatigued.
1. Pool press Sit astride a foam noodle, legs hanging on either side. Extend your arms in front of you on the surface of the water, palms facing each other, thumbs pointing up (A). Sweep your arms back by squeezing your shoulder blades together, propelling yourself forward while maintaining the position of your elbows and hands (B). Do 10–20 repetitions, or as many as possible while maintaining good form and traveling forward. To work the chest, reverse the movement, sweeping palms to the front of you so you travel backward. Strengthens upper back and chest.
2. Abdominal diamond Wrap a foam noodle around your back and under your arms (or wear a buoyancy belt, not shown). Hang in the water, knees apart, with the soles of your feet touching so that your legs form a diamond shape (A). Slowly exhale as you contract your belly; at the same time, tilt your pelvis upward and lift your legs to hip level (B). Using the water’s resistance, slowly inhale as you lower your legs back to the starting position. Do 10–20 reps, or as many as you can perform while maintaining good form and posture. Strengthens abdominals.
3. The skateboard Sit astride a foam noodle, one leg hanging long and relaxed, the other extended in front of you, foot flexed (A). Bend the hanging knee; then push down and back, kicking your foot back as if propelling yourself forward on a skateboard (B). To work the front of the thighs, reverse the motion: Start slightly to the back and push down and forward, scooping the water forward with foot flexed, propelling yourself backward. Do 10–20 reps in each direction on each side, or as many as you can while maintaining good form. Strengthens hamstrings, buttocks and quadriceps.