This strengthening program will prepare you for the rigors of delivery and motherhood.
frequency Do these exercises 2–3 days a week, with at least a day between workouts. Balance this workout with aerobic conditioning at least 3–4 days a week, even if it’s just a 10-minute walk.
levels Consider yourself at Level 1 if you’re fairly new to exercise or you have little or no experience in strength training. You are at Level 2 if you currently are strength training at least twice a week. Prior to beginning this program, seek your physician’s approval, regardless of your level.
Level 1: Do 1 set of 15–20 reps with moderate weight. Reduce range of motion if necessary as pregnancy progresses. Add a second set of 8–12 reps when 1 set is comfortable. Increase weight by the lowest amount possible if you feel comfortable doing it. Do 5 sets of 5-second Kegel exercises between sets. Build to 10 sets.
Level 2: Do 2 sets of 8–10 reps with enough weight to make 10 reps challenging, then increase weight by the lowest amount possible. Do 10 5-second Kegels between sets.
choosing the correct amount of weight Use the first set as a test of the suggested weight range. If you can do 20 reps easily, the weight is too light; if you can’t get to 15, it is too heavy. Begin on the light side until you learn the exercises, then increase by 2- to 5-pound increments. As pregnancy progresses, you probably will need to lower your weight to accommodate your growing belly and comfort level.
1. Isometric Neck Press (opposite page) Choose an overhead shoulder press or adjust the back of an incline bench to 90 degrees. Sit with your head and back against the pad, feet flat and hands resting on your thighs [A]. Press your head back against the pad and pull your chin in toward your neck, maintaining head alignment [B]. As you press, feel the back of your neck against the pad. Hold for 3 breaths; release and repeat. Strengthens neck muscles, counteracts stress of chin jutting forward as your belly grows. At home: Place hands behind head and press head against hands. Suggested weight: none.
2. High Seated Row On a low cable machine with a short bar attached, place feet hip-width apart (increase this width as your belly grows), knees slightly bent. Lean forward to grasp the bar, hands shoulder-width apart, then sit upright. Squeeze shoulder blades down and together behind you without moving arms [A]. Hold this position for 1 breath, then release. Repeat 5 times (all levels). On the last squeeze, bend elbows to bring bar to your ribs. Stay erect [B]. Return to starting position and repeat, squeezing shoulder blades before you move. Strengthens upper and middle back, shoulders and biceps; counteracts forward pull of upper body and shoulders from breast weight. At home: Do the same seated row using resistance tubing or do a bent-over row using a dumbbell. Suggested weight: 20–50 pounds.