This strengthening program will prepare you for the rigors of delivery and motherhood.
3. Front Lat Pull-Down Sit on a lat pull-down machine with a long bar attached, knees under the pads at a 90-degree angle. Grasp the bar with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, arms straight. Lean slightly backward from your hips to start, feeling a full stretch in your back muscles [A]. First, squeeze your shoulder blades down and back; hold the position, then bring elbows down toward your sides, tightening the back muscles without changing hip position during the motion [B]. Straighten arms to starting position. Strengthens middle back, rear shoulders and biceps; helps reduce neck and upper-back tension; stabilizes back muscles to maintain standing and sitting without back support. At home: Hold resistance tubing in one hand, about head level; take other end with other hand and pull back toward your ribs. Suggested weight: 30–60 pounds.
4. Front Raises Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, arms hanging by your sides and palms facing in toward thighs. Contract abs to tilt pelvis to a neutral position [A]. Squeeze shoulder blades together, then lift arms up in front of you to no higher than shoulder height [B]. Slowly lower to starting position. Avoid rocking your body forward and back as you lift. If you have trouble maintaining a neutral position, do a single arm at a time. Strengthens front shoulders to prepare for lifting and carrying your new baby. At home: Do the same exercise. If you don’t have weights, use water bottles or soup cans. Suggested weight: 3–5 pounds.
5. Incline Fly Sit on an incline bench adjusted to a 45-degree angle with legs straddling the bench, knees separated. Holding a dumbbell in each hand with arms extended directly above midchest, keep palms facing in with a slight arc to your elbows [A]. Squeeze shoulder blades together, then lower arms out and down until elbows are even with your shoulders [B]. Press dumbbells directly back up to starting position and repeat. In your third trimester, you may need to elevate your feet on a box or step to relieve lower back and maintain alignment. Strengthens chest and front of shoulders in preparation for carrying and holding baby.
At home: Do the same exercise lying on the floor, propping head and shoulders up on pillows higher than your belly. Suggested weight: 3–15 pounds.
6. Standing Abs Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, arms hanging naturally by your sides or placed on your belly. Squeeze shoulder blades together to maintain upright posture [A]. Contract abs to tilt top of pelvis back and tailbone under [B]. Slowly release to neutral position without arching your back; repeat. This exercise also can be done with your back against a wall. Strengthens abdominals; counteracts forward pull of growing uterus; relieves lower-back stress. At home: Same exercise. Suggested weight: None.