Get ready for labor and prevent incontinence down the road with these essential prenatal exercises.
The payoffs for having strong abdominal and pelvic-floor muscles are plentiful. “These muscles are a pregnant woman’s best friend,” says Julie Tupler, R.N., author of Lose Your Mummy Tummy (Perseus, 2005) and creator of the Tupler Technique, which is illustrated in her Maternal Fitness DVD/video series (Moon Mountain Entertainment, 2001; www.maternalfitness.
com). “If your abs are weak or if they separate from a diastasis [see pg. 64], you won’t be able to push effectively,” she explains. And, a strong pelvic floor can help prevent urinary leaks later.
This workout, designed by Fit Pregnancy fitness editor Teri Hanson and based on the Tupler Technique, teaches you to work the deep transversus abdominis, or transverse, muscle (it wraps around your torso like a girdle and involuntarily contracts when you sneeze) and the pelvic floor separately (see “Preparing for Labor,” pg. 64).
Try to do this workout up to 3 times every day. Do the exercises in the order shown, performing 10 repetitions of each move and progressing to 20 reps when you feel strong enough.
1 BELLY BREATHING Sit on the floor with your legs crossed comfortably and your back against a support; place your hands on your belly. Without moving your back or shoulders, slowly inhale through your nose as you expand your belly. As you exhale through your mouth, draw in your abdominals, bringing your navel toward your spine [shown]. Strengthens the abdominal muscles and prepares you for the remaining exercises.
2 BELLY DANCING ON ALL FOURS From the Belly Breathing position, kneel on all fours, knees hip-width apart, wrists under shoulders, toes curled under. With a flat back, draw the abdominals up and in by bringing the navel toward the spine and hold, breathing normally. Keeping your upper back from curving, tilt your pelvis under, bringing the pubic bone toward the navel [A]. Hold and count to 5. Return to the flat-back position and repeat. When finished with the final rep, come to standing position by bringing one leg forward, foot flat on the floor, and pushing off the thigh with both hands [B]. Strengthens abdominals, back and upper body.
3 ELEVATORS Sit with your low back supported, one hand on upper belly and one on your navel [A]. Imagine your transverse is a sideways elevator with six “floors.” Inhale and, as you exhale, draw your abs toward your spine to the fifth floor [B]. Hold and count out loud to 30. Then, do 5 squeezes from the fifth to the sixth floor. Release and repeat. Strengthens abs, especially the transverse.