back it up

Strengthen the muscles you need to support your growing belly.


We hope you’re reveling in your new, curvy self — even as you grumble about the pain in your back. Luckily, the discomfort is probably temporary and comes with a simple explanation: gravity. “The weight of your growing baby compresses your lower back,” says Leroy Perry, D.C., president of the International Sportsmedicine Institute in Los Angeles. “The best way to decrease this gravitational compression is by doing some simple decompression exercises and stretches.”

You can do these exercises, designed by Perry, right up to your delivery date. For best results, do them two or three times a week. Remember to breathe properly throughout each exercise: Inhale on the stretch phase and exhale on the relaxation phase of each position.

1. Reverse Shrug Stand with your back against a wall, feet about 1 foot away from it, shoulder-width apart. (The back of your head and entire back should touch the wall.) Bend your knees, arms hanging by your sides, with a yoga block or pillow placed between your thighs to maintain leg alignment. Raise your shoulders up toward your ears (A), press them backward so your shoulder blades are pinched together, and then let them relax downward (B). Next, do the same exercise with hands on shoulders, elbows pointed out (C). For more of a challenge, do a third set with arms extended out to sides at shoulder height, palms against wall (not shown). Begin with l0 repetitions of each position and build to 25. Rest for 1 minute and repeat. Strengthens upper and middle back and chest.

2. Vertical Tilt Stand facing a wall about 2 feet away with a yoga block or pillow between your thighs. Place your hands on the wall at approximately chest height. Lean toward the wall at about a 30-degree angle (A). Without squeezing your buttocks or lower back, tilt your pubic bone toward navel (B). Release. Do 25 reps. Helps reduce swayback and pressure on the lower back, stretches lower-back muscles, and strengthens inner thighs and abdominals.

3. Hamstring Stretch Stand facing the seat of a chair or low bench. Place your right heel on the center of the chair, leg straight. Keep your left leg straight, then square your hips and place your hands on your right thigh without pressing down. Bend your left knee (A). Bend forward from your hips. As you lengthen your spine, flex your toes and bring your tailbone upward until you feel a stretch along your hamstring (B). Hold for 2 seconds and release. Do 5 reps on each side. If possible, stretch a little farther each time. Stretches hamstring muscles and relieves pressure on the buttocks and lower back.