The Prenatal Exercise That Strengthens Your Deep Core

Do this exercise to activate your deep core

pregnant woman sitting on an exercise ball

Sit on an exercise ball to practice strengthening your deep core muscles. If you don't have an exercise ball, try this exercise sitting on a softer surface such as a couch or pillow on the ground. Be sure you are able to sit up straight.

1. Sitting tall on an exercise ball, let your pelvic floor relax into the ball. A ball works great because it's rounded and you can feel the ball against your pelvic floor when relaxed.

2. Exhale as you gently do a kegel, pulling up on your pelvic floor by drawing the front and back of your pelvic floor together, think of lifting a wet towel up through the center of your body.

3. Continue gently lifting and holding, while you draw your lower belly "in, up and around" engaging your transverse abdominal muscles (TA). As your pregnancy progresses you'll want to think of it as "hugging your baby" since there will be no more pulling your belly in.

4. Hold this feeling of gently lifting in, up and around or "hugging your baby" while you breathe in and out 2 to 3 more times. If you can't breathe you are squeezing too tight, so relax.

5. Release completely so you can start over; you should feel your pelvic floor resting against the ball again.

Repeat this deep core exercise 5 to 10 times a day until you feel you can engage your deep core muscles on a regular basis. Eventually these muscles should start to activate without you thinking about them all the time—that's the goal.

You should also try to practice engaging your deep core muscles right before you begin any exercise—this can help you activate more muscles at a time and become stronger faster.

Practice when you're driving in your car, while walking, when lifting, and well, really when doing anything!

For more about the pelvic floor, check out The Deep Core: Why It Matters and How to Strengthen It.

Reprinted with permission from The Knocked-Up Fitness Guide to Pregnancy by Erica Ziel, Core Athletica Inc.