let's get physical

These strength moves will help you prepare for childbirth and motherhood.

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Health experts often liken pregnancy and motherhood to the ultimate marathon, a personal contest of sprints interspersed with tests of strength and sheer will. Toning your upper and lower body is a great way to stay strong for childbirth—and whatever your new life as a mom has in store for you.

“Lower-body strength is important for carrying the added weight of pregnancy efficiently and gracefully,” says Heidi Roderick, an exercise physiologist and certified athletic trainer in Naples, Fla., who develops pre- and postnatal exercise programs. “Lower-body exercise also promotes efficient circulation, which may help alleviate the development of varicose veins.

“Any exercise done properly will help you achieve a more efficient delivery and recovery,” Roderick adds. “And you’ll want a strong upper body to hold that beautiful baby.”

Roderick recommends doing the following exercises three to four times per week throughout your pregnancy as part of your regular strength-training program.

1. Lunge Combo Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a 3- to 5-pound weight in each hand, palms facing in. Keep your abs tight and shoulders square. Step forward into a lunge, back heel lifted. Keep your front knee in line with your front ankle. With your elbows to your sides, contract your biceps and curl weights to your shoulders [A]. Inhale and lower your arms, then repeat the curl, rotating weights so palms face each other [B]. Lower weights to return to starting position. Do 8–10 reps, switch legs and repeat. Strengthens quadriceps, buttocks, hamstrings, calves and biceps.

2. Squat and Extension Place your hands on the back of a chair and stand with your feet hip-width apart. Tighten your abdominals. Inhale, then exhale, bending your knees and lowering into a quarter-squat; keep your knees behind your toes [A]. Inhale and stand. Exhale, extend your left leg to the rear and squeeze your buttocks, keeping both legs slightly bent [B]. Return to starting position and repeat, alternating legs. Do 8–10 reps per leg, progressing to 16. Strengthens quadriceps, hamstrings and buttocks.

3. Thigh Lift and Press Stand with your right side to the back of a chair and place your right hand on it for balance. Hold a 3- to 5-pound weight in your left hand at shoulder height, arm bent. Stand on your right leg and extend your left leg out to the side, toes on the floor [A]. Keep your shoulders and hips squared and abs tight, then inhale. Exhale while pressing your left arm overhead and lifting your left leg off the floor [B]. Return to starting position.

Do 8–10 reps, then switch sides. Progress to 15 reps. Strengthens shoulders, upper back, buttocks and upper hips.

(>) Safety Tips

Exercise physiologist and certified athletic trainer

Heidi Roderick offers these tips for exercising safely:

1. Maintain good posture. Periodically check a full-

length mirror to make sure your head, shoulders, hips and ankles are in line with each other.

2. To maintain proper balance and form, don’t lift weights that are too heavy.

3. Don’t hold your breath. Inhale on the preparatory phase of an exercise and exhale on the exertion.

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