EXERCISES TO PREPARE FOR PREGNANCY
Preparing your body for pregnancy, prior to, or while trying to conceive (TTC), will be extremely beneficial for not only you, but your future babe, as well. Developing healthy habits before you conceive can help to:
- Increase the likelihood of you continuing on with those habits through pregnancy (and perhaps these habits will rub off on your partner if they’re looking to improve their health, as well)
- Set your baby up for a healthy start. A woman’s health during conception is very important for setting the foundation of good health for her baby to be. When a baby is conceived, their development starts at that moment.
- Practice specific movement patterns and exercises that will support your body through pregnancy, labor, delivery, and postpartum recovery.
- Improve your relationship with the sensations of your body, and make you more aware of how your feel in your body – imperative for labor, delivery, and recovery.
Although there can be many factors at play, we’re setting the body up for a pregnancy that has few aches and pains, that will carry the baby safely and comfortably to term, that will allow baby to get in good pelvic position, and that will help keep the mom feeling supported, strong, and energized.
Here are several exercises to prepare your body for pregnancy:
- Restorative Activities
Restorative work anytime is incredibly important for managing stress, fostering creativity, allowing the body to heal from more strenuous exercise, etc. While you’re TTC, it is essential. Stress intimately affects hormonal balance, and hormonal balance affects menstrual cycles. We want to find the right mix of restorative activities that will help to balance stress hormones with our more intense exercise pursuits, such as strength training.
You should walk about 45 to 60 minutes per day. It’s leisurely, it’s relaxed. Sometimes, it’s to run errands, and other times there’s no agenda other than to just stroll and think. We recommend 30 minutes of leisurely walking, three or more days per week.
Or, find something else you enjoy like stretching, restorative yoga, massage, foam rolling/soft tissue release work, etc.
It’s worth noting that if your exercise program is currently quite intense and your TTC is proving difficult, you could find success in decreasing the intense exercise and increasing the restorative activities.
For example, if you’re currently strength training 3 days per week, doing 2 days of high intensity cardiovascular activities, and another day of moderate steady state cardio, perhaps your body needs a bit of a break. You might be better off with keeping the strength training and 1 day of higher intensity cardio, and replacing the other 2 sessions with 60 minute leisurely walks.
- Kegels 2.0
You might have been told or have heard that kegels are your go-to pelvic floor exercise.
In Kegels 1.0 we’re taught to find the pelvic floor muscles by “stopping your stream of pee.” While, this might be fine and well, all we’re doing is learning how to statically contract the pelvic floor in isolation. We want the pelvic floor to respond while we run, jump, deadlift, chin up, and squat, so we don’t pee during these activities.
Kegels 2.0 is related to your breathing. Breathing can help us to learn how to properly engage the abdominals and pelvic floor.
The old adages of “hug your baby” or “pull your belly to your spine” just aren’t going to cut it in pregnancy for developing normal tone through the core + floor. You need to learn how to use the core as a unit.
On the inhale breath, you want the diaphragm to descend and have the belly and pelvic floor muscles gently relax and expand. On the exhale breath, you want the the diaphragm to return back up and to feel gentle tension through the pelvic floor and the abdominals.
You’ll want to practice 2 sets a day of 10 breaths. This is truly about quality of the movement, not quantity of reps.
The next three exercises are largely geared for developing body strength in order to support the developments through pregnancy. Another major focus is to start practicing good body alignment or having a “neutral spine”, which is really important for baby’s position in the pelvis, decreasing the severity of an abdominal separation, reducing back/pelvic pain, and more.
- Squat it Out
Squatting is a fantastic exercise for developing lower body strength, and for developing that good alignment, especially in daily tasks (squatting down to pick something up off the floor, picking your baby up, go to the bathroom, sitting to and standing from a chair).
A squat position can be a really effective laboring and birth position. Whether this is squatting on a birthing ball/the toilet, or squatting deeply and holding onto something in front of you, the pelvic floor is able to open and relax, and the force of gravity is working in your favor. All signs point to helping baby make their way down (and out).
Practice mastering your squat technique while TTC in these variations:
Note: all of these could be free-standing or to a box directly behind you.
Pulling exercises are those that primarily focus on strengthening the back. This helps to promote great alignment as we can often be in positions that have us rounding forward in our daily life, especially so through the later stages of pregnancy and when caring for a newborn. Best to really focus in on this now.
Pulling variations used in workout the workout program include:
- Band or cable rows: 1 and 2-arm options, at lower and higher heights
- DB bent over rows: 1 and 2-arm options
- Inverted rows
- Chinup, pullups: assisted or unassisted
5. Hip Hinges
Hinging exercises are those that start by moving from the hips, instead of initiating the movement from the knees, as we would in a squat.
These patterns teach great body awareness and really help with understanding neutral spine, especially at the pelvis.
Hinging exercises that will be useful are:
- Hinge with a dowel
- Tall kneeling hinge
- Glute bridges
- Hip thrusts
- Romanian deadlifts (2:20)
- Other deadlift variations
If you’re trying to conceive, put your attention to balancing your intense exercise with restorative activities, learning how to properly engage your core and floor, and to squat, pull, and hinge.
For most women, 3-4 sets of 6-12 reps on these exercises will work well. The newer you are to strength training, the more you should focus on nailing the form and sticking in the 10-12 rep range to get as much “practice” with each exercise as possible.
- Be healthy, be happy!