Labor is laborious! You’re not going to prepare your body for the very hard work of birthing a baby if you do nothing!
Or if you walk. Or if you do yoga… Those activities are great generally but they’re not mimicking the reality of birth in any way.
But what does mimic birth? Weight lifting!
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All movements are safe do to throughout pregnancy with appropriate modifications. Perform in a mirror or with partner to consistently check form. If new to exercise, I highly recommend hiring a strength coach who can evaluate your movements and make adjustments to avoid injury.
Follow these exercises to prepare for labor – plan your sets, how many times you’ll perform all the exercises, and how many repetitions you’ll do for each exercise.
Remember the following:
No additional weight = higher reps (12-30)
Additional weight (dumbbells, kettlebells, bar and plates) = lower reps (6-15)
Ex: 3 sets of regular squats holding 15lb dumbbells for 10 reps or ’15lb x3 x10’
Full range of motion squats or ‘low squats’
Gluteus maximus, quadriceps, pelvic floor
Step 1: feet shoulder width apart with toes slightly flared outward. If one foot is more flared, that’s fine, your hips aren’t perfectly symmetrical.
Step 2: on your inhale, glutes sit back like you’re sitting in a chair as you lower down and think about using glutes to pull knees apart. Check knees to make sure they’re pointing in the same direction as toes. You do not want ‘knocking knees’!
Step 3: only descend as far as comfortable, under control with torso slightly leaning forward, shins parallel and no ‘tail bone tucking’. If your pelvis starts to rotate, exhale and stand back up. That means you don’t have enough mobility yet to go any lower.
Step 4: if you are very flexible, do not ‘bounce’ in the bottom of the movement. Instead, only lower until your hips are lower than your knees or thighs lower than parallel to the ground then return to standing.
Gluteus maximus and biceps femoris (hamstrings)
In 1st and 2nd trimester, perform movement laying on back. Once belly grows bigger in late 2nd, perform movement with shoulders and head supported on either a stability ball or couch.
Step 1: keeping shoulders and head on the ground, stability ball or couch, press into feet and raise hips to ceiling, exhale and squeeze glutes for 2 seconds. Inhale and with control, lower back down.
Lower back, rectus abdominis, gluteus maximum, deltoids, obliques, hamstrings
Step 1: start on all 4’s or quadruped with shoulders stacked over wrists, hips over knees. Tuck toes under (or flex) to protect knees.
Step 2: exhale and extend opposite leg and arm (left leg, right arm) parallel to ground.
Step 3: hold for 3 count, inhale and return to start.
Step 4: switch
Deltoid, triceps brachii, infraspinatus, trapezius, teres minor and teres major, latissimus dorsi
Step 1: using dumbbells, kettlebells or barbell, start with weight at shoulder.
Step 2: squeeze glutes and brace core taking arch out of lower back.
Step 3: exhale, extend arm(s) towards ceiling making sure biceps are by ear and shoulder blades are engaged.
Step 4: inhale and return to start.
Rope work (cardio)
Full body, especially arms and core
Step 1: start in athletic stance; slightly bent knees, sitting glutes back, chest ‘proud’ and balanced on feet.
Step 2: choose the type of movement you’ll perform for 10-30 seconds in a sprint fashion. You want to go as fast as possible for a certain amount of time.
Step 3: rest and repeat
Latissimus dorsi, trapezius inferior, rhomboideus, teres major, biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis
Step 1: no matter your athleticism, using bands or box to the side as support is suggested as belly grows bigger as a safe guard against falling.
Step 2: palms facing you is an easier ‘pull up’ versus palms facing away which is more challenging. I suggest incorporating both into your routine!
Step 3: Place hands slightly wider than shoulders and depending on your strength perform as many as you can (even if it’s one) with as much support/modification as you need to achieve full pull-ups. This means from a ‘hang’ position, your successfully pulled your chin above the bar, chest to bar and lowered back down.
You can perform 6 movements for a total body workout or you can mix and match depending on how much time you have.
Look to combine upper and lower body like squats + rope work for an effective use of your time!
Colleen Flaherty, CSCS believes every woman deserves the opportunity to harness her fierceness through appropriate movement, raw openness and an evolutionary mindset. Keeping pregnant women safe at the intensity they crave and building a pack of trainers to teach them appropriately is Colleen’s passion as a strength and conditioning coach and co-creator of the first Pregnancy Functional Strength Guide and CEU course for Coaches. Colleen owns Baby Bump Academy in Rochester, NY.
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