Preparation for pregnancy

Pregnancy is the act of growing a human inside you. Physically, if you’re not prepared to gain 20 to (eek!) 60 pounds over the course of 9 months, things are going to be ROUGH.

It’s nearly impossible to predict the type of pregnancy you’re going to have. That’s why you’ve got to do everything in your power to feel as good as possible.

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It starts with exercise

A pregnant body is not as fragile as everyone believes it is. With proper programming, a woman can begin or continue her strength training routine through pregnancy with appropriate modifications made along the way.

If time is tight, or you’re not ready for a full-blown routine, incorporate this full body movement to get the best ‘bang for your exercise buck’.

Say yes to squats!

Squats are one of the great pregnancy exercises as they prepare a pregnant body for increased weight gain and joint laxity.

They bring strength and mobility to the prime movers – the quads, hamstrings and glutes – but the trunk musculature must stabilize the torso and maintain a neutral spine, all while supporting the load.

The squat is a complicated movement that forces the body’s parts to work and grow stronger together as a single unit.

During labor, squats are a preferred stance for birthing women as gravity helps move baby out. If soon-to-be-moms don’t have the strength or endurance for labor, it could lead to unpredictable medical issues or unwanted cesareans (c-sections).

Unfortunately, as natural as squatting is, sitting in chairs has taken over as the preferred way to relax and work.

Make sure you warm up

To warm up for a standing squat, start on all 4’s (hands and knees).

1. Find a ‘neutral spine’ where you have a slight curve in your lower back. Shoulders stacked over wrists, hips stacked on top of knees.

2. With the tops of your feet flat on your mat (untucked) and knees hip-width apart, slowly sit your hips back towards your heels.

3. If your lower back starts to round as your pelvis ‘tucks’, stop. This is your sticking point that you need to slowly work through.

4. Restart, find the neutral-curved lower back and again, sit hips back towards heels.

5. Continue to restart with neutral spine until your muscles relax and stretch and your glutes meet your heels.

6. Now, tuck your toes under so your feet are flexed. Perform the same movement, sitting glutes back towards heels with neutral spine.

Repeat steps 3 and 4 if necessary with tucked toes.

Once you feel warm and more mobile, follow these steps for a successful standing squat

Remember, getting into a deep squat takes practice. Don’t push it on your first go.

Muscles and ligaments that are used to sitting require time to mobilize for fuller range of motion.

pregnancy exercises_3How to:

1. Feet should be shoulder width apart, toes slightly flared outward. It’s okay if they’re different, our hip joints can differ.

2. Find your neutral spine, slight curve in your lower back. Squeeze shoulder blades slightly together.

3. To begin your descent, stick glutes back and remember to push knees out towards pinky toes. A little forward lean is okay.

4. Keep shins vertical. This ensures your glutes are back and engaged.

Remember that pelvic tuck that stopped us before? Same here.

5. Once you feel the curve of your lower back disappear, come back up. Don’t push to get in the ‘pop a squat’ position if you’re falling forward.

Perfect practice makes perfect

Don’t just move to say you did, that will lead to injury.

Practice your squat technique by holding onto a door frame, support from the front really helps you sit low while being supported. Practice when sitting into a chair or onto the toilet. Practice when picking something up from the ground.

Remember to always listen to your body and if you absolutely can’t figure out how to squat safely and effectively for your body, please contact an educated strength coach in your town who can put you through body mechanic testing to find strengths and address weaknesses.

Be careful in your last few weeks of pregnancy

Lastly, once you get into the last few weeks of pregnancy, deep squatting has been found to be a) unnecessary and b) problem causing.

The way the baby moves into the pelvis for birth, full squats could actually prohibit the cervix from rotating properly because the baby is resting more ‘toward the back’ instead of ‘the front’.

This can stall labor progression. If this happens, forward-learning maternal positions are recommended to help labor progress.

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.

Connect with Expert Colleen Flaherty.

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