Exercise and pregnancy

Many pregnant women are afraid of harming the baby because they have been given conflicting information about what to do and what not to do. However, the good news is an appropriate training programme – with the right choice of exercises – can not only help you to stay fit and healthy during your pregnancy, but also get you ready for the birth and the postnatal stage.

Getting ready for the baby

If you think about some of the daily activities you will be doing when the baby is here – like carrying your baby and the baby seat, putting your baby in the pushchair and going for a walk or lifting your baby from the baby bouncer – all of them involve some kind of lifting, pulling, pushing, bending, squatting and reaching over. This means your training needs to be functional and specific for both the current and future demands of your pregnancy.

The obvious question is how can you adjust your training to work in these patterns in a safe and effective way? Let me show you some examples:

Carry pattern

Front rack and single arm kettlebell carrying will help you develop grip strength and core stability. That’s because you have to use your deep core muscles to stabilise the load and avoid imbalances.

Vertical and horizontal pulling and pushing patterns

ViPR’s are great tools for adding load to conventional movements. Resistance bands and tubing allow you to work through your own range of motion.

Squat patterns

If you are experienced with resistance training you can continue with it, but weight load needs to decrease as your pregnancy progresses. Assisted squats with TRX or swiss ball are good tools to train this movement.

During pregnancy

These are just a few examples of how functional training can help you to get yourself strong and ready for when the baby is here, but during your pregnancy you will experience anatomical changes due to changes in weight distribution. Your training needs to help address any postural changes you might be experiencing. For example:

  • the increasing size and weight of the baby could causes an exaggerated forward hip/pelvic tilt, affecting your centre of gravity and balance
  • the increased curvature on your lower back can restrict your movement and put pressure on the nerves and bones on the lower spine, causing pain or discomfort in this area
  • this misalignment will also affect your upper body, as your upper back is trying to compensate by protracting your shoulders (rounding the upper back).

Resistance band exercises

Resistance band exercises like pulling apart or deadlift can help to strengthen your back and glutes and promote retraction of the shoulders.

Create balance in your training

Muscles in the body are designed to work in pairs, so there should be equal length, strength and tension in both muscles. If one tightens considerably, the opposite muscle will lengthen and weaken. Some of the muscles that most commonly tighten during pregnancy are the neck, shoulders, lower back, hamstring, calves and hip flexors, whilst the stomach, shins, and outer hips will be weaker. The training programme needs to create a balanced approach between strengthening the weaker muscles and stretching the tighter muscles.

How we can help

It’s important that your training programme is specific for you and your pregnancy’s needs and demands.

Here at YMCA Club we currently offer one-to-one pregnancy induction sessions for exercise, but we’re also looking at whether there is any interest from you to train with other mums in a group class environment.

If you want to know more, you want to express interest in our one-to-one sessions, or would like to see pregnancy classes on the timetable, please contact Angela Rey at angela.rey@ymca.co.uk.

ymca | 2 September 2016