- Is Cracking Your Back Bad for You?
- Can I Crack My Back While Pregnant? Answer: Yes
- Chiropractor Recommended for Back Safety During Pregnancy
- Back Pain or Spa Day During Pregnancy
- Other Pain Relief During Pregnancy
- Cracking Your Back and Pregnancy Concerns
- Is It Safe to Do Planks While Pregnant?
- Safe & Effective Abdominal Exercises For Every Trimester During Pregnancy
- Prenatal Core Workout (safe ab exercises for all 3 trimesters)
- Prenatal Core Strength (safe ab exercises for all 3 trimesters)
- Try these safe moves to work your abdominal muscles during pregnancy. By Candice Tehini
- Wellness expert Lisa Raleigh recommends these ab exercises during the first trimester:
- What you need to know about muscle separation
- Try these exercises:
- 5 Ways To Still Work Your Core While Pregnant
- What To Be Aware Of When You’re Pregnant
- Exercises To Avoid Or Be Wary Of During Pregnancy
- What Can You Do?
Is Cracking Your Back Bad for You?
In general, it’s safe to crack your back, but there are still plenty of reasons surrounding the idea that it’s a harmful practice. Below are some risks, myths, and side effects of cracking your back.
Can you get arthritis from cracking your back?
One of the most common myths related to cracking your joints, including your knuckles, is that it will lead to arthritis.
However, this won’t cause arthritis nor will it cause joint enlargement. Back cracking and chiropractic care may help to ease some symptoms of arthritis. However, it could also aggravate symptoms such as stiffness and swelling.
Is it bad to crack your back while pregnant?
Cracking your back while you’re pregnant is fine as long as it’s done with caution. Be aware that discomfort you may feel in your back could be due to the weight and position of your baby. Cracking your back may be more difficult as your pregnancy progresses.
You may wish to find a chiropractor who specializes in prenatal care. Adjusting your spine while pregnant isn’t recommended if you have any concerns like vaginal bleeding, ectopic pregnancy, or toxemia. Avoid any twisting or movements that put pressure on your abdomen.
Keep in mind that your body produces increased levels of the hormone relaxin during pregnancy. This helps you to be more flexible during delivery, but it can also cause you to overstretch. You may want to consider pregnancy yoga stretches to relieve general aches and pains.
Joint strain or nerve injury
While injuries aren’t common, it’s possible to hurt yourself by using too much force or pressure when cracking your back or doing it too often.
This can cause too much wear and tear on your joints, leading to joint strain, swelling, and even breakdown. It can also cause damage to the soft tissue of the joints.
Does cracking your back stunt growth?
Since fluid or gas may be released in between vertebrae when you crack your back, it’s been said that this could cause stunted growth. This isn’t the case.
Cracking your back relieves pressure between spinal discs, which isn’t related to growth. Instead, growth occurs at the epiphyseal plate in long bones.
Can you get a slipped disc while cracking your back?
Rarely, cracking your back causes a slipped disc, or upsets an existing one by irritating it or moving it in the wrong direction. You should exercise caution when cracking your back if you have an existing disc or vertebral injury as it could exacerbate your symptoms.
Hypermobility (ligament laxity)
Each time you move a joint past its normal range of motion, you stretch the surrounding ligaments, which may cause them to elongate or sprain. This can cause joint instability and damaged ligaments since they’re not able to support and hold the joint in the correct position.
If you have a stiff spine, you may feel the need to crack your back while you’re pregnant. Being pregnant can be a stressful as well as exciting time and many of us carry stress in our back and get tense.
Many couples also enjoy setting up the baby’s nursery, and picking a theme for his or her knew bedroom. Often times it brings the couple closer together since it is something they can do together.
As exciting as pregnancy can be it does have its flaws. In the first trimester many women find themselves sick with morning sickness, some have all-day sickness. The second trimester is where many woman find themselves with more energy and get the majority of the baby chores done (nursery, getting furniture together, etc.), some woman are not so lucky and are still sick with morning sickness.
The third trimester can be the most exciting and most stressful. There is more aches and pains, and more stress.
The stress of pregnancy can be rough and even if a woman is physically ready for their baby they may start to feel as if they are not ready mentally, this is happens a lot with first time moms. The crazy hormones of pregnancy can also make a new dad stressed. The pregnant woman cry’s for no reason and often complains about being uncomfortable and in pain as the baby grows.
Can I Crack My Back While Pregnant? Answer: Yes
Cracking your back during pregnancy will not hurt the unborn baby. While the baby is still small and there isn’t much weight gain it is easier to crack your crack your back. As the weight begins to pile on it may get harder to crack your back. Even if you can crack your back it doesn’t mean you will get any results. The back pain is most likely being caused by the position of the baby. If the baby moves and you still have backache then it may be time to seek some help.
Chiropractor Recommended for Back Safety During Pregnancy
If you need some assistance with cracking your back then visiting a chiropractor may be the answer. Chiropractors can safely crack your back, which will hopefully relieve some of the pain (if not all). It is believed that there are some pressure points that can be pressed to start labor, but your chiropractor should no of all the pressure points and will avoid pressing on them to much.
If having chiropractic care scares you call around and see if they have worked on pregnant woman before, and ask questions. It is your body and your baby and you have the right to be concerned, you also have the right to be as pain free as possible.
Back Pain or Spa Day During Pregnancy
If you are having some back pain and/or feeling stressed a spa day can be a great treat. Some spas have restrictions for woman and may suggest you not visit if you are more than 32 weeks pregnant, so be sure to call and ask. Be sure that the aromatherapist knows how to treat you as an mom-to-be. This is important because there are certain oils that cannot be used since they are known to be dangerous to pregnant woman.
There are also some heat treatments that you should definitely avoid like saunas, steam rooms, tan beds, hot springs, and hot tubs, whirlpools, and jacuzzis. The heat can affect the circulation of blood and nutrients to your baby and could potentially cause some problems.
Other Pain Relief During Pregnancy
Pain relievers that are safe to make your back feel less sore during pregnancy is stretching and keeping good posture. Stretches during pregnancy can take some time but can help relieve some of the knots and strain you may have.
Carrying a baby plus all of the water can put a lot of stress on the back and does cause a lot of stress, something that can help is yoga which is great for stretching and relaxing and is safe. Just look up a few techniques online or visit a class if there is one offered near by. Every pregnant woman deserves to be in as less pain as possible.
Cracking Your Back and Pregnancy Concerns
When you feel the urge to crack your back during pregnancy it is safe. It can be difficult to relieve back pain once you have gained weight. But it is okay to ask for some relief. Whether it is from a professional or if it from your significant other. If it helps the pain go away then it is worth it, and you do not have t worry about the safety of your unborn baby as long as you make sure the professionals know how to care for a soon to be mom.
Is It Safe to Do Planks While Pregnant?
Lori Adamski Peek/Getty Images
By now, you probably know that working out while pregnant is not only okay, it’s encouraged, especially if you’re already active. In fact, keeping up with a consistent workout schedule while carrying around that extra medicine ball of joy can actually help you prevent a C-section birth, as well as avoid gestational diabetes and high blood pressure. But ab exercises can be especially confusing territory for pregnant women.
First, as a general pregnancy rule, you can continue doing the exercises your body is used to. “Pregnancy is not the time to start and initiate a new program,” says Alyssa Dweck, M.D., an ob-gyn at the Mount Kisco Medical Group in Westchester County, New York. “If you’re already accustomed to doing certain exercises, then they’re probably okay. Just cut down the intensity a bit.”
But you do want to be careful when it comes to ab exercises, avoiding anything that requires being on your back after the first trimester. “Your growing uterus can compress the vena cava, the major vessel that returns blood to your heart, potentially reducing blood flow and making you feel dizzy or nauseated,” as our sister site, Fit Pregnancy, said in The Truth About Prenatal Exercise.
This makes planks a solid alternative to exercises like crunches, as long as you’re careful not to strain your back. “Planks are generally safe during pregnancy, but you run the risk of injuring your back due to the strain the baby’s weight can put on your body,” says Kristin McGee, a yoga, Pilates, and fitness professional who recently welcomed two twin boys.
Some advice: It’s really important to engage the deep core muscles, says McGee. Draw your belly in to create a neutral spine (otherwise, you risk potential discomfort, back strain, or simply cheating your way out of an effective workout). There’s also cause for concern if you have diastasis recti, a condition that causes the tissue that holds the abdominal walls together to separate to accommodate your expanding tummy. Women who have this surprisingly common condition could also experience “coning,” when ab muscles bulge during an exercise that’s causing too much stress on the abs. In that case, you’ll want to put aside your goal of six-pack abs until after you have the baby. The important thing is to just listen to your body, says McGee.
McGee recommends trying different variations and modifications of the plank, such as an inclined plank. By bracing your hands or forearms on something elevated (think: a coffee table or bench), you can avoid discomfort or pressure in your lower back, and in turn, the exercise could actually be more effective. She also says side planks are safer when your belly is really starting to pop, plus they’re a great way to work your obliques.
Bottom line: If you already feel comfortable and confident in what you’re doing in the gym, at the studio, or in your living room, go for it, but just remember to listen to your body (and baby).
- By By Sophie Dweck
Safe & Effective Abdominal Exercises For Every Trimester During Pregnancy
One of the most common questions that I get asked is “Can I work abs during pregnancy?”
The short and sweet answer: Yes… But you need to be super careful if you choose to do so.
First, there are a LOT of warnings out there about exercising in a supine position after the first trimester. The general advice is to avoid lying on you back because it may cause reduced blood flow. There is some debate however whether this advice is actually necessary. Floor exercises on the back appear to be OK unless you gets dizzy or the fetal heart rate response is abnormal. If one of these problems occurs, the woman should turn on her left side. Remember, lying still under the weight of the enlarged womb compresses and blocks the large vein that returns blood to the heart (inferior vena cava). My experience indicates that as long as the legs and torso are moving, interference with blood flow back to the heart should not be a problem. Whether you decide to perform exercises on your back after the first trimester is a personal decision based on how you feel and what your doctor recommends. Just be aware that you won’t necessarily cause harm to your baby or yourself if you do.
Second, it is important to be aware that a separation of the abdominal muscles can occur during pregnancy, called diastasis recti. Diastasis recti results from the growing uterus pushing against the abdominal wall, which is susceptible to separating because of a hormonally-induced softening of the fibrous band that connects the recti muscles. Factors contributing to an increased risk of diastasis recti are being over 35, having poor abdominal muscle tone, having a multiple pregnancy, delivering a baby with a high birth weight, and engaging in aggressive abdominal exercises, especially crunches, during pregnancy. Be sure to monitor your midsection or have your doctor monitor you for diastasis recti. I generally recommend not doing any standard crunches or standard planks during pregnancy for this very reason and the exercises below offer better alternatives to these moves.
Kneeling Side Reaches
Dumbbell Side Bends
Reach & Curls
Standing Side Crunches
For a video demonstation of each move, watch the full workout below:
Interested in a full body home workout routine for your entire pregnancy? Check out my 12 week prenatal program below:
For those of you who are interested in a nutritional guide for your pregnancy, you may purchase the Fit For Two bundle below which also includes my Eat Clean, Get Lean plan for just $5 more! That is a $15 savings!
An example of a few moves:
Your trainer and friend,
Prenatal Core Workout (safe ab exercises for all 3 trimesters)
Today is the official kickoff of the Prenatal Pilates Series: a 5 week series for a strong, healthy pregnancy.
We’re kicking things off with a safe, effective core workout because I’ve found that “ab exercises” are the most misunderstood when it comes to pregnancy and the postpartum period.
I can’t even begin to tell you how many misconceptions there are out there. I’ve heard everything from “it’s not safe to do ab work while pregnant” to “you can do all ab exercises during pregnancy.”
One search on Youtube will pull up a wide range of “pregnancy safe” ab workouts – many of which I would strongly disagree with.
So let’s set the record straight shall we?
Is ab work safe during pregnancy?
Absolutely! It’s smart and important to incorporate exercises that strengthen the abdominal muscles into your routine while pregnant. But rather than just focusing on the abs, it’s important to focus on “the core” as whole which includes the pelvic floor, gluts, back, hip flexors and other accessory muscles that affect the stability of the entire body.
Are ALL ab exercises safe during pregnancy?
No. After the first trimester I recommend avoiding exercises that include lying on your back and flexing the spine forward (i.e. sit ups, crunches, the hundred, etc.).
I also recommend skipping anything that puts too much pressure on the abdominal wall – so this will vary from person to person. Someone who is experienced in Pilates and in-tune with how to properly engage the “TA” may feel more comfortable with certain exercises while someone who does not have a lot of core strength to begin with or isn’t experienced in activating specific muscle groups may end up doing more harm than good.
The plank is a perfect example: I do planks throughout my pregnancy but make sure to focus on the pelvic floor and “TA” working together to support my baby and lower back. If I wasn’t sure how to do that effectively there is a good chance that I would allow my lower back to sway, push forward in my abs (increasing the risk of Diastasis Recti) and completely ignore role of the pelvic floor.
So that being said, not all ab exercises are safe during pregnancy and the recommendations vary woman to woman.
As a general rule, avoid exercises that mimic a “crunching” motion and anything that pushes you to the point of strain or loss of control. When in doubt keep movements small and controlled.
What kind of ab work is best during pregnancy?
With myself and my clients I focus on core stability. Exercises that challenge the stability of the core as a whole are fantastic for pregnancy. This can be as simple as sitting upright in a chair and practicing “cinching the waist”, drawing in from 360 degrees and lifting the pelvic floor to more advanced exercises such as using a light spring on a moving reformer carriage.
How will core work help me during pregnancy?
In so many ways! Maintaining/building a strong core during pregnancy will help you to avoid back pain, hip pain, sciatica, and pelvic floor issues throughout your 9 months. During labor and delivery it will provide you with strength and stamina to endure the contractions and deliver your baby with more ease. In addition, you’ll likely have a quicker, easier recovery….who doesn’t want that? 🙂
In conclusion, strengthening your core may be one of the most important things you do during your pregnancy to encourage a healthy pregnancy, labor, delivery and recovery.
So without further ado, let’s dive into this week’s workout…
Prenatal Core Strength (safe ab exercises for all 3 trimesters)
If you are unable to view the embedded video above please .
Questions about today’s prenatal core workout? Post them in the comments! 🙂
Try these safe moves to work your abdominal muscles during pregnancy. By Candice Tehini
It’s perfectly safe to exercise your stomach muscles during pregnancy if you apply the correct modifications. The benefits of having a strong core during pregnancy include increased support for your pelvic organs and a greater sense of control during labour. It can also alleviate the pressure your growing belly puts on your back and support proper posture to ease lower back pain during and after birth.
ALSO SEE: 9 pregnancy exercise myths busted
Wellness expert Lisa Raleigh recommends these ab exercises during the first trimester:
“If you exercise regularly, you will probably still be able to perform all your regular ab exercises at this stage,” says Lisa. Take advantage of this time by setting a solid foundation – developing great posture, working on a neutral spine position with your ribs down, and getting your pelvis in proper alignment without pushing your hips forward.
Sets and reps for each exercise:
- Beginner: 2 sets of 6-8 reps
- Intermediate: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Advanced: 3 sets of 16-20 reps
- The elbow plank recruits more of your core muscles to do the work than a traditional plank.
- Clasp your hands together, resting on your forearms and stacking your shoulders above your elbows. Keep your body in a straight line from neck to heels.
- Hold this position for as long as you can for each set.
Knee-tuck with sliders
This is a great lower-ab and core workout.
- Place a paper plate or slider under each foot.
- Start in a traditional plank position with your shoulders stacked above your hands, your body held in a straight line from neck to heels and your feet hip-width apart. Push up through your shoulders so your body doesn’t hang between them.
- Keeping your belly button pulled in tight towards your spine, draw both knees in towards your chest. Pause for a moment, then push them back out to the starting position. Be careful not to arch your back as you push back.
This strengthens your abs while minimising pressure on your lower back.
- Lie flat on your back with your hands extended towards the ceiling. Bend your knees to 90 degrees and raise your calves until they are parallel to the floor. Tilt your pelvis so you close the gap between your back and the floor.
- Slowly lower your right arm and left leg down to the floor simultaneously until your lower back almost arches off the ground. Pause for a moment, then slowly return to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side.
What you need to know about muscle separation
“As your belly grows during your pregnancy, your abdominal muscles naturally stretch and expand. Your ‘six-pack’ muscles, or rectus abdominis, can begin to pull apart down the middle. This is known as diastasis recti,” explains Lisa.
Before 12 weeks into your pregnancy, you can check for separation by lying on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet on the floor. Tuck one arm behind your head and keep the other at your side, lift your head and upper shoulders off the floor – if you can see or feel a gap bigger than two finger-widths between your left and right sides, you probably have diastasis recti. Check with your doctor to be sure.
This is generally no cause for concern and will heal by itself after birth. Research suggests that exercise may help improve the condition, but putting unnecessary strain on your abdominal muscles can worsen it – so take care and adjust as needed.
If you do notice a gap, avoid crunches and side-abdominal exercises, as well as front-loaded exercises where your belly can hang down to the floor such as the plank or push-ups.
- Photography: Hema Patel
- Model: Candice Blignaut
- Hair and make-up: Maria de Vos from One League, Using Evo products
- Clothing: Lorna Jane
Our experienced editors work with trained journalists and qualified experts to compile accurate, insightful and helpful information about pregnancy, birth, early childhood development and parenting. Our content is reviewed regularly by our panel of advisors, which include medical doctors and healthcare professionals. Meet the Living & Loving Team and our Online Experts.
Strengthen your core with these moves during your second trimester.
“At this stage of your pregnancy, place one hand on your stomach when doing abdominal exercises when possible to check for abdominal separation,” says wellness expert Lisa Raleigh. You also want to be mindful of exercises where you lie flat on your back.
While this is safe for a few minutes at a time, don’t maintain this position for long periods as the weight of your baby and uterus can put pressure on the vena cava (a large vein carrying blood to the heart), limiting the blood flow to your body. Lisa suggests propping yourself up on your elbows with a pillow or two to support your back. Roll onto your left-hand side if you feel light-headed or dizzy.
ALSO SEE: 3 ab exercises you can do during your first trimester
Try these exercises:
Slow mountain climbers
- Position yourself in a push-up stance with a neutral spine – make sure you aren’t arching your back.
- Slowly bend one knee up to your chest, without letting your foot touch the ground. Pause for a moment, then slowly return your foot to the starting position and repeat with the opposite foot.
- Lie on your back, supporting your back with pillows as needed.
- Raise both legs straight up in the air, as close to 90 degrees to the ground as you can.
- Slowly lower your right leg down to just above the ground. Pause, then raise your leg back up to the starting position and repeat with the other leg.
- Position yourself on all fours, your shoulders stacked above your wrists and your hips stacked above your knees. Pull your belly button towards your spine.
- Carefully extend one arm and the opposite leg away from your body. Pause for a moment, then slowly return to the starting position and repeat with the opposite arm and leg.
- Photography: Hema Patel
- Model: Candice Blignaut
- Hair and make-up: Maria de Vos from One League, Using Evo products
- Clothing: Lorna Jane
Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day. Learn more about Xanet Scheepers.
It wasn’t long after I became pregnant that I discovered the previously unknown-to-me world of diastasis recti exercises, which aim to prevent the separation of your front ab muscles that can occur during pregnancy. Beforehand, I never really thought about what exercises I should and shouldn’t do during my pregnancy. I knew it was crucial to listen to my body when exercising while pregnant; after all, pregnancy is full of bodily surprises, some due to relaxin, a hormone that increases during pregnancy that helps loosen joints to prepare your body (especially your pelvis) for delivery. But to me that meant going to my regular HIIT classes and sitting out the exercises that I didn’t feel comfortable performing—until I kept hearing one piece of advice from multiple trainers who specialize in prenatal workouts: If you’re pregnant, you should avoid doing crunches.
“Crunches are the worst thing possible” for pregnant women, explains Clarissa Smirnov, a certified prenatal Pilates instructor at Pilates ProWorks in San Francisco. Smirnov says she sees lots of clients ramping up their ab work during the first trimester, hoping they can build a strong core before their belly grows—but some exercises may lead to more separation, instead of less, and a tougher recovery.
Ali Handley, founder of BodyLove Pilates, agrees. “Major changes mean that most traditional abdominal exercises that engage the six-pack are a big no-no as they only make ab separation bigger and harder to heal after you’ve had a baby,” she explains. Handley tells her clients to avoid crunches as well as planks and other prone-position moves if they aren’t strong enough to do them without keeping their belly buttons pulled in.
Related: 6 Tips For Exercising While Pregnant, From A Pregnant Celebrity Fitness Trainer
Why are crunches supposedly so bad during pregnancy?
As your uterus grows, your left and right rectus abdominus muscles (better known as the six-pack muscles) separate to make room for your expanding belly, a condition known as diastasis recti. While diastasis recti can occur in anyone, it’s a common side effect of pregnancy, and why many trainers believe that overworking your abs during pregnancy can worsen the separation. Diastasis recti feels like a gap between your muscles and can look like a bulge of skin or soft space in between your abs that you notice after delivery. Although not associated with pain, some studies have shown that it can be related to pelvic bone instability as well as weak pelvic floor muscles. Diastasis recti can repair itself after delivery, or you can seek out physical therapists or trainers that specialize in diastasis recti exercises that may help coax your abs back together (more on that below).
While most women will experience some degree of ab separation during pregnancy, some experts say modifying the way you exercise can help decrease the severity of your case. One study, for example, found that pregnant women who performed heavy lifting 20 times or more every week were more likely to experience ab separation than those who didn’t (the study didn’t define what researchers considered “heavy lifting”). Many trainers and physical therapists also recommend avoiding “conventional” ab exercises that may overwork the rectus abdominus abs—like crunches—in order to limit the amount of ab separation you experience during pregnancy.
The risks of crunches during pregnancy is still up for debate, however.
It’s important to note that what works for some women may not be the best for you; in fact, while there’s a fervent “no-crunches” camp, how to prevent or reduce diastasis recti is still up for debate. One study, for example, found that doing crunches in the late third trimester up to 14 weeks postpartum could actually be beneficial for narrowing the separation gap. “The reason crunches helped reduce may be related to the fact that is very specific for the rectus abdominis,” challenging those muscles more effectively than other ab exercises, explains study author Patrícia Mota, Ph.D., to SELF. And a recent review of studies on diastasis recti found that there’s currently not enough evidence to make a case for one method of exercise over another to prevent diastasis recti, although the authors did find that general exercise after pregnancy was beneficial for reducing any ab separation.
Want to avoid crunches anyway? Here are two exercises you can do to help prevent diastasis recti.
Having a strong core during pregnancy has many benefits: Not only can having strong abs and pelvic floor aid in labor and delivery, but it can also help you recover faster and help avoid posture problems once you’ve given birth. So, if you’re trying to build a strong core during your pregnancy and don’t want to do crunches, what should you do instead? Smirnov advises her prenatal clients to do diastasis recti exercises that target obliques (the muscles on the side of your torso) and transverse abs (the innermost layer of ab muscles located underneath the rectus abdominus “six-pack” muscles). Smirnov’s favorites include side planks as well as “anything that challenges your core in a functional way, putting your core in a stable position—then you can move your limbs around.” If you’re new to working out, Smirnov recommends the single-leg stretch; more advanced exercisers can benefit from planks or exercises where you’re on all fours, like the bird dog.
1. Side plank Photo by Whitney Thielman
5 Ways To Still Work Your Core While Pregnant
Congratulations, you’re pregnant and growing a human! As if that isn’t scary enough, now you want to figure out how you should modify your exercises to suit your changing body.
Well the good news is you do not have to stop exercising (unless a medical professional has rendered exercise as unsafe for you). The bad news is that you are going to have to alter what you do and how you do it, the key word being how you exercise. A lot of the exercises can stay the same, but the intensity and weight are going to change as your body changes. The further along in your pregnancy, the more you will need to modify in order to protect your body.
You’ll Also Love: I’ve Been Cleared For Exercise After A Baby, Now What?
What To Be Aware Of When You’re Pregnant
So what is going to change when it comes to your old abs and core routine? First of all, depending on how you feel, you may need to stop lying on your back. At around 14-16 weeks pregnant, the baby and uterus are big enough to compress major blood vessels, causing you to feel light headed, faint and numb. Not everyone will feel it this early, but if you start to feel unwell when lying on your back, you will need to prop yourself up 15-20 degrees or eliminate back-lying exercises.
As your baby belly grows, the connective tissue stretches and the abdominal muscles separate to make way for your bundle of joy, which is absolutely normal. However, you can help reduce the amount of stretching that occurs. To do this what you need to look out for and avoid is coning of the belly (here’s a blog post I wrote about what coning of the belly is). Coning causes issues along the way and puts additional stress on the abdominal wall and connective tissue. It can also have a knock-on effect in postpartum recovery. If any exercises or movements cause coning, stop immediately.
Exercises To Avoid Or Be Wary Of During Pregnancy
- Crunches (after the first trimester)
- Situps (after the first trimester)
- Full planks (after the second trimester)
- Four-point exercises — when you are on your hands and knees (after the second trimester)
You’ll Also Love: Small Space, Big Impact — The Yoga Mat Workout
What Can You Do?
You may have already watched the video showing you the exercises to include in your weekly routine, so here I will explain them a little deeper.
- Core breath: This is the foundation for everything both pre- and postnatal — in fact, for life at all stages. Learning how to breathe effectively will create stability and control of your core muscles (transverse abdominis, multifidus, diaphragm and pelvic floor) and allow your body to function in the most optimal way. Check out this blog post for full instructions on how to take a core breath. Do 10-15 breaths before bed every night.
- Stability ball march: Seated on a stability ball, spread your sit bones evenly across the ball and plant both feet hip-width apart on the floor. Focus on the core breath you have just learned. As you exhale, slowly lift one foot off the floor (without moving your hips). As you inhale, lower the foot back to the ground. Alternate the feet until you have done 10-12 repetitions on each leg. It’s OK if you can only lift your foot one inch off the ground, you will get better the more you practice. If you are very unstable, put the ball in the corner of a room to add support.
- Side plank/modified side plank: During your first trimester you can start with both legs straight, supporting yourself on your hand or elbow. Make sure your ankles, knees, hips and ribs are aligned. As you progress in pregnancy you will need to modify the pose. First of all, try bending the bottom leg and keeping the top leg straight — again, you can do this on your elbow or hand. Toward the end of your pregnancy, side plank with both legs bent and on your elbow or hand. Aim for 30 seconds per side and focus on your core breath. Do not hold your breath!
- Dead bug: This is one of my favourite core exercises. In the beginning of pregnancy, you can still perform this on a flat back, with your arms and legs straight up in the air. As you progress and become more uncomfortable, either prop yourself up with pillows or use a half-seated position against the wall. Now focus on lowering the opposite arm and leg to the floor, then lift them back to the starting position. If straight legs are too hard, add a 90-degree angle to the knee. As your pregnancy progresses, you may want to rest the non-working foot on the ground and slide the working leg out as opposed to lowering the leg. Complete 10-12 repetitions per side.
- Bird dog/modified bird dog: At the beginning of your pregnancy you can do this exercise on all fours. As you exhale, lift the opposite arm and leg straight out. Make sure your hips do not wobble or tip, and use slow and steady movements. Inhale and bring them back to the floor. As the weight of your belly increases, you are going to want to modify the move (for the sake of your abdominal muscles, not because you physically can’t do it) by moving leg and arm in and out instead of holding. Halfway through your second trimester, it is good practice to elevate the movement. You can turn the bird dog into a standing exercise and focus on balance along with breathing. Complete 10-12 repetitions on each side.
Please reach out and ask if you have any questions at all. I would rather you perform the exercises safely than not at all — unless a medical professional has told you not to!
Happy workouts mamas, and congratulations once again on your pregnancy.
Despite the recent abundance of pregnant moms showing off their six-packs on Instagram, pregnancy isn’t the best time for you to define your core, the area that incorporates all the muscles that make up your abs, but also your lower back and hips.
Still, core strength during pregnancy is V-I-T-A-L, largely because it can alleviate back pain, make labor easier, and help you get back in shape after giving birth. So it’s a smart idea for you and literally every woman you know to maintain whatever core strength you’ve got long after your flat belly gives way to a bump.
Unless your doctor objects, you can (and should!) carry on with your regularly scheduled workouts when you’re pregnant — at least for as long as you feel good and comfortable being active. Just note that after your first trimester, you’ll want to avoid any exercises (looking at you, crunches) that put you in one of these positions, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG):
- Lying face-up on your back. After your first trimester, the weight of your uterus can put pressure on your organs (Hello, there bladder!) and compress the vena cava, the vein that carries blood to your heart. Cut it off, and you won’t just feel faint — you can also endanger your baby, who relies on your supply of oxygenated blood. This means no regular sit-ups, crunches, or reverse crunches. (If this wipes out your entire abs routine, see below for more ideas.)
- Lying facedown on your stomach. Duh, your baby belly will get in the way! It’s uncomfortable and it can potentially hurt your baby.
- Standing still. Any positions that challenge your muscles to hold still (like a yoga chair pose) can decrease the amount of blood returning to your heart and temporarily lower your blood pressure — a bad idea.
To stay in the safe zone and still keep your core strong, try these gentle moves from Physique 57, performed by pregnant Physique 57 instructor Tsarra Bequette:
Ruben Chamorro / Krystalina Tom
Tsarra is wearing a Hot Pink Tank, UNDER ARMOUR, $19; Blue Cropped Leggings, TOPSHOP, $52; and Gray Running Shoes, NIKE, $120.
1. Bent-Knee Kickbacks
How to do it: Face a wall, barre, or super-sturdy piece of furniture, and hold it for support as you bend your left knee and bring your heel behind you. Keeping your standing leg slightly bent while engaging your core for balance, press the elevated heel behind you, then bring it back so your knees are aligned. That’s one rep. Continue for up to three sets of eight counts, then repeat on the opposite side.
2. Raised Heel Hip Shake
How to do it: Stand with feet hips-width apart and heels together with your right hand on a wall, barre, or sturdy piece of furniture at your side for support. Bring your left hand to your hips and bend your knees as you lift your heels a few inches off the ground. Keeping your shoulders stacked above your hips, tilt your right hip to the right. Next, tilt your left hip to the left. That’s one rep. Continue to alternate sides for up to three sets of eight counts.
3. Back Extensions
How to do it: Get onto your hands and knees with shoulders stacked above your wrists and hips above your knees. Engaging your core for stability, carefully extend your right arm straight out in line with your body as you extend your left leg straight out behind you. Hold, then return to starting position. Continue up to three sets of eight counts, then repeat on the opposite side.
4. Single Leg Lowers on Wedge
How to do it: Use a few pillows or a wedge to support your upper body, and prop your head up above your heart. Lean backward to lie face-up with your left knee bent and arms extended along your sides. Next, extend your right leg and raise it toward the ceiling. Lower it with control without touching the ground to complete one rep. Continue for up to three sets of eight counts, then repeat on the opposite side.
5. Hip Bridge Circles on Wedge
How to do it: Use a few pillows or a wedge to support your upper body and prop your head up above your heart. Lean backward to lie face-up with your knees bent, heels firmly planted on the floor, and arms extended along your sides. From this position, lift your hips off the ground until your body forms a straight line between your knees and shoulders. Circle your hips down and around clockwise for up to eight counts, then reverse for eight counts to complete one set. Repeat for up to three sets.
6. Heel Reaches on Wedge
How to do it: Use a few pillows or a wedge to support your upper body and prop your head up above your heart. Lean backward to lie face-up with your knees bent and soles of your feet pressed against the ground. Reach your left hand beneath your left thigh for support as you extend your right hand and reach toward your right heel. Return to center, then repeat on the opposite side, this time using your right hand underneath your right thigh to help pull you up. That’s one rep. Continue to alternate sides for up to eight reps, then repeat the entire set for a total of up to three times.
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Elizabeth Narins Senior fitness and health editor Elizabeth Narins is a Brooklyn, NY-based writer and a former senior editor at Cosmopolitan.com, where she wrote about fitness, health, and more.