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Core Training & Pregnancy 

Training your core during pregnancy can be a confusing thing to navigate. The common questions that I get asked as a pre and postnatal PT is how do I maintain strength in my core? How will I be able to continue to train my core? Will my abs ever be the same again? There are many misconceptions about core training and pregnancy, in today's blog I am going to run through the three most effective core exercises to do during pregnancy.

Abdominal Musculature
Abdominal Musculature

Our abdominal musculature goes far beyond your “six-pack.” Think of your core as a 3-dimensional cylindrical unit, with muscles that run in several directions. These muscles include: the transverse abdominis, obliques, rectus abdominis and erector spinae, with the diaphragm at the top and the pelvic floor at the bottom of the cylinder. This 3-dimensional unit acts as the support for the spine.

With the forward shifting of weight as a baby grows, the strength of a pregnant woman’s core musculature is critical to maintaining a neutral spine, and ultimately, helping to decrease muscle fatigue and pain. Without good trunk strength, the weight of the growing baby can pull the pelvis forward, causing a sway back (lordosis). This prolonged position can lead to a very uncomfortable malalignment in the spine. Increasing core strength during pregnancy will aid in getting the pelvis back into a neutral position.  Did you know “…more than 60% of all pregnant women experience low back pain. Strengthening of abdominal and back muscles could minimize this risk”.

3 Safe and Effective Prenatal Core Exercises:

Before beginning any prenatal exercise to build core strength, it is critical to establish abdominal engagement first.

Wood Chop

– Functional rotational strength (resistance band/med ball required for additional resistance)

Wood Chop
Wood Chop
  • Place one handle on the ground and stand on the band with both feet
  • Hold onto the other handle with both hands
  • Create tension in the abdominals *key!
  • Squat down, with weight in heels and spine neutral
  • Stand up and rotate arms out in front of the body, twisting at the ribcage with hips squared off to the front
  • Keep knees soft at the top of the movement

Bird Dog

– 3-dimensional stability strength (no equipment needed)

Bird Dog
Bird Dog
  • Lower the body onto all fours (hands and knees)
  • Create tension in the abdominals *key!
  • Extend one arm out in front while the opposite leg extends back (hold for a count of 8-10 seconds and repeat on the other side)

Note: For balance concerns, perform the arm and leg movements separately.

Prone Plank Variations

– 3-dimensional stability strength (no equipment needed)

Prone Plank Variations
Prone Plank Variations
  • Start on knees and hands to begin a prone plank (if wrist pain is present, try a forearm plank)
  • Create tension in the abdominals *key!
  • Hold for a count of 15-30 seconds; rest and repeat

Note: For a greater challenge, perform on the feet for the same amount of time.

 

The key to getting the maximal benefit of any core exercise during pregnancy is to establish good core contraction before the exercise even begins. Really focus on the mind body connection “belly button to spine”.

Most importantly, always listen to your body: If an exercise doesn't feel right (and especially if it feels painful), stop right away. Check in with your practitioner and a personal trainer if you're concerned, since there are many ab exercise alternatives to try.