So you’re pregnant! We bet that the struggle of carrying a human in your belly makes you want to just stay in bed and do absolutely nothing.
But did you know that maintaining a regular exercise routine throughout your pregnancy actually improves posture, decreases discomfort, and basically makes your pregnancy experience all the more enjoyable?
Here are some of the best exercises for expecting moms to add to their routine:
1. Barre Lunges
Lunges at the barre improves strength and balance in your quadriceps and gluteal muscles, which are located at the base of your spine.
Holding onto a flat surface, lunge one leg forward and the other leg back, while keeping your spine upright. Keep your front knee directly over your front ankle and the back knee directly below your back hip. Make sure your pelvis stays centered. Move your hips down and inch, then up an inch. Repeat 20 times, then switch legs and repeat the movement again 20 times.
2. Donkey Kicks
Donkey kicks tone your butt and legs and give your back a rest from supporting the weight of your growing belly. Get on your hands and knees like you’re looking for something under the couch. Kick one leg back and up towards the sky, knee still bent, then lower back down slowly. Repeat 15 times, then switch legs. Your core will be working during this exercise as you find your sense of balance.
To be safe, however, this routine should be done only during the first trimester (when your baby hasn’t grown too heavy) as it leaves the belly unsupported.
3. Side Crunches
Stand with your feet a little more than hip width apart. Hold the dumbbell above your head with both hands. Bend your upper torso to the right while at the same time lifting your right knee so it becomes level with your hips, shifting your weight to the left foot. Keeping your arms above your head, bend your torso until your knee meets the dumbbell. Bring your torso back to a straight position, but keep the weight above your head. Repeat 15 times, alternating sides. Do 3 sets for each side.
4. Squat and Reach
This is a gentle, whole body stretch that opens up the hips, hamstrings, chest, and back. Stand about a foot behind a sturdy chair in a wide-legged stance, toes facing foward. With your two hands holding on to the chair’s back, bend your upper body forward at the waist. Make sure that your legs are still straight. Go as deep as you can and feel the stretch in your hamstrings, lower back, and upper body.
5. Side Stretch
Sit on the floor with your legs spread as far as they can go, with one leg straightened and one leg folded at the knee. With your right hand palm placed on your right leg, raise your left arm until your elbow is close to your left ear. Inhale and slide your right hand down your thigh as you stretch, then exhale and lean gently to your right. Hold for 2 to 3 breaths, then inhale and return to the starting position. Switch legs and repeat on the other side.
6. Child’s Pose
Get down on all fours, with your knees slightly wider than hip width apart. Lean forward with your body, extending your arms in front of you and resting your forehead on the floor or a pillow. Keep your spine long and your neck relaxed. Hold for as long as you like.
7. Cat Pose
This yoga pose is great for releasing tension in the upper back and shoulders as well as in taking the weight of the baby off your spine.
Get down on your hands and knees, palms facing downwards below the shoulders and knees hip-width apart. Keep your back flat and then draw your stomach up and in, bringing your navel toward your spine. Hold this position, breathing normally.
Pliés are a great exercise to strengthen the legs and glutes, as well as improve your balance. Stand straight with your toes and knees turned out to 45 degrees. With your feet hip-distance apart, pull your belly button up and in. Bend your knees, lowering your body as close to the floor as possible while keeping your back straight. Straighten your legs to return to starting position. Repeat for reps.
9. Leg Lifts
Leg lifts are a great non-impact workout to do while pregnant. Getting yourself down on the floor and trying to stand back up after the workout may be the hardest parts. Lie on your right side, with the weight of your upper body supported by your right arm. Place the other arm on the floor to keep yourself stable. Lift your left leg up to about hip height, at a 45 degree angle, and repeat for 20 reps, then switch sides.
10. One-Arm Row
This exercise strengthens the back, and tones your biceps and triceps. Using a sturdy chair, place your right hand on the seat, knees slightly at an angle. Bend forward, keeping your back straight. Hold a 5- to 8-pound weight in your left hand, arm extended down and in line with your shoulder, palm facing in. Bend your left elbow up so that your arm forms a 90-degree angle. Hold, then return to starting position. Repeat 15 times, then switch sides.
11. Chest Opener on Exercise Ball
Hands down, this is one of my favorite stretches to do on an exercise ball. It feels good on your back, but also gives your abs, chest, and shoulders a wonderful stretch. Sit on an exercise ball while lean backwards, and slowly walk your feet out so that the ball is now underneath your spine. Keep your knees bent and your feet at hip distance apart for stability. Slowly walk your feet further away from you to straighten your legs. Extend your arms overhead to increase the stretch. Stay here for 30 seconds, breathing deeply as you lengthen through the spine. To release, walk your feet in and sit up.
12. Floating Frog
Strengthens deep abdominals, shoulders, arms, thighs and buttocks. Stretches the inner thighs and low back.
Wrap a floating noodle around your back and under your arms, making a horseshoe shape. Lean back into the noodle and, contracting your abdominal muscles, pull your legs to the surface of the water. Exhale and keep your abs tight as you bend your knees and put the soles of your feet together, letting your knees splay apart. (Think of it as a “froggy” position.) Fully extend your legs, pushing them through the water and inhaling as you straighten your knees.