Recently, I have noticed a new trend within my groups of friends, clients and the Reliquum Community, babies! Even Reliquum’s very own Stefani, who is responsible for editing our blog posts (and our model today!), is pregnant! Given this, I thought it is a great time to share how, here at Reliquum, I approach exercise and pregnancy.
Giving birth has to be one of the most difficult feats for a female. Being fit or physically active does not make you exempt of the struggles that are to come. Even though you may be physically fit, you will have to make adjustments. When I am working with a client that is pregnant, when it comes to the exercise part of our program, I progressively shift the focus of the workouts to movements that are focused more with cardiovascular fitness and related health, alignment and posture, maintenance of strength and mobility, and needs of labor and life with a newborn. Here are a few things to consider when working out for two:
Cardiovascular - during pregnancy the heart must work between 1.5 to 2 times as much as normal to move the necessary volumes of blood to both the mother and the fetus. Focusing on proper and consistent cardiovascular work during pregnancy will provide a greater ability to combat lethargy and shortness of breath. Equally as important, maintaining cardiovascular fitness through pregnancy will lower the risk of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and obesity. Taking the trimester you are in into consideration, I regularly aim for 2 to 3 hours of total work per week of a combination of high-moderate to moderate intensity type workouts.
Hip & pelvis mobility and strength - Paying extra attention to the gluteal region (maximus, minimus and medius) will help you avoid or lessen excessive waddling and lower back pain or the discomfort that is often associated with weight gain by improving stabilization of the pelvis. To achieve this, focus on simple and efficient movements such as single leg abduction, adduction, flexion and extension. Just as important, paying attention to mobility can help if faced with a deep and/or prolonged labor position. Supported movements such as TRX hip mobilizers, TRX side to side single leg squats or TRX double leg deep squats allow for great range of motion, providing the opportunity to increase your current range of motion, maintain proper leg musculature balance and strength, while diminishing intra abdominal pressure.
Core - being pregnant will bring with it a new meaning and purpose of why and how you train your midsection and/or core. The focus of aesthetics will be replaced by the importance of functionality and control. To focus on control of your core, consider deep breathing techniques and exercises. To focus on functionality, perform exercises such as rolling, or bodyweight Turkish Get-Ups. Exercises such as crunches, sit ups, leg raises and the such will increase your likelihood of developing Diastasis Recti by creating excessive intra-abdominal pressure, thus, they should be avoided.
Legs - as time progresses during pregnancy the center of gravity moves to the front. Additional strengthening of the quads and spinal erectors will aid to keep you stable and erect. Also, as the baby grows and the size of the belly impedes freedom of movement, much pure movements that resemble a squat or Romanian deadlift will help you maintain your autonomy during and after the baby is born. Use a variety of squats and deadlifts with centered and off centered loads. Dumbbell Box Squats is my preferred safe form of doing Squats during pregnancy and up to 3 months after the baby is born.
Posture and Alignment - As the pregnancy progresses the body will be pulled forward by the weight of the baby and the breast. To address this issue, emphasize on the upper-back muscles. Well trained and developed upper back muscles will help you maintain proper posture and neutral alignment of your spine and pelvis. Improper posture can alter the natural S-Shape of your spine, which in turn will affect your pelvis alignment, this can lead to a condition called Pubic Symphysis Dysfunction or Pelvic Girdle Pain, which also leads to back discomfort and pain. A misaligned pelvis could reduce the amount of room available for a developing baby, a restriction in a sense related to Pubic Symphysis Dysfunction and referred to as intrauterine constraint. To address this, different rowing and high rowing movements are done at the end of every workout, and to a lesser extent, lat pull downs. The repetitions are higher than usual, 15-25, using a combination of cables, bands and dumbbells, this builds upper back muscular endurance and structure, promoting proper spinal alignment, which will be very helpful as the pregnancy progresses, and life with a newborn as you have to breastfeed.
Hydration - Hydration is always important, but during pregnancy and exercise it’s even more so. Staying properly hydrated will help the body use the water to form amniotic fluid, build new tissue, carry nutrients, help indigestion, flush out wastes and toxins and produce extra blood volume. It also can help your body during pregnancy to decrease the risks of preterm labor, UTI’s, and maybe even soften your skin! The Mayo Clinic recommends pregnant women drink 10 cups of fluids each day. But if you are exercising and/or it’s hot out you will most likely need more. A good way to measure if you’re properly hydrated is if you rarely feel thirsty and your urine is light yellow or colorless.
This are my basic guidelines, everyone is different though, thus, you must always consult your doctor first before you make any changes to your current physical activity levels.
Luis Bermudez & Stefani Hass