This is a special 3 part series “Getting Your Pre-Baby Body Back” by Fitness expert Sara Haley.
So now that you have my 3 C’s and my Top 3 Belly Blasters for getting your pre-baby body back, I’d like to speak to those of you who are thinking about doing this all over again. Getting your pre-baby body back will be sooooo much easier if you get your body in it’s best shape prior to becoming pregnant. Combine a fit pre- pregnancy body with working out during your pregnancy, and you will be setting yourself up for a much quicker and fitter post-baby body.
So before you get pregnant again, work on my top six exercises that will prepare your body for a strong and healthy pregnancy, as well as a quick recovery. As for staying fit during your pregnancy, I have an amazing prenatal fitness program just for you! With six different workouts and a calendar to guide you through all three trimesters, my Daily Sweat Pregnancy Program: Expecting More™ offers what no other prenatal exercise DVD has before – variety, inspiration, and workouts for all fitness levels. Check out Sarahaley.com to find out more!
Sara’s Top 6 Exercises to Prepare for Pregnancy
1. PLIE (SUMO) SQUATS:
Squats are probably hands down the best overall exercise you can learn to do correctly. Learning to do a proper squat can save you from future back, hip and knee pain – all of which can also occur during pregnancy. In a plie squat you rotate out from the hips and use your inner thighs more than in a “normal” squat. This is important during pregnancy because eventually, when your bump is big enough, it will be more comfortable to rotate out from the hips. (Plus, you need your hips to open up more for labor.) So why not get a head start and become strong and comfortable in this position now? Squats build strength in your legs. When you are pregnant you need your legs more than ever to help support your growing mid-section.
How To: Stand with your legs a little wider than shoulder distance apart and rotate out from the hips. When you squat, think of keeping your shoulders and hips stacked. As you lower down sit a little bit more to get a nice stretch in your hips, but
continue to hold yourself up with your legs. Try not to collapse at the bottom of the squat.
Exercise Suggestion: 25 plie squats 3 times a week – on the last 5 sit a little more and hold a little longer to get a deeper stretch in the hips
You want your core to be the strongest it possibly can be going into pregnancy. Obviously, this is the part of the body that is going to be effected the most and that is the most often the hardest to get back to post-baby (The best way to counter this is to
get it looking great prior to your pregnancy so you can bounce back to it quicker afterwards). Moreover, it is also going to become the section that has the most limitations. At a certain point in your pregnancy, crunches and twisting are no longer
recommended. Lying on your back is not suggested after 20 weeks and avoiding crunches will help in preventing diastasis recti (http://1.usa.gov/kJYS5i). I have women ask me all the time about diastasis recti – how to avoid it and how to fix it. The best way to avoid it is to get your core as strong as it possibly can be prior to pregnancy (however sometimes it’s out of your control). If you really want to dig deep and hit the transverse abdominals, you are going to need an exercise that goes deep. Plank is your answer!
The great news is if you get good at it now you can do it throughout your pregnancy as well! Prior to getting pregnant I was able to hold a plank upwards of four minutes and up until the last few weeks of my pregnancy I was still able to hold a one minute plank! Plank not only works your abdominals but your entire core. Many people don’t realize it but when referring to your “core,” we actually mean from your scapula (your shoulder blades) to your hips and everything all the way around. Plank strengthens your core and if you want that flat tummy back after birth, you’ll want that core to be as
strong as possible!
How To: Begin on all fours with your hands in line with your shoulders and your knees in line with your hips. Begin by walking your knees a little farther back so that your body is on an incline Squeeze your butt, your abs and your shoulder blades together as you hold. You want to make sure you have a nice flat back that does not sink. You may need to think of pushing your back up against the ceiling. Once you’ve accomplished this position, lift your knees up off the floor and hold.
Exercise Suggestion: A plank a day keeps the stretch marks away! Work on
holding a plank as long as you can each day. Start with 15 seconds today and add on 5
seconds each week! You’ll be up to one minute in no time!
During pregnancy the chest and belly becomes increasingly larger over nine months. It’s no wonder that women complain of back pain during pregnancy, right? Your back muscles are the ones countering all the extra weight. The best way to avoid back pain during pregnancy is to strengthen it prior to becoming pregnant. I hate to rub it in, but during my nine months I never once complained of back pain, which I contribute to lots of rows and plank work.
How To: Stand with your feet in a split lunge, lengthening your right leg out behind you with the heel down in back. This is your base of support. With your hips and shoulders square to the floor, hold a free weight in the same hand as leg that is
back. “Row” the arm back to the hip, bending at the elbow and squeezing the shoulder blade towards the middle of the back. Release the arm back out long in front of you. For a greater challenge (and to attack the glutes and hamstring more) lift the back leg up off the floor. Feel a little unsteady or already pregnant? Take the feet wide and even, about shoulder width apart. Make sure to repeat on the other side.
Exercise Suggestion: 3 sets of 10-12 rows on each side, 2-3 times a week.
Begin with an 8 pound weight and work your way up to 15 pounds.
4. PUSH UPS:
Push ups come hand in hand with rows, and they only become harder and more limiting in pregnancy (You’ll have to do them on an incline when you get bigger in front.), so get stronger by doing them now! Just as you want to keep your back strong to help counter your growing front, you also want to keep the muscles strong around your growing front. Push ups not only attack the pectorals, but they will also help attack the shoulders, which you need to keep strong in preparation for picking up the growing baby that will soon be by your side. If you can push up your own body weight, no doubt you will have no problem with your own child. Besides, I think EVERY woman, regardless of wanting to become pregnant, should be able to do at least ten, good solid pushups. To be able to push up your own body weight not only might be a necessity some day, but is so empowering and sexy! No doubt, once you do become pregnant and heavier, this exercise will become increasingly difficult, so get yourself together ahead of time and practice those push ups!
How To: A great place to start your push up is from a plank position (see plank exercise description) on your knees or toes. You may need to take your hands a little wider than shoulder distance apart. Lower yourself down as one unit, keeping the head
in line with the rest of your body. An ideal position is where the shoulder and elbow hit a 90 degree angle. With just as much control, take a deep exhale through the mouth and bring your body all the way on up.
Exercise Suggestion: Work towards 3 sets of 10 push ups on your toes, or 20 on your knees, 2-3 times a week.
5. TRICEP DIPS:
Did you know that as women we carry a good amount of estrogen in our triceps? Research shows that too much estrogen or an imbalance in estrogen can cause excess fat storage. Guess what hormone you have more of during pregnancy? Yes, estrogen.
This means that more than likely, no matter what you do during pregnancy, your triceps will carry more fat. Therefore, the only thing we can do to make this situation a little bit better is to tone and strengthen them prior to pregnancy. This way, when you are done nursing (if you choose to), your triceps will return to their previous toned state. Plus, have you ever seen a pregnant woman struggle to push herself up out of chair? You don’t want to be her, so get a head start in strengthening those triceps with dips that will help in elevating you up and onwards.
How To: Elevate your upper body on a box, chair or table with your finger tips pointing out and your elbows pointing back. Press your shoulders down away from your ears and sit down into a make-believe chair. Lower yourself farther as you bend at the elbow, so your elbows and shoulders are close to a 90 degree angle. Take a deep exhale through your mouth and push yourself back up. Keep your booty close to the box, chair, or table for increased difficulty. Still not fatiguing? Pick up one foot in the air at a time.
Exercise Suggestion: Work towards 3 sets of 20 triceps dips, 2-3 times a week.
This is of course the prenatal exercise we hear about the most. I had no idea how truly important these were until I had my child. I did kegel exercises during my pregnancy and have always encouraged other pregnant women to do the same, however, what I have realized now going through postnatal recovery is that these exercises need to be done far sooner, far more often, and far deeper than I had ever imagined. In my opinion, just like “all women of child-bearing age” should take folic acid, they should also be encouraged to do at least ten kegel exercises every day. Not only do you want the outside of your body to bounce back after pregnancy, but you also want your inside too as well. So kegel, kegel, kegel!
How To: The most common way I hear people describe performing a kegel is to “squeeze the muscles that stop the flow of urine.” This is the general idea but nowhere near deep enough. A doctor I recently spoke to described it as actually “squeezing the muscles that keep you from passing gas without using any of the accessory muscles.” In other words squeeze internally, without clenching your butt cheeks together or squeezing your abs. Try and hold this for 10 seconds. It’s way harder than you think!
Exercise Suggestion: As soon as you start thinking about getting pregnant, do 6-8 kegels every day! If you do them correctly this is all you should need.
Questions or comments? Email Sara at firstname.lastname@example.org
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