NEW YORK — Pregnancy can feel like a nine-month feat of strength and stamina, filled with relentless physical challenges. While regular exercise during pregnancy can help, you can also prepare yourself before conception using exercises that specifically benefit a pregnant body.
Here are a few expert-recommended proactive workouts designed to strengthen muscle groups that will likely be pushed the hardest during pregnancy.
ENGAGE YOUR CORE. During pregnancy, your core muscles will need to support a rapidly growing uterus and belly. An effective way to strengthen the full cylinder of core muscles is to do planks, side planks and pointers three or more days a week, said Ms Michaela Burns, a personal trainer who specialises in prenatal and postpartum fitness.
However, core muscles that are too tight can also lead to injury during pregnancy, so it’s important to balance strength with flexibility training.
Workouts such as yoga and Pilates focus on strengthening the core muscles but also typically include deep-breathing exercises, which can help to improve both strength and flexibility in your deep core.
STRENGTHEN GLUTES AND LEGS. Not only do your lower-body muscles help to bear the extra weight of pregnancy and stabilise your lower back, but postpartum, they are also key to lifting and lowering the baby safely.
Ms Burns recommended doing squats, bridges and deadlifts at least three days a week to strengthen them.
WORK THE UPPER BACK. During pregnancy, as the breasts and belly expand, gravity pulls the upper body forward. Then, during the postpartum period, holding or breastfeeding a baby can keep you in this slumped position.
To counteract this issue and avoid the neck and shoulder pain that can follow, focus on working the upper back muscles, Ms Burns said.
Rowing movements, chest flys and “anything that can get those shoulder blades pinching back behind you,” she said, will help to develop the upper back and shoulder strength you need.
FIND A CARDIO WORKOUT, TOO. Doing regular aerobic workouts before becoming pregnant can create a secure foundation for pregnancy, said Ms Catherine Cram, an exercise physiologist.
She suggested finding an aerobic activity you enjoy and can do regularly, like walking, running, swimming, biking or dancing.
Strive for roughly 150 minutes of moderate activity per week.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.