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Safe Ab Exercises For Pregnancy: Strengthen Your Core Throughout Each Trimester



Pregnancy is a beautiful and transformative time in a woman's life. It's often filled with excitement and maybe some apprehension about what's in store for the future. It is also a time of many unknowns. Those who exercise before becoming pregnant may wonder if there is anything they shouldn't do during pregnancy. And for those who have never exercised before, this pregnancy may be the catalyst for starting to take fitness and health more seriously. In this scenario, one may wonder, "What should I do?" Don't worry; in this post, I will address both. But first, I would like to share a story with you.


When I was pregnant with my firstborn, I asked my doctor if there were any exercises I should avoid during pregnancy. The only thing she told me about exercise was that I should keep my heart rate at 140 BPM or lower. In hindsight, this was not the best advice.  First, her recommendation to keep my BPMs lower than 140 is actually old and outdated information.  Back in 1985, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists published this recommendation, but it was removed in 1994. Instead, using the rate of perceived exertion to monitor exercise intensity is recommended because heart rates during pregnancy vary greatly.  Second, there is so much more for women to know about exercise while pregnant.  I know this now because some exercises I did during my pregnancy and again in the postpartum period led me to struggle with issues related to my core and pelvic floor.


As a fitness professional, this fueled me to get a pre- and postnatal fitness certification. I aim to prevent other women from experiencing what I did due to a lack of information. In this blog post, I will discuss what exercises are helpful in strengthening the core during pregnancy and tell you how to access a resource for exercises to avoid during pregnancy.


First, the two most important exercises during pregnancy are 360 breathing and pelvic floor activations.


360 Breathing


360 breathing is a powerful technique that involves breathing deeply into your ribcage and back, allowing for a full diaphragm expansion. Here's a brief overview of how to do it:

  1. Sit or stand comfortably with a straight back.

  2. Place your hands around your lower ribcage, fingers pointing towards each other.

  3. Inhale deeply through your nose, feeling your ribcage expand in all directions – forward, sideways, and into your back.

  4. Exhale slowly through your mouth, allowing your ribs to come back together gently.

This exercise supports your core and pelvic floor and helps manage intra-abdominal pressure, reducing the risk of diastasis recti and pelvic floor dysfunction. For a more detailed guide, click HERE to snag my free training on 360 Breathing.


Pelvic Floor Activations


Pelvic floor activations are similar to Kegels but involve a more comprehensive approach. Instead of just focusing on squeezing, you engage all four points of attachment of the pelvic floor and ensure full lengthening, which is especially important during pregnancy. Here's how to do it:

  1. Sit or lie down comfortably.

  2. Imagine your pelvic floor as a diamond shape with four points: front, back, left, and right.

  3. Gently contract and lift all four points, feeling a lift towards your navel.

  4. Hold for a few seconds, then fully release, allowing your pelvic floor to lengthen and relax.


Fully lengthening the pelvic floor is crucial, especially during pregnancy, as it can aid in an easier delivery, particularly when using special breathing techniques leading up to birth.

If you do these two things (and nothing else), you will do more for your core and pelvic health than most pregnant women do. But I know you didn't come to this blog post just for that, so let's check out several other exercises you can do to maintain a strong core throughout pregnancy.


Safe Ab Exercises for Every Trimester


I encourage you to use 360 breathing with each movement when performing the following exercises. Inhale on the resistance portion of the exercise with a 360-degree expansion, and exhale on the "work" portion, focusing on deep core connection and exhaling until no air is left. For example, in the banded exercises, exhale when the band moves away from the anchor point and inhale when the band is moving toward the anchor point. For the march and bird dog, inhale as the leg is lowering and exhale as the leg is lifting. It is also important to maintain neutral alignment through each of these exercises to reap the full benefits!


Pallof Press



Horizontal Rotation



Single Arm Carry


This exercise can be done with the dumbbell in the low, racked, or high position, which you will see over the next three videos.



Single Arm March


Like the Single-Arm Carry, this exercise can be performed with the dumbbell in the low, racked, or high position.





Bird Dog



Half Kneeling Single Arm Chest Press



Half Kneeling Single Arm Low Row




In addition to these exercises, I would like to offer you a valuable resource: my Exercises to Modify During Pregnancy Cheat Sheet: A Trimester-by-Trimester Guide. This guide provides a comprehensive overview of which exercises to modify or avoid as your pregnancy progresses, ensuring you and your baby stay safe and healthy. You can grab your guide HERE.


Conclusion


Pregnancy is a time of significant change, but with the right information and exercises, you can keep your core strong and healthy throughout each trimester. Remember, every pregnancy is unique, so always listen to your body and consult your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise routine. Incorporating 360 breathing and pelvic floor activations into your daily routine will lay a strong foundation for your core and pelvic health. Add in the additional exercises, and you'll be well on your way to a healthy and strong pregnancy.


Stay active, stay informed, and enjoy this beautiful journey.

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