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Last Updated on December 16, 2020

The Most Critical Do’s and Don’ts of Working Out While Pregnant

The Most Critical Do’s and Don’ts of Working Out While Pregnant

Are you scared of working out whilst pregnant? Or simply not sure how to proceed? Everything seems slightly more daunting once you’re carrying and creating a whole other person.

In this article I will give you specific advice, tips and strategies for working out while pregnant. Ensuring that you, and your baby, are safe. Not only that but you will both benefit.

Benefits of Working Out While Pregnant

It is clear that everyone, not just you but your baby, and probably your partner and other kids will benefit from you working out while pregnant. If you’re sleeping better and feel less stress, you can guarantee everyone in the household is going to feel better.

How you benefit from working out while pregnant:

  • Reduced incidence of lower back pain
  • 30% reduction in the risk of gestational diabetes
  • Reduced likelihood of unplanned cesarian
  • Lower incidence and reduce severity of depression
  • Less pregnancy weight gain
  • Lower risk of urinary incontiennce
  • Reduced pregnancy constipation
  • Less pregnancy tiredness
  • May have a shorter labour

How your baby benefits from working out while pregnant:

  • A healthier heart
  • Normal birth weight
  • Quicker neurological development
  • Reduced risk of respiratory distress syndrome (for infants of high-risk women)
  • Less maternal stress could reduce impact on immune system development

Instant Big-Rocks for Working out While Pregnant

Before we get cracking into what really will benefit, here are some instant ‘big-rocks’ when it comes to working out while pregnant.

Safety first: Check with your midwife

Each person and pregnancy is individual – and as I”m not speaking to you in person, the first pre-qualifier is that you check with your doctor that you’re ok to work out while pregnant. In certain circumstances, it is not recommended due to potential complications arising from exercise.

If you’re new to exercising or have just fallen pregnant do check with your GP or midwife before commencing or recommencing your exercise program.

Exercise Check In Second – No lying Flat or Crunches

Crunches are a whole other issue in regards to pre and post natal training that I’ll get into during another article.

For now, know that lying flat on your back puts pressure on your body, especially after 16 weeks. The weight of your bump pressing on certain blood vessels can reduce cardiac output, make you feel dizzy and affect the flow of blood that carries nutrients and oxygen to your baby.

While this means traditional stomach crunches are out, you can and should still include core and pelvic floor strengthening exercises in your routine. These I’ll get to later in the article.

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Third Intensity Check In – No High Intensity Workouts

When it comes to exercise intensity, it is best to abide by the guideline “to be able to comfortably hold a conversation” whilst working out. Unless you are an athlete and extremely used to very high heart rates whilst you workout, keeping your rate of perceived exertion to a 7 out of 10 is best practice.

Experts agree that you should avoid undertaking activities that will raise your core temperature by more than 2°C – or above 38.9°C. This is because such a temperature change may result in hyperthermia (the opposite of hypothermia). Hyperthermia during pregnancy has been linked to a twofold increase in the risk of birth defects impacting the spine or brain.

As such, it is not advisable to use hot tubs or spas during pregnancy, and hot yoga should be avoided as well as parking in only moderate intensity exercise.

Final & Fourth Point – No high contact/dangerous sports

For obvious reasons, contact sports or sports in which it’s likely you can fall or have an accident should be avoided.

For example scuba diving while pregnant should be avoided as your baby will have no protection against decompression sickness (‘the bends’) or gas embolism – bubbles in the bloodstream that can cut off blood supply or cause breathing difficulties.

Similarly, horse riding, climbing, cycling, gymnastics and other activities that require extreme balance are best avoided as your centre of gravity shifts and affects your balance.

Certainly, sports like kick boxing, jujitsu or rugby in which contact is prevalent should be avoided for bump protection.

Actual Workouts You Can Do While Pregnant

1. Let your personal trainer or group exercise instructor know that you’re pregnant

In doing so they can assist you in providing expert advice or refer you to a qualified practitioner in your area. If you’re unsure ask your GP or Midwife for a referral.

2. Use your breath to engage your core and pelvic floor throughout your workout programs

Your breath plays a big part in controlled core to assist with labour and reduce back pain. We each take thousands of breaths per day, as as your baby grows pressure is placed upon the lungs and pelvic floor.

Preparing and practicing proper breath ensures that your core remains as integrated and activated as possible throughout and after your pregnancy.

3. Find a Holistic Core Restore Coach

The reason the Holistic Core Restore® programmes are more effective than performing keels or traditional abdominal exercise alone for true core restore and pelvic floor activation. A Hollisitc Core Restore Coach will work with you to integrate your core and pelvic floor with your whole body through a series of movements and lifestyle factors.

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4. Join a Pre & Post Natal Class

Join a Pre & Post Natal Class in order to move in specific ways designed to boost your health and recovery post birth.

This not only provides you with a chance to connect with other pre & post natal women in your area to and create a community; but also provides you access to pre & post natal experts who can give you tailored advice for exercising whilst pregnant.

5. Focus on strengthening the glute muscles

Focus on strengthening the glute muscles to counteract the anterior tilt produced by your expanding bump.

Most people will simply focus on keeping the core engaged and active to help the ‘pre-mummy-tummy’ bounce back. When in actual fact the synergist muscle to the core for pelvic stability is the butt.

Really focus on strengthening the glute muscles in order to support the core, posture and back.

Hinge movements such as single leg romanian deadlifts are a brilliant way to do so. You can do this holding a Kettlebell or Dumbell but also, once the bump is big enough just using your bodyweight.

6. Enjoy swimming

Enjoy swimming, especially in your third trimester, to remove weight and boost lymphatic drainage of your feet and ankles.

It’s well known that your ankles swell during the last months of pregnancy. This is due to the changes in posture from the weight of the stomach pulling down towards the floor.

Consequently, this causes the front of the hip to become compressed. And this in turn reduces circulation of the lymphatic fluid in the lower body.

One way to improve this circulation is to get into water as the pressure from the water removes the weight of the bump whilst providing pressure to the legs improving circulation.

7. Bring layers to your workouts

Bring layers to your workouts so that you can add and remove layers as you warm up and cool down.

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As previously mentioned, changes in body temperature can be dangerous for the baby – using layers so that you can keep your temperature constant is one the the most simple and best things you can do whilst working out while pregnant.

8. Practice the 7 fundamental primal movement patterns in your workouts

Practice the 7 fundamental primal movement patterns in your workouts – squat, lunge, anti-rotate, push, carry, hinge, pull.

“We love pregnant mamas to be regularly training their squats, since a low squat is the ideal position for working through contractions and pushing during labor.”

They also improve pelvic floor strength and elasticity to help prevent tearing during the natural labor process and teach abdominal strength relative to hip mobility for an easier labor and faster postnatal recovery.

Kiberd and her team prefer front squats done with at least a 12-kilogram kettlebell held at the chest. (Choose an appropriate weight for your level.)

“The kettlebell gives great feedback to the muscles that need to engage to stand you back up and to stabilize your weight while you’re down in the squat,” she explains.

And once the bump gets big? “No weight on the front is needed,” she says. “The belly is that natural weight.”

9. Do exercise that your enjoy

Because really if you’re enjoying it so will bump and you’ll feel less stressed.

Do not making working out while pregnant a chore – if it becomes that way, seek advice from an expert in your gym or area on some new varied things that you can try.

10. Practice anti-rotation exercises

Practice anti-rotation exercises whilst focussing on the breath for core integration and activation.

The Palloff press (a core stabilizer done on a cable machine) and the bear crawls offer the same degree of effectiveness.

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“These two exercises engage the external and internal obliques, which are involved in stabilizing the torso in rotation and help stabilize the shoulders down and back.”

11. Make sure to wind down properly

Cooling down slowly after your workouts and providing a little leeway time before your next appointment will reduce your stress levels and help you feel more balanced.

It will also stop sharp changes in body temperature that are non-beneficial to your baby.

Take your time and enjoy each session for what it is.

The Bottom Line

You will have to make fitness modifications as your body changes, but deep down, you know that’s ok. Dr Dawn Harper says

“We’re now seeing evidence that exercising in pregnancy may be one of the best things you can do for your baby’s future health. Pregnancy exercise can have a huge impact on your personal experience of pregnancy, too. Provided you follow the expert guidelines, it’s safe for most women to continue and even start exercising in pregnancy. Just make sure you check with your midwife or doctor first, in case there are any specific medical reasons why you should avoid being physically active in pregnancy.”

There are certain things that are essential. The first being to check with your Dr/Midwife to be given the ‘OK’ to exercise.

There are definite ‘no-nos’ such as abstaining from contact or dangerous sports as well as performing extreme high intensity workouts that bring your heart rate and temperature very, abnormally high for you. It is also contraindicated that you perform any exercises lying on your back.

The exciting thing is that you can and should exercise. You simply have to adapt to what is possible by seeking advice of a local pre & post natal expert. If you take one sentence away let it be this:

Focus upon your breath, workout at a 7/10 level, strengthen your glutes and perform whole body integrated exercises preferentially led by a pre & post natal expert.

And finally, if in doubt, get in the pool for some weight off your feet and relax!

References

  1. Pennick V, Liddle SD. Interventions for preventing and treating pelvic and back pain in pregnancy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2013(CD0011):1-100.
  2. Sanabria‐Martínez G et al. Effectiveness of physical activity interventions on preventing gestational diabetes mellitus and excessive maternal weight gain: a meta‐analysis. BJOG 2015;122(9):1167-74.
  3. Price BB et al. Exercise in pregnancy: effect on fitness and obstetric outcomes-a randomized trial. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2012;44(12):2263-9.
  4. Domenjoz I et al. Effect of physical activity during pregnancy on mode of delivery. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2014;211(4):401.e1-e11.
  5. Gaston A, Prapavessis H. Tired, moody and pregnant? Exercise may be the answer. Psychol Health 2013;28(12):1353-69.
  6. Robledo-Colonia AF et al. Aerobic exercise training during pregnancy reduces depressive symptoms in nulliparous women: a randomised trial. J Physiother 2012;58(1):9-15.
  7. Perales M et al. Benefits of aerobic or resistance training during pregnancy on maternal health and perinatal outcomes: A systematic review. Early Hum Dev 2016;94:43-8..
  8. Shi W et al. Epidemiology and risk factors of functional constipation in pregnant women. PloS one 2015;10(7):e0133521
  9. Gaston A, Prapavessis H. Tired, moody and pregnant? Exercise may be the answer. Psychol Health 2013;28(12):1353-69.
  10. Barakata et al. Exercise during pregnancy is associated with a shorter duration of labor. A randomized clinical trial 2018, 224 33-40
  11. May LE et al. Aerobic exercise during pregnancy influences fetal cardiac autonomic control of heart rate and heart rate variability. Early Hum Dev 2010;86(4):213-7.
  12. Bisson M et al. Physical activity volumes during pregnancy: A systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies assessing the association with infant’s birth weight. AJP Reports 2016;6(02):e170-e97.
  13. Labonte-Lemoyne E et al. Exercise during pregnancy enhances cerebral maturation in the newborn: A randomized controlled trial. J Clin Exp Neuropsychol 2016:1-8.
  14. Muktabhant B et al. Diet or exercise, or both, for preventing excessive weight gain in pregnancy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2015 Jun 15;(6):CD007145.
  15. Marques AH, Bjorke-Monsen AL, Teixeira AL, Silverman MN. Maternal stress, nutrition and physical activity: impact on immune function, CNS development and psychopathology. Brain Research. 2015;1617:28–46

Featured photo credit: lucas Favre via unsplash.com

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Camilla Dempster

A prenatal/postnatal and health expert who teaches women to ditch the binge/restrict/guilt cycle around their body, food and exercise.

The Leading Causes of Prenatal Depression and How to Manage it Best Working in the Third Trimester (The Complete Survival Guide) The Most Critical Do’s and Don’ts of Working Out While Pregnant

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Last Updated on January 21, 2021

How To Workout Without a Gym And Get a Killer Gym Body

How To Workout Without a Gym And Get a Killer Gym Body

As a general rule, everyone wants to have a sexy and strong body, but no one wants to put in the work. We see a whole lot of excuses being thrown around every time fitness is mentioned, and it’s frightening that only about 3% of people in the US subscribe to the healthy living philosophy.[1]

That being said, have you ever stopped to think about why all these people fail to get in shape? Sure, there are some who are lazy, some with legitimate medical issues, and the readily available cheap junk food doesn’t help, but I think there is something more to it.

People are pressed for time, scared, and confused. Yep, it’s as simple as that. Most people either can’t make it to the gym, don’t have a lot of money to drop on long-term membership fees, don’t feel comfortable exercising around others, or they simply don’t even know what to do when they do get to the gym.[2]

Well, with a few useful tricks, some good information, and a bit of determination, you can create all the right conditions for building an impressive physique without ever leaving the house. Here’s a few things to have in mind:

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Fixing your posture and getting limber

The biggest issue most beginners have when they start working out is the fact that their bodies are so used to sitting scrunched up in front of a screen that they have trouble moving around freely. The human body can be amazingly limber and assume all kinds of positions, but for most people, this is going to require extensive work.

Start by gradually improving your posture over a few weeks, using small exercises, more ergonomic furniture, and just being mindful of how you stand, walk, and sit.[3] You can combine this with a short and sweet stretching routine, done about twice a day, to get your body ready to perform the basic exercises correctly.

Learning the basic movements

While there’s a lot of science behind both getting stronger and getting leaner, it can all be boiled down to a few core concepts and a number of the most effective exercises. Here are the best movements for overall development that you’ll need to master (you can find examples of how to perform all the exercises mentioned here on Bodybuilding.com):

  • Squats: the king of all exercises, the squat builds most of your leg muscles with an emphasis on quads and glutes, if you go nice and deep like you should. It can be a good core and thoracic extension exercise if you hold some weight in front of you, as in the Goblet and Zercher squat variations.
  • Lunges: a great exercise for the quads and glutes that also targets the hip extensors. It also teaches you to keep your balance.
  • Pushup variations:[4] the pushup is so versatile that some call it “the poor man’s gym”. The standard close grip pushup works the triceps, front shoulders, and chest, while wider variations put more emphasis on the chest. Raising your legs pushes the focus towards the shoulders and the upper chest, while the handstand pushup is predominantly a shoulder and triceps exercise.
  • Dips: another great exercise for the lower chest and triceps, this is an incredibly fun movement that can slap mass on you quickly when done correctly.
  • Pull-ups and chin-ups: grab a bar, hang from it with arms almost fully stretched out, and then pull yourself up until your chin raises above the bar. This is a fairly straightforward, yet difficult movement that builds a big back, biceps, and forearms. Position your hands facing the head for more bicep activation, and go a bit wider with palms facing away from you to target the lats better.
  • Rows/inverted row: a horizontal pulling motion that will add slabs of meat to your back and while improving that often lagging back head of the shoulder muscle. It even improves posture by strengthening the spinal erectors to an extent. You can bend over with the back straight and row a weight from the ground, with one or both hands, or you can grab the underside of a horizontal bar, feet on the ground, and pull yourself into it.
  • Glute bridges: a great way to really isolate and work the butt. It also gets the hamstrings, which are often neglected by people working out at home.
  • Floor hip extensions: a good addition that also focuses on the glutes and hamstrings, resulting in well-toned and balanced legs.
  • Calf raises: the calf is a small muscle but an important one, especially for the ladies who want to look great in heels. It’s also easy to just throw in at the end of the workout.
  • Planks, leg raises, and ab wheel rollout: of course, the abs need some attention too, but go for planks, hold for time, side planks, hanging or lying leg raises, and ab wheel rollout for the best results.
  • The Superman: the spinal erectors need to be strong if they are to keep your back healthy, balance out those abs, and keep you nice and tight during most of the other exercises on the list, so definitely give this one a go.

Take a few weeks to just get the form down pat on all these movements and make sure that you are doing a full range of motion and slower, deliberate movements. Don’t just bounce all over the place. Establish and build momentum. You can use a good bodyweight strength training program to make sure you hit all the muscles, keep progressing, and get enough time to recover.[5]

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How to progress on bodyweight exercises

Now, if you want to have a great and lean physique — and this goes for ladies as well — you need to build some muscle to give your limbs that lovely shape you are after, before you can lose the excess flab, and expose that Greek statue of a body. Don’t try to combine endurance work with your strength exercises. Focus on building strength with the exercises above and dedicate some time every other day for things like swimming, jumping rope, or cycling to burn some calories and improve your cardio.

Okay, so the main question is, how does one progress on bodyweight exercises, short of gaining more weight to make them more challenging? Well, there’s a few things you can do. The first thing to do to challenge yourself is to add more reps.

The most important thing to remember, however, is that when you can easily perform 15-20 reps of an exercise and still have a few reps left in the tank, it’s time to make it more challenging by doing one of the following:

  • Add an additional set. If you started at 3 sets of 5-6 reps and you’re now comfortable with 3 sets of 15-17 reps, then you can simply throw in a fourth set into the mix.
  • Do it slower. Busting out 20 quick reps isn’t quite the same as doing 10 slow and controlled reps, where you can even add a short pause when your muscles are fully relaxed before contracting them for the next rep.
  • Shorten the rest period between sets. 60-90 seconds is the sweet spot for resting between longer sets of 10-20 reps, but when things get easy, you can shorten this rest period progressively by 10 seconds, until you are only resting about 30-40 seconds between sets, to make it more difficult before moving on to a more challenging variation or adding weight.
  • Move on to a more difficult variation. When you get comfortable, focus on a variation of the movement that provides a bit of a challenge, e.g. one arm on ball pushups and then single arm pushups, pistol squats, and so on.
  • Add some weight. While you might not have access to barbells, you can always get a fairly inexpensive dumbbell set, a few different sized bags filled with sand, a backpack with some rocks, and even big water bottles and milk jugs will do the trick, just as long as you keep adding weight.

Work hard on your form, then try to go as hard as you can each session without overdoing it. I’d say stop a rep short of failure and rest until you feel you can go for another full set.

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Determining the type of cardio you need to do

Cardio is not that difficult to figure out and it basically boils down to a few simple rules, depending on your shape and goals:

  • If you’re skinny and want to get sexy and muscular: Do light and steady cardio, like a brisk walk for an hour, 5-6 minutes of jump rope here and there, or even just 10 minutes of shadow-boxing or dancing every day. Don’t let it cut into your calories too much.
  • If you’re a little overweight and want to lose 10 pounds or less and build muscle: It’s the same as the previous example, just add 2-4 more intense sessions of running, swimming, circuit training a week into the mix to cut the weight first. Revert to the previous example once you have lost the weight and recenter your focus on building muscle.
  • If you’re seriously overweight and your main concern is cutting 20+ pounds: Again, it’s the same as the previous example, only you can go with even more intense workouts, or daily moderate cardio sessions of about 20-30 minutes for a while. Once you’ve lost most of the weight, revert to the previous example, and then to the first example when you’ve shed all the extra pounds you’d like to get rid of.

You can choose any activity that you like, from jump rope, cycling, and swimming to hiking and and other high-cardio sports.

A look at diets and keeping them reasonable

As far as the diet goes we’ll keep it extremely simple:

  • Try to eat diverse vegetables with every meal
  • Eat fruit, seeds, and nuts instead of sweets
  • Go for lean meats instead of processed meat and cooked food instead of fast and fried food
  • Start counting your macro nutrient intake[6]
  • Cheat if you must, but keep these meals small, few, and far between

As long as you can stick with the program for about 80% of the time, you’ll be on your way to better health and an amazing body!

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DIY home gym basics

Some essentials that can help you get better results at home include:

  • A dumbbell set
  • Pull-Up bar
  • Ab wheel
  • Big ol’ sturdy bags filled with sand

You can do tons of great exercises with these simple tools, but if you can’t shell out for them right now, good alternatives include five gallon milk jugs filled with water, a bunch of books stacked in a backpack, using a friend/partner to lay on you, push, or pull to provide extra resistance, or just lifting heavy furniture and moving it around the room.

It pays to be creative. Look at how certain exercises are performed and on what type of equipment, and try to replicate it using household items. For example:

  • Two chairs = dip station
  • Anything that you can hang off = pull up bar
  • A stack of large blankets on the floor = bench
  • Stick and some rope = forearm exercise machine
  • A towel wrapped on a bar or dumbbell grip = thick grip for hand and forearm strength
  • Car = prowler device for pushing to build endurance and power in the legs

It’s all fairly cheap and you can get as creative as you like, just remember to be consistent with your training in order to see the results you wish to see.

All it takes is a little ingenuity and elbow grease, and you’ll set up a decent home “gym” and adopt some great habits along the way. It’s all about being consistent and trying to progress on each session, or at least each week, as you keep adding reps, using more complex movements, and adding weight, all while eating right for your current goals. Give it a shot and always remember, 90% of all this is your commitment and the intensity with which you attack these positive life changes.

Featured photo credit: Minna Hamalainen via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] The Atlantic: Study: Less Than 3 Percent of Americans Live a ‘Healthy Lifestyle’
[2] Men’s Fitness: 6 Not-So-Obvious Newbie Training Mistakes
[3] Perfect Postur: Tips for Improving Posture and Ergonomics
[4] Men’s Fitness: The Top 15 Pushup Variations
[5] Men’s Fitness: 6 Bodyweight Workouts That Actually Build Momentum
[6] On the Regimen: How To Count Your Macros – A Comprehensive Guide

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