One of the most monumental human feats is the process of growing and carrying another human being—something incredible and miraculous that we’ve come to know as “pregnancy.” In fact, it is the most transformative experience that a person can go through in life—mentally, physically and emotionally. For this reason, one of the best things you can do if you know you’re planning to get pregnant, or recently found out that you’re pregnant, is to prepare. Did you know there are exercises to prepare for pregnancy?
While some mental preparing is always helpful, physical preparation through exercises to prepare for pregnancy is equally paramount to carry you through those long nine months and beyond. “Daily movement strengthens your muscles, opens your breath and nourishes your organs and tissues with fresh blood flow and oxygen, creating an optimal environment,” says Rachel Welch, certified health coach, yoga instructor, and founder of the post-natal fitness method Revolution Motherhood. “Already having an established repertoire of soothing stretches, soft foam rolling, deep breathing and body awareness will result in higher motivation and an easier path to making time for yourself throughout motherhood.”
Another benefit of exercises to prepare for pregnancy is that that may help stave off some of the more pesky pregnancy symptoms, such as nausea, indigestion and constipation. “Exercise helps keep things moving in the body and keeps your muscles contracting and relaxing in different ways than when you’re just standing or sitting down,” says Stephanie Mansour, a Chicago-based weight loss coach and corporate wellness trainer.
If you’re someone who’s already been exercising prior to getting pregnant, good news for you: You can continue your routine right through your pregnancy, so long as you’re not high-risk and you’ve gotten the green light from your doctor. It’s still incredibly important to listen to your body. “Pull back if anything hurts, educate yourself about your abdominals and learn how to use breath to isolate and engage your transverse abs,” says Welch. “The key is to be consistent with your movement practice but flexible and respond to what feels good (or doesn’t) on any given day.”
Here, fitness pros share some of the top exercises to prepare for pregnancy that they recommend their clients partake in before, during and after pregnancy.
Mansour recommends yoga for anyone who is preparing their body for pregnancy—not only for its workout benefits, like long and lean muscles, but also for its mental benefits, like relaxation and lowering cortisol levels. “Yoga is so beneficial before conceiving because it helps your nervous system to relax, it reduces stress in the mind and body, and it creates an overall great mind-body container to carry a baby,” she says.
This type of workout strengthens your pelvic floor muscles, which are the ones you use to hold your urine when you really need to go, explains Anna Palermo, NASM-certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and owner of Anna Palermo Fitness. To perform a Kegel, contract your pelvic floor as if you’re preventing yourself from urinating and hold it for 2-3 seconds, working your way up to a 5-second hold. Palermo recommends doing 15 repetitions and 2-3 sets at least once a day.
There are plenty of exercises that work your glutes, including squats, hamstring curls, side lying leg lifts, and barre. All are excellent for strengthening these muscles that support your abs, notes Welch. “When your transverse abs are stretched and weakened, you also lose your butt system, leading to hip, low back and foot pain,” she says. “Strengthen the booty and everything else will fall into place better and stronger.”
Your diaphragm sits at the very top of your abdominal system and is what Welch refers to as the gateway to your breath. “Toning it results in rib mobility and upper strength which are essential for building arm and shoulder strength instead of neck and shoulder tension,” she says. “The early months of motherhood are spent hunched over holding a baby, your upper body needs to be ready to work with that daily activity.”
Dumbbell bent over row
Because your abs stretch as your baby grows, Stephanie George, certified yoga instructor and personal trainer, recommends doing this dumbbell exercise, which strengthens your back and helps you maintain good posture. “Eventually the muscles are less able to contract and keep your lower back in proper alignment,” she says.
These fun and easy workouts can be effective at strengthening your hips, which naturally become very loose during pregnancy thanks to the hormone relaxin, notes George. “Hip thrusts help strengthen your glutes and alleviate hip pain and also help to prepare your body for labor.”