My nearly back-to-back pregnancies really did a number on my physical body. I don't mean to complain; I'm simply explaining why I've needed months of physical therapy to recover after each child was born. Because I have basically zero waist, my pregnancies both carried way out in front of me. All that stretching changed my ab muscles in a way that never really "snapped back" to normal. Officially, I'm diagnosed with diastasis recti. It's essentially a split in the middle of my abdominal wall left behind by pregnancy. While all abs split during pregnancy, they usually recover with proper core care.
However, traditional core exercises like crunches or scissor kicks can make this ab-spread even worse! During the second and third trimester, and especially in the first few months after delivery, it's best to stick to more gentle core exercises. My physical therapists, my own research and experience, and the glorious internet combined to concoct this list of 11 pregnancy-safe ab exercises.
Start Out Slow With A Seated Knee Lift
You're pregnant, get off your feet! No, really - this is a core workout you can do while seated. Scoot to the edge of the chair and grasp the sides. Slowly lift one knee up - just a few inches will do - and then slowly release the knee. The controlled lowering of the knee really kicks in some of those forgotten stomach muscles!
Exercise With Your Birthing Ball
Birthing balls make great workout tools! They provide a challenge to the core without impact - the slight resistance of your own body weight can help maximize this workout. While seated on the ball, slowly raise one arm up, out to the side of your body, to eventually touch your ear. Your hand should be pointing straight to the ceiling. Then slowly release. Beginners might want to steady themselves on something nearby!
Stabilize Your Core With A Side Plank
This is the pregnancy-friendly version of the plank. While it works the entire core, the side plank helps encourage the two halves of your abs to come together in the middle. Every little bit helps!
Get A Good Stretch For Pregnancy Posture
The Standing Crunch is one of my personal favorite "exercises". I joke that it's half-stretch, half-exercise. Bend forward at the waist to a 90' angle (or as far as your baby bump will allow). Slowly lift yourself back up, focusing your work in your back, butt, and thighs. Keeping these muscles in tone will help reduce pregnancy back pain!
Try Kegels For Pelvic Floor Tone
Oh, yes! They're classic for a reason. Kegels are an exercise you can do at any time or place because no one knows you're doing them! These exercises are far more than just an aid to sexual health. By toning the pelvic floor, Kegels help create a stable foundation for your core!
Squats During Pregnancy Make Labor Go Faster
Some of these exercises work more than just the core - like squats. Nothing will make your legs feel like jello like a day full of squats, right? But all that squatting can help strengthen your pelvic floor, hips, and back! This added strength can make labor much easier and faster - if you're lucky!
RELATED: Exercises That Make Labor Easier
Ease Back Pain During Pregnancy With Yoga Poses
By the third trimester, nearly every woman will complain of back pain. The lower back specifically can feel quite tense with the shifting of the mother's center of balance. One quick trick to ease this tension is to strike a pose - a yoga pose, that is! This cat/cow pose combination can stretch and strengthen the muscles of the back and stomach. It's also friendly to optimal baby positioning!
Try Lying Down To Strengthen Your Abs
Stay safely on the ground for this quick move! One your side, bend the leg touching the ground. With your top leg straight, lift it 4-5 inches. Slowly lower it. Repeat as you see fit and don't forget to switch sides! This move specifically targets your obliques - those little muscles along the outside of your stomach.
This Pelvic Tilt Tones That Mommy Pooch
This pelvic tilt is one of my all-time favorite essential workouts. It's easy, safe for all fitness levels, and helps you identify exactly which pelvic floor muscles you're targeting with your workout. With soft knees, scoop your tailbone forward, tilting your pelvis so that it almost seems as though you're sitting in a chair or perched on a bar stool. Hold this for a few seconds, then release. One fitness coach suggests visualizing an ice cream scoop on your pelvis and belly, scooping to help really get a tight tilt!
This Gentle Ab Exercise Looks Easy
But it's really a challenge for an unstable core! The key to this move is to ALWAYS keep one foot on the ground at all times. This helps stabilize and ground you so that you're not working your core in harmful ways that could worsen your diastasis. Begin on your back, both feet on the floor with knees bent. Lift one leg, keeping knee at a 90-degree angle. Slowly lower foot back to the ground and switch legs, repeating on the other side. By moving slowly, you're engaging multiple muscle groups in sequence to complete the move.
Best Core Exercise For Pregnant Women
Bear with me because this exercise doesn't even really seem like a core workout. Lying on your back with legs extended, slowly drag one heel toward your bottom. Try to bring it as high as you can, then switch and repeat on the other side. It might seem easy, but the slight resistance from your sneaker or foot is enough to make this heel slide an easy essential.
Fitness during pregnancy is proven to reduce the length of labor and negative outcomes. Of course, you don't want to overdo anything! Make sure you are stabilizing your core without causing damage. Avoid a diastasis recti with pregnancy-safe core exercises!
Did you discover other pregnancy-safe core exercises? Share them with me on Twitter @pi3sugarpi3 with #FitPregnancy.