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When I'm pregnant, what can I do to strengthen my body?

Rick Olderman
Physical Therapy Specialist

The following are valuable exercises to do to strengthen your body during pregnancy:

  • Gluteal Pumps - Restores strength to the gluteus maximus. This muscle often becomes weak, especially in the presence of tight muscles in the front of the pelvis. The hardest part of this exercise is keeping your spine from sagging.
  • Forward-Bench Stretch - Relieves strain to the lower spine by stretching tight back-extensor muscles that contribute to painful movement habits.
  • All-Fours Rocking Stretch - Passively restores normal hip and spinal mechanics and feels great for the lower back. (Move only in a pain-free range of motion. May not be advised by your physician.)
  • Heel-Slides - Develops abdominal control of the lower spine to help flatten out the excessive lordotic curve (inward curve of the lumbar and cervical spine). The more you practice this while you're pregnant, the further along you'll be in your tummy-toning program after your baby is born.
  • Wall-Slides - Don't forget to breathe! Whenever your back gets achy, you can return to this exercise, which will reset your lower abdominals to stabilize your spine.
  • Side-Lying Clamshells - Stop if back or hip pain occurs or you are unable to maintain good form.
  • Knee-Wobbles – If you notice that one side stays down more easily than the other, it could mean you have a rotated pelvis.

Strengthening exercises generally require 5 to 10 repetitions for one to two sets or until fatigue or compensatory movements occur. Just a little bit of strengthening is needed to effect a positive change. As always, quality is more important than quantity. Strengthening exercises only need to be performed two to three times per day.

Fixing You: Back Pain During Pregnancy: Self-treatment for sciatica, back pain, SI Joint or pelvic pain, and advice for abdominal strengthening post partum.

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Changes happen during pregnancy that not only lead to back pain during pregnancy but also afterward. Many of these changes affect the shape of the spine and tilt of the pelvis. Both of these...
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Here are some great exercises for strengthening your upper body:

  1. Car Seat Carry (biceps and shoulders): Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and your knees barely bent. Cross your arms at your wrists in an X in front of you, like a shield, with palms facing you. Lift and lower your arms in unison 10 times and then switch the front arm to the back and repeat with 10 more. Use furniture for balance if necessary.
  2. Lullaby Baby (arms and shoulders, plus core stability and balance): Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and your knees barely bent. Cross your arms at your wrists in an X in front of you, like a shield, with palms facing you. Swing and lift your arms to your upper left side then down in front of your belly and then to your upper right side. Go back and forth 10 times and then switch arms for 10 more.
  3. Swing (upper body and shoulders): Stand with your feet slightly apart and your knees soft, with arms by your side. Hold your tummy in and raise your left arm to the front and your right arm to the back, palms facing each other. Stop just below shoulder height. Don't swing your arms, control the movement. Lower your arms to the starting position and bring your left arm to the back and right to the front. Repeat 20 times, switching arms each time. Keep your hips facing forward.
  4. Crib Time (back and arms): Stand in a partial lunge with your left foot in front. Lean forward slightly at your hips. Rotate your torso barely to the left, so that your right shoulder is a little in front of the left and let your arms hang straight down from your shoulders with the palms facing each other. Use a rowing motion to pull your elbows up and back, lifting the weights to the sides of your ribcage 10 times. Repeat with the right leg in front and left shoulder forward. Keep the natural arch in your lower back.
  5. Twin Scoop (biceps and shoulders): While seated and with your elbows slightly back and chest lifted, curl your arms up (palms facing each other). Do 15 times. Then turn your palms up, extend your elbows away from your hips and curl 15 times. Then, bring your arms in front of you so your upper arms are parallel to the floor and curl for another 15. Finish with alternating side to forward, side, forward, 15 times. Keep your back neutral and abs engaged. If you need support, rest your sacrum (bottom of your spine) and upper back against the back of the chair. Keep your heels directly below your knees.
YOU: Having a Baby: The Owner's Manual to a Happy and Healthy Pregnancy

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YOU: Having a Baby: The Owner's Manual to a Happy and Healthy Pregnancy

Can I get a cavity filled while pregnant? Will avoiding spicy foods make my kid a picky eater? Can I really increase my baby's IQ while she's in utero? Whether you're pregnant for the first time, are trying to start your family, or already have enough children to start your own basketball team, you're bound to have questions about what it means to be pregnant -- and how you can increase your odds of having a healthy and happy pregnancy. But no matter how much you've read, watched, studied, or talked about this amazing biological journey, you have never read anything like this. In this groundbreaking book, Dr. Michael Roizen and Dr. Mehmet Oz act as mythbusters for the hundreds of questions surrounding pregnancy in the same scientific, informative, and entertaining ways that have made them America's Doctors. In these pages, you'll learn everything you need to know about the miracles of fetal development, your health throughout the pregnancy, and providing the best possible environment for your growing child. Pregnancy is a complicated balancing act, but it doesn't have to be frightening. The doctors will help you de-stress as they describe accurately and rationally what happens during a thrilling nine months of life. While every pregnant body is different, odds are you'll experience some of the cravings, crying, and discomfort that almost all women go through. Your best tactic? Learn why these things are happening -- and what you should do about them. YOU: Having a Baby will teach you everything you need to know about what to eat (should I be eating for two?), how much to exercise, and what guilty pleasures will actually make pregnancy easier on you (and the loved ones who get to be around you for the whole thing). Each phase of pregnancy has different challenges, but the right information will prepare you for what's ahead. The interactive week-by-week calendar inside provides an even more detailed guideline for how and what you should feel through every step of the process. Exciting, cutting-edge scientific research in the fi eld of epigenetics has changed the way the medical profession looks at pregnancy, and now it can change your perspective, too. Epigenetics explores what makes us develop in certain ways -- why some people thrive at math while others are prone to chronic diseases. It turns out that there are easy things you can do that will not just help your baby's development in utero but will actually improve his or her chances of living a healthy, fulfi lling adult life. Filled with recipes for nutritious, satisfying snacks and meals even Pop can cook (yes, he can!), safe exercises for staying fit, and tons of YOU tips that will help you stay comfortable, YOU: Having a Baby is the ultimate guidebook for what to do from the moment of conception to the weeks after your child has arrived home. From morning sickness and food cravings to choosing a doctor and changing a diaper, YOU: Having a Baby will give you the real scoop about what's in store for you during this amazing time in your life.

Do these exercises to strengthen your legs and hips:

  1. Soccer Mom (strengthens legs, hips and buttocks): Hold onto a chair for balance. Lift your right leg forward, toe pointed, until it's high enough to give you a little challenge. Pause. Then bring your right leg back to the starting position with flexed foot and then lift it at an angle (2 o'clock) with pointed toe. Pause. Repeat 10 times and then switch legs. Try to keep your leg straight and only lift as high as you can without tucking your pelvis under or feeling discomfort in or near your hips. Keep the natural arch in your lower back at all times.
  2. Kicking Toys (strengthens obliques and legs): Lie down on your left side and relax your left ear on your arm. With your hips flexed and your knees bent at a 45-degree angle so that your heels are in line with your spine, lift your right leg, flex your foot and tap your knee lightly on the ground in front of you. Lift the leg back up, straighten it and kick it in the air above your left foot. Do 20 times and then switch sides.
YOU: Having a Baby: The Owner's Manual to a Happy and Healthy Pregnancy

More About this Book

YOU: Having a Baby: The Owner's Manual to a Happy and Healthy Pregnancy

Can I get a cavity filled while pregnant? Will avoiding spicy foods make my kid a picky eater? Can I really increase my baby's IQ while she's in utero? Whether you're pregnant for the first time, are trying to start your family, or already have enough children to start your own basketball team, you're bound to have questions about what it means to be pregnant -- and how you can increase your odds of having a healthy and happy pregnancy. But no matter how much you've read, watched, studied, or talked about this amazing biological journey, you have never read anything like this. In this groundbreaking book, Dr. Michael Roizen and Dr. Mehmet Oz act as mythbusters for the hundreds of questions surrounding pregnancy in the same scientific, informative, and entertaining ways that have made them America's Doctors. In these pages, you'll learn everything you need to know about the miracles of fetal development, your health throughout the pregnancy, and providing the best possible environment for your growing child. Pregnancy is a complicated balancing act, but it doesn't have to be frightening. The doctors will help you de-stress as they describe accurately and rationally what happens during a thrilling nine months of life. While every pregnant body is different, odds are you'll experience some of the cravings, crying, and discomfort that almost all women go through. Your best tactic? Learn why these things are happening -- and what you should do about them. YOU: Having a Baby will teach you everything you need to know about what to eat (should I be eating for two?), how much to exercise, and what guilty pleasures will actually make pregnancy easier on you (and the loved ones who get to be around you for the whole thing). Each phase of pregnancy has different challenges, but the right information will prepare you for what's ahead. The interactive week-by-week calendar inside provides an even more detailed guideline for how and what you should feel through every step of the process. Exciting, cutting-edge scientific research in the fi eld of epigenetics has changed the way the medical profession looks at pregnancy, and now it can change your perspective, too. Epigenetics explores what makes us develop in certain ways -- why some people thrive at math while others are prone to chronic diseases. It turns out that there are easy things you can do that will not just help your baby's development in utero but will actually improve his or her chances of living a healthy, fulfi lling adult life. Filled with recipes for nutritious, satisfying snacks and meals even Pop can cook (yes, he can!), safe exercises for staying fit, and tons of YOU tips that will help you stay comfortable, YOU: Having a Baby is the ultimate guidebook for what to do from the moment of conception to the weeks after your child has arrived home. From morning sickness and food cravings to choosing a doctor and changing a diaper, YOU: Having a Baby will give you the real scoop about what's in store for you during this amazing time in your life.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.