There’s definitely something in the water at our facility, and my wife better not drink it. Currently, seven expectant mothers are training here with us. Yes, you read that correctly, these clients are pregnant and continuing with strength training, metabolic conditioning and even core work! In the past, doctors’ orders were cautious at best and completely restrictive at worst: “Don’t lift anything over 25 lbs,” was commonly heard. As times are changing and we continue to learn more, the benefits of exercise during pregnancy continue to become more prominent. Want your child to be smarter than the average bear? My suggestion, continue lifting weights! Check out this study...
One of the great things about the DVRT system is that in order to provide progressive overload, you don’t have to focus solely on load. You can continue to progress the load during pregnancy, but there are various ways to challenge your expectant mothers to improve their fitness and more importantly, assist them through a healthy pregnancy. According to longstanding evidence published in the Journal of Perinatal Education from as far back as 2000, evidence shows that women who continue to exercise during pregnancy experience a myriad of benefits including possible easing of labor with fewer complications of delivery and faster postnatal recovery, prevention and treatment of problems associated with gestational diabetes and hypertension and preeclampsia, decreased musculoskeletal complaints, such as back pain, etc. in addition to the psychological benefits. New evidence is coming to light on the benefits of strength training. It’s important to remember that exercise guidelines during pregnancy, such as those set up by ACOG (the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology) form a basis from which to start and plan. If you are fit, you can continue. If you aren’t you can begin.
Now that you know the evidence is on your side, and other women are still training, how do we go about it during the next nine months?*
Our Train for Life ladies will help show you some of the most effective Ultimate Sandbag (USB) exercises that we discuss in this post, that will keep you healthy and strong for the next nine months and beyond!
*Disclaimer: Before you continue, be sure you have your physician’s permission before beginning any exercise program, or any change in health status, such as pregnancy. All of the women we’ve worked with through pregnancy were training with us prior and have a solid foundation, including experience with the Ultimate Sandbag. Complications can arise and your doctor may contraindicate exercise. It’s also important to listen to your body throughout the entire process.
One of the most important aspects of fitness to focus on during pregnancy is stability. Relaxin, a hormone produced during pregnancy in ten times its normal concentration, compromises stability. Its function is to relax the joints in the pelvis so the baby has room to pass through the birth canal. Unfortunately, relaxin also causes abnormal motion in other joints of the body causing inflammation and pain. (Preventing back Bain During Pregnancy Spiro Antoniades, MD Discovery Fit and Health Online.)
A properly designed strength training program will be balanced to include all major movements including the hinge, squat, push, pull and core exercises. During pregnancy, emphasis will be placed on strengthening the posterior chain, overall core strength and hip mobility in order to help reduce back pain and other common aches associated during this time.
From the ground up, there are four main patterns using the USB that benefit expecting fit moms: Bridging, Tall Kneeling and Half Kneeling Stance, Unilateral Lower Body Exercises and Carries.
Bridging (and its different variations) is vital to increase strength in the posterior chain and helps combat the natural change in pelvic alignment that pregnancy causes. (Few complain about the added cosmetic benefit.) Here’s a great bridging variation using the USB: Mitch Hauschildt taught the master instructors this progression this past September. Lying prone, arms overhead, hold the USB and lift it a few inches from the ground to engage the core. This teaches proper pelvic tilt and maintains correct rib positioning. Additionally this benefits individuals who experience lower back pain during bridge variations.
The Tall Kneeling and Half Kneeling Stance both effectively address core stability without placing the individual in the prone position. As pregnancy advances, exercises that place additional stress on the anterior core should be avoided for the following reason: as the fetus grows and presses into the abdominal wall, separation can occur known, which is known as diastasis recti. After the first trimester, these variations provide solutions to those that place your expecting mom prone, or belly down. Incorporate the Tall Kneeling and Half Kneeling exercises with your USB to include Press Outs, Arc Presses and more. These will not only offer challenges in more planes of movement, they’re also great substitutions for Plank variations. One of our favorite Tall Kneeling exercises is the Tall Kneeling Around the World. This challenges all planes with the extra benefit of improving anterior hip flexibility. Using a core bag, cue the user to ‘get tall’ and contract the glutes to maintain good posture throughout the movement.
Unilateral lower body exercises are the framework of training during pregnancy because they place demands on stability and require less load as compared to bilateral movements. During pregnancy, these offer increases in strength and stability safely while offering a challenging program. Split squats, lunges, single leg deadlift, etc. are great choices and simply changing the holding position in any of these can substantially increase the challenge. Additionally, using the front hold and shoulder positions also allows for additional core training.
Lastly, Carries are an integral core and total body exercise- (my previous blog post explains in depth why we enthusiastically make them such a large part of our programs). Using different variations of this exercise including the Farmer’s, Overhead, and Front Hold Rotational, etc. can be effective functional choices throughout pregnancy because they can be progressed throughout utilizing different positions. (Check out the video shared here for a few variations to try out.) However, we recommend avoiding the “bear hug” position to avoid applying pressure directly to the abdomen.
These 9 months are some of the most physically demanding months of a woman’s life. By allowing them the opportunity to continue with a well-designed, specific training program specific to their needs, they will gain both strength and stability, which will assist them on the road to a healthy pregnancy. You can be an integral part of their continued health and well-being. Encourage them to be strong, move well and enjoy the process!