12 postnatal fit ball exercises for mums

In the same way that fit/gym/swiss balls (they have many names!) are great to exercise with during pregnancy they are perfect for new mums, particularly in the weeks and months following childbirth when you are gradually regaining your strength and fitness.

Your deep core muscles, back, surface abs and pelvic floor may all be weakened by pregnancy and childbirth and working out with the ball is perfect to aid their recovery. This is because anything you do on the ball is going to require you to balance and stabilise yourself using your deep abdominal muscles (or TVA – Transversus abdominis). You can also do a huge variety of exercises with a gym ball (especially if you also have a set of dumbbells) to work your whole body and keep your workouts interesting!

Check out my postnatal gym ball workout – 12 exercises to work your whole body:

http://www.bump2mumfitness.com/12-postnatal-fit-ball-exercises-for-new-mums/

Enjoy! x

Can I do sit ups during pregnancy?

The answer to this is yes and no!

You can carry on working your tummy muscles doing sit up style exercises up to around 16 weeks (or after the first trimester if they become any way uncomfortable). These will keep your rectus abdominis muscles (the top-most layer of abs) strong during early pregnancy. However, from the start of your pregnancy you should also be working your deep, core muscles (your transverses abdominis or ‘TVA’) and this is safe to continue for the whole of your pregnancy. You do this with moves like ab squeezes and superman raises (see the 3-Plan for loads of ideas), keeping your tummy muscles pulled in tight.

After 16 weeks you should avoid doing sit ups for two reasons.

  • Firstly, your bump will be growing and laying on your back for a prolonged period of time may make you feel light headed or restrict blood flow to your baby.
  • Secondly your rectus abdominis muscles will become thinner and weaker as your pregnancy progresses and your bump gets bigger. There’s nothing you can do about this! They may separate (diastasis recti) and doing sit-ups will make this worse and may cause a hernia.

You are much better of during trimester two and three focussing on working your core muscles and pelvic floor muscles using exercises which are stable and safe (again see the 3-Plan for loads of ideas). There will be plenty of time to do crunches until your heart’s content once your baby is born, although you need to wait until any abdominal separation has closed to less than two-fingers width.

I have seen a few web sites which recommend doing the plank during pregnancy. I would strongly advise against doing planks during pregnancy as the moves quickly raises the blood pressure and is pretty intense for most women with a bump (or without!) If you really want to continue then do a modified plank standing against the wall or on your knees.

Remember working your tummy won’t ‘squeeze’ your baby, give them less room or bring on labour. It will help your regain your shape more easily after the birth. Remember to try to do ab squeezes to work your floor and pelvic floor exercises most days; you’ll be glad you did!

Bottom squeezes

What a great exercise to isolate your glutes (bottom to you and me). We all want a nice toned backside don’t we?!

  • Get on all fours on the floor (back flat, hands underneath the shoulders and knees underneath the hips) and pull in your tummy.
  • Lower your forearms to rest on the floor. Extend one leg behind you, bend your knee and flex your foot (sole to the ceiling). Your leg should be at 90 degrees.
  • Squeeze your glutes and push your foot up towards the ceiling, focusing on the upward movement.
  • Lower your leg back to it’s starting position. Do two sets of 15-20 reps followed by 15 high pulses at your highest squeeze point if you can.
To make this harder you can squeeze a light weight behind your knee on the leg that is working – feel the burn!
 
Do the exercise regularly for a peachy behind x

You DO NOT have to stick to low impact activities during pregnancy

I have lost count of the number of times I have read that low impact exercise is safe during pregnancy, with the implication that high impact exercise is not.

The common line to take is that women should just stick to gentle pursuits such as swimming, aqua aerobics, walking and antenatal yoga and pilates (low impact). While these activities are fantastic and would all make a welcome addition to a pregnancy exercise programme, there is no reason that women should feel so limited.

The main thing to remember is that every woman and every pregnancy is different. The level of your workout depends on your pre-pregnancy levels and whether or not you are having a low risk pregnancy. If you are having a straightforward, uncomplicated pregnancy (ask your GP or Midwife if you are not sure) and were active before you got pregnant then carry on – You can run and jump around while you are pregnant, but don’t start any new high-impact activities or marathon training! Your baby certainly won’t mind a bit of jiggling around.

If you feel fit and healthy then you can carry on with higher impact activities like jogging, circuit training, aerobics and fitness classes, step and cycling. Remember to always tell your instructor you are expecting if you are going to a studio class and they will hopefully be able to give you some alternatives if necessary. Be sensible though – you’ll probably want to avoid anything dangerous like contact sports or anything where you fall over a lot!! Also, you’ll have to adapt your exercise as your pregnancy progresses (unless you are some sort of super pro athlete) and cut yourself some slack if you just don’t feel like working out.

Whatever your level of fitness do not forget resistance training! All women should have a programme of resistance training to strengthen the all important muscles of the core and pelvic floor and the rest of the body. The focus should be around functional fitness which is being strong and fit for the activities we do in everyday life.

See my information about some benefits of resistance training and more about the 3-Plan which is an exercise plan for all levels for pregnancy and the 9 month postnatal period.

There is no one-size fits all prescription for exercise during pregnancy; every woman and every experience is unique. It is time we started recognising the enormous benefits around exercise in pregnancy and for new mums and broke away from this boring ‘low impact’ mantra which is boring and restrictive. Lets not take away a love for exercise (or the chance to find it), when women can use it the most!