The Four Best Ab And Core Exercises To Do While Pregnant

TL;DR: Don’t be scared of core work if you stick to these four exercises. Videos for each exercise below.


Are you nervous about doing core training and ab work while pregnant? Many women have likely heard that doing exercises such as crunches and sit-ups while pregnant can contribute to a scary sounding post-birth problem called Diastasis Recti (DR).

DR occurs when the rectus abdominis (your ‘six-pack’ muscles) stretches apart from the pressure of your growing bump, and the connective tissue called the linea alba holding them together gets thin and soft. It is normal for these tissues in the abdominal wall to naturally stretch and in most cases should return to normal or near normal within a few months after delivery. However, when you have DR, any kind of lifting work using your core becomes a real pain. Even lifting your newborn out of their cot can be a struggle, and DR can take months of dedicated rehab to get back in check.

So it’s no surprise that many expecting mothers shy away from core strengthening exercises. But, when performed correctly, proper abdominal and core training while pregnant can pay back a thousand-fold. The key is to stay away from the sit-up, crunch and front-plank staples that many of you normally practice, and to find new and safer alternatives.

Exercises such as Farmer’s Walks, Bird Dogs, Crawls and Pallof Presses are fun to learn and really work the abdominal muscles without putting strain on the linea alba. If these exercises are new to you, don’t worry. We’ll cover each of these in more detail below, so read on to find out how to add these to your workout routine.

These exercises are well worth the effort. We aren’t going to be chiselling you a set of six rock hard beach body abs, but you will have a strong core that will:

  • Counteract the extra weight of your baby bump
  • Reduce the strain on your lower back
  • Set you up for a speedier postpartum recovery
  • Make lifting your new baby and carrying them for extended periods much easier

Remember, your core is the foundation for the support and stability of every moving part of your body. Look after your core, and it will look after you.

Farmer’s Carry

Especially useful for mums carrying or lifting chubby babies and big bags of shopping, this exercise will improve your deep core stability and grip strength.

Key things to remember:

  1. Pick up two dumbbells, or two kettlebells- one for each hand (make sure to lift these safely. Start with lighter weights, and increase them if you don’t experience pain or discomfort)
  2. Stand up straight with your shoulders back and chest out
  3. Hold these weights down by your sides as if you are holding two suitcases
  4. Keep your arms an inch from your body, and keep your shoulders pulled back and down
  5. Brace your core by engaging the muscles to make it firm and stable
  6. Walk slowly in a straight line for 30 metres at a time. If you run out of space, put the weights down, turn around, pick them back up and continue the carry until you’ve completed the distance.

Repeat 2 to 3 times with a 10 second break in between each carry.

Bird Dog

This is a great beginner friendly exercise for women at all levels of fitness, and it can be performed without any gym equipment at all. It helps with core stability, and also can work your bum too.

Key things to remember:

  1. Find a comfortable and clean floor. You could unroll a yoga mat if handy
  2. Get down on your hands and knees. Set up with your hands directly under your shoulders, and your knees under your hips. Tuck your toes under your feet if that is more comfortable
  3. Make sure that your spine is in a neutral position
  4. Breathe in and then lift and extend your right arm in front of you, while simultaneously lifting and extending your left leg behind you
  5. Exhale and return to the neutral starting position
  6. Repeat for the opposite arm and leg (left arm, right leg)

Repeat the above sequence 5 times and do a total of 2 to 3 rounds. Rest for 10 seconds between each round.

For this exercise, it’s important to avoid raising your arms or legs past parallel with the floor. This will cause your back to arch. Also, be careful to avoid dropping or twisting your hips. Your spine should be neutral throughout the exercise.

Crawling

Yes, moving around the floor on your hands and knees can be an effective core work out. Adding crawls to your routine will also improve your shoulder stability and hip mobility. If you spend most of the day seated, then a few minutes of crawling can be highly beneficial.

Key things to remember:

  1. Find a comfortable and clean floor
  2. Get down on your hands and knees. Set up with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width, and your knees slightly wider than your hips
  3. Make sure that your spine is in a neutral position. Tuck your chin in rather than looking up and ahead
  4. Walk forwards in small steps on your hands and feet. Concentrate hard to stop any rotation of your pelvis, ribs or spine. 8 to 10 metres is a good distance
  5. Make sure to keep your breaths even and steady

Repeat the crawl 2 to 3 times. Rest for 10 seconds between each crawl.

Pallof Press

This exercise is super useful because it engages a whole group of muscles, including your diaphragm, pelvic floor, deep abdominals and spinal stabilisers that all help with keeping you stable and strong while moving and lifting.

Key things to remember:

  1. Find a cable machine in your gym, or use a resistance band tied to a firm vertical pillar
  2. Get down on both knees. Your legs should be kept together, with your bottom tight. Your goal is to get stability from your core, and not from splaying your legs wider (place a cushion underneath if this is uncomfortable)
  3. Adjust the cable attachment, or the resistance band so that it is at chest height, and move outwards to create tension on the cable or band
  4. Pull the cable or band close into your chest
  5. Taking care not to be pulled towards the machine or pillar, slowly extend your hands forward. You should feel the tension of the cable or band pull against the side of your body. Stand tall, and keep your body straight and level throughout the movement
  6. Hold your arms out for one second before bringing them back towards the body

Do 8 repetitions on each side for one set. Take a 10 second break between each set and aim to do 2 or 3 sets per workout.

These are all safe exercises to do while pregnant because they are not front loading. You should be able to do them well into your third trimester. However, if you experience pain or discomfort, especially in the lower back or pubic region, simply stop and play it safe. If you are intending to start an exercise regime when you are pregnant we suggest you inform your midwife or doctor first and ask whether there is any medical reason you should not.


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1 Comment

  1. Bo on July 25, 2018 at 1:56 pm

    Awesome stuff – will try it when I start have children 🙂

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