Relax Your Back – A simple routine to help you prevent back and hip aches throughout your pregnancy
The female body is rather amazing. Not only can we create new life and deliver healthy babies, we can do it without back discomforts. It’s true. All it takes are the right exercises and a little motivation to do them.
Many of the so-called pregnancy discomforts are really problems arising from weak and unworked muscles that, with the strain from a changing posture and growing belly, start to ache. When you work these muscles properly, your aches — especially those in and around your back and hips — will disappear or at least improve. You’ll be amazed at how much stronger you’ll be and how much better you’ll be able to carry your pregnancy, as well as handle your labor and delivery. Make sure you get your caregiver’s okay first, then try these exercises, which will give you a full-body workout while strengthening and stretching all of your back and hip muscles.
Sit on a stability ball that allows you to comfortably sit up straight, with your legs apart and your feet flat on the floor. Using your abdominals and lower back muscles, circle your hips around in the same direction (just like a belly dancer) for 15 circles. Circle 15 repetitions in the opposite direction.
Note: Keep your torso fairly still.
Sit on a ball with your legs apart and your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands on your knees and move your torso around in a circle 15 times. Circle 15 repetitions in the opposite direction. Push a little with your hands to get a better stretch in your back.
Note: Do not allow the ball or your legs to move.
This is a staple exercise for moms-to-be. Holding on to something stable (a heavy chair, desk, table or your trainer), stand straight a couple of feet away with your feet wide enough to fit your belly between your legs. Keeping your abdominals and back muscles contracted, sit as deep as your legs and knees will comfortably allow you to for 10-15 repetitions. Repeat.
Note: To keep your knees happy, make sure to sit through your heels and push up with your thighs. Your knees must stay above your ankles. Do not let your knees scoot in front of your toes.
Stand a few feet away from a stable surface (heavy chair, desk or table). Bend forward and place your hands on it. Keep your back flat and abdominals pulled in. Balance on one leg while circling the other leg in as big a circle as you can for 10-15 repetitions. Repeat with the other leg. Circle 10-15 repetitions on each leg in the opposite direction.
Note: The standing leg should have a softly bent knee. Otherwise, open your hips and focus on using and strengthening all of your gluteus, abdominal and lower back muscles to perform this exercise. Leg circles will also help prevent “the waddle.” If you should feel dizzy when bent over, raise your head and torso a little.
Stand with your hips against a wall and your feet about a foot away. Pulling your abdominals in and tilting your pelvis, roll your spine slowly up along the wall, making sure that every vertebrae (or almost every vertebrae) is pressed into the wall. Reach your arms up over your head as straight and close to the wall as you can without your spine and lower back leaving the wall. Hold this position for 10-20 seconds while breathing slowly. Relax and repeat a second time.
Note: Your posture will love this one. This is an isometric exercise, but do not hold your breath.
Sit straight on a ball or chair. Wrap each end of a rubber resistance band around your fingers. Hold your slightly bent arms out in front of your chest. Using your shoulders and upper back muscles, pull your arms backward and out to your sides to stretch out the band as you exhale. Resist as you slowly inhale and bring your arms forward for 12 repetitions. Repeat once more. Note: Do not lock the elbows straight.
Sit straight on the floor with your legs out in front of you. Wrap each end of a rubber resistance band around your fingers. Place the band around your feet. Using your back muscles, pull your elbows back (trying to bring the shoulder blades together) and exhale. Allow your arms to return forward as you inhale for 12 repetitions. Repeat a second time.
Note: Do not allow your back to round or slouch during this exercise, and keep your abs in.
This one is good for both your back and your belly. On all fours on a mat, place your elbows on the floor. Depending on your abdominal strength, stay either on your knees (easier) or on your toes. Abdominals and belly should be pulled in very tight. Tilt your pelvis and flex your gluteus to support your back. Hold this “straight-as-a-plank” position for 20-30 seconds, or up to a minute if you’re strong enough, while breathing slowly. Repeat a second time.
Note: Do not let your back sag. Your body must be straight from the knees (or heels) to the shoulders.
Kneel on your hands and knees on a mat. Start from a neutral position and allow your back to arch or sag down while lifting your chin, opening your chest and spreading your behind as you inhale and contract a Kegel. Now lift and pull in your abdominals, then tuck your pelvis under as you round your shoulders and back up, bringing your chin down. Exhale and release the Kegel. Repeat 15 times for 2 sets.
Note: You need to do this exercise slowly and in control, using your abdominals and breath to control the movement.
Kneel on a mat and spread your knees wide enough to fit your growing belly in between them. Sit back on your ankles and stretch your arms forward toward the ground. Reach far enough forward to get a stretch along your sides and upper-middle back. You can also press your buttocks down toward the floor for a great lower back stretch. Or even better, get a friend, spouse or trainer to push your buttocks down. While you’re there, contract 10 Kegels.
Stretching is very important during pregnancy to retain some flexibility. The pregnancy-produced hormone Relaxin relaxes your joints and muscles, leaving them more vulnerable to injury but not making you more flexible. And while strength training helps you regain some strength and control of your joints and muscles, you do need to be very careful not to take a stretch too far. If you’re not careful, you can pull your muscles, ligaments and tendons.
Sit on the floor with the right leg out straight and the left leg bent, foot up against the inside of the right thigh. Carefully reach toward the right foot with your right hand until you feel a gentle stretch. Hold your calf, ankle or foot for 20 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
Sit on a chair. Place your left ankle and foot on top your right knee. Depending on the size of your belly, bend forward as far as you can to get a stretch in your hip. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Chest and Shoulder
Sit on a ball or chair. Clasp your hands together behind your back and lift your arms out and back until they are straight and you feel a stretch in your shoulders, arms and chest. Lift up higher if you can.
Get on the floor in a lunge position with the right foot in front. Make sure your right foot is directly under or in front of your right knee. Let your hips gently drop or sag towards the floor as low as you can, until you feel a stretch along the front of your left hip and thigh. Repeat with the opposite leg.