Exercise programming during pregnancy should **not** be random. Your workouts can absolutely include elements of your pre-pregnancy routine, however, there are movements to focus on in order to best serve the changes happening in your body.
Here are two principles I prioritize when programming workouts for my clients and myself:
1. Maintain strength. I can't emphasize enough the value of being strong. Strength (and mobility) allows your musculoskeletal system to function well. As your body adapts itself to the physical changes of pregnancy, full body strength will play a huge role in preventing imbalances and issues like back pain, postpartum core issues, poor posture, and more.
Strength training also teaches your body to recover/heal from inflammation. Birth can be traumatic and it's very important to teach the body to heal itself. Having worked with hundreds of pregnant women, I can't tell you what a huge difference it makes to work hard to make recovery shorter and much more efficient. Good circulation, dense bones and tissues, and great range of motion will all aid in a faster recovery postpartum, regardless of how birth goes.
2. Train the core to stabilize the spine. We are SO caught up in being lean enough to have visible ab muscles that we lose sight of what the actual roles of the muscles in the torso have: to stabilize the spine.
I've heard time and time again (since NPR released the article about getting rid of the "mummy tummy" with one exercise...) that we need to ISOLATE the muscle called the Transversus Abdominis or the TvA. Research has shown that you *can't* actually activate the TvA without the help of other "core" muscles. And you also can't create a strong core by endless "pulling belly button to spine" exercises. (So please stop!)
How DO you train the core during pregnancy? Keep the spine in neutral, exhale to stabilize, and keep great alignment (ribs over hips). The "belly button to spine" movement is actually DE-stabilizing the spine, according to spine expert and biomechanist, Dr Stuart McGill.
The core will activate in any exercise that involves stabilizing the torso. I love the tall and 1/2 kneeling positions, chops, pushdowns, and many more.
Unfortunately, for many mamas, regardless of how the core is trained or not during pregnancy, Diastasis Recti may appear with stretch marks, lack of tension at the midline (from the sternum to the pubic bone), drooping skin at the belly, flared ribs, and lower back pain. Resting, moving, and eating well during the first several weeks following birth are absolutely essential to recovering the body.
Not sure where to start? Check out our Pregna-Fit Postpartum 8 Week Exercise Series, available on our online store for $53.99.