Core training during pregnancy can get very confusing. Should you stop doing core exercises completely? Can you do anything other than planks? What should i do instead of crunches and sit-ups? What are the best pregnancy core exercises that won’t cause diastasis recti?
The good news is that training your core is safe during pregnancy and, in fact, it’s recommended! Having a strong core will help improve your posture, help minimize pregnancy pains and will keep you moving well throughout all 3 trimesters! However, during pregnancy (and postpartum) the best core exercises don’t always look like the typical ab exercises that we are familiar with. You won’t find any crunches or planks in this list. Here are 6 of the best pregnancy core exercises that you’ve never heard of:
The pallof press is an amazing pregnancy core exercise! This is an anti-rotation exercise which means you are resisting against rotational forces. You can perform this movement in the standing or half kneeling position. All you need is a resistance band and a post or anchor of some kind. Attach the resistance band around the post or anchor at sternum height. Position yourself directly lateral to the anchor point. Hold the resistance band handles or end of the loop with both hands in front of the sternum. Extend both arms straight out in front of you. Squeeze your glutes the whole time and keep your shoulders and hips pointing straight ahead. Perform 1-3 sets of 8-12 reps on each side.
This is an anti-lateral flexion exercise which means you are trying not to bend sideways. You need a kettlebell, dumbbell or a plate for this exercise. Hold the weight with your right hand and bring you right arm overhead. Arm should be fully extended with your bicep by your right ear. If using a plate, hold the plate with your palm as if you were carrying a tray. (Hence the name waiter walk). Try not to lean to the left. Walk approximately 50m down and back (100m total) and repeat on the other side. Rest and do each side 1 or 2 more times.
The suitcase carry is another anti-lateral flexion exercise. You need a heavy kettlebell or dumbbell. You will hold the weight with one hand but unlike the waiter walks, this time your arm will be down at your side. Stand up straight. Shoulders directly over your hips. Try not to lean toward the side carrying the weight. Walk approximately 50m down and back and then repeat on the other side. Rest and do each side 1 or 2 more times.
Front Rack Walk or Lunge
These walk and lunge variations maybe not look like your typical core exercise, but believe me these are crazy challenging core exercises for pregnancy and beyond! This can be an overall core-stabilization exercise or anti-lateral flexion if you choose to do the single-sided variation. You need 2 kettlebells of the same weight (or just 1 for the variation). Hold the kettlebells in front rack position. (Do this with both kettlebells or only one for the single-sided version). Stand up as tall as possible and either walk or perform walking lunges forwards for about 50m down and back. If you are doing the single-sided version, repeat on the other side. Rest and do each side 1 or 2 more times.
Band Supported Leg Lift
This is an anti-extension exercise. It’s a variation of the supine leg raise that is less intense and pregnancy safe! You will need a resistance band. Lay on your back and place the resistance band around the arch of your right foot. Hold the resistance band with both hands. Extend your right leg to the ceiling and extend your left leg on the ground. Dorsiflex both feet towards your shins. Raise the left leg up to meet the right and then slowly lower towards the ground without touching it. Keep pressing your lower back into the ground and breathe normally. Perform 12 reps and then switch sides. Rest 30s and repeat 1-2 more times.
Dead bug is another amazing anti-extension exercise that is pregnancy and postpartum safe. Actually, dead bug is great for anyone and everyone! There are several variations of this exercise that progress in difficulty. Start by laying on your back with your knees bent at 90 degrees. Dorsiflex your toes to your shins and lift your arms in the air directly above your chest. Most importantly, press your lower back into the ground. Pick one of the following variations (from hardest to easiest) and perform 1-2 sets of 10 reps (R+L=1).
From the starting position, slowly bring your right arm towards the ground ending with your bicep by your ear. At the same time, extend your left leg but don’t let your heel touch the ground. Return to the starting position and repeat with the left arm and right leg. Breathe normally the whole time and continue pressing your lower back into the ground.
For a modification, move only the legs. Leave the arms extended over the chest and slowly extend one leg at a time while the other leg is bent at 90 degrees. Breath and push your lower back into the ground.
For a more basic modification, move only the arms. Continue alternating arms as you continue to hold your legs bent at 90 degrees, pressing your low back into the ground and breathing.
How to Add These 6 Best Pregnancy Core Exercises to Your Workouts
Try adding one or two of these exercises into your normal prenatal workout routine! You don’t want to go overboard. Also, keep in mind that technically every exercise is a core exercise. Even squats and lunges involve core activation and stabilization. I also use these 6 pregnancy core exercises as substitutions for traditional crunches and situps during my group exercises classes for my pregnant clients. I am sure that you ladies will love these exercises as much as I do! Plus you can be confident that you are performing exercises that are safe, effective and can help prevent diastasis recti!