A little background on myself to assure you I know what I am writing about as it relates to pregnant women and training. I have been a certified fitness instuctor for over 12 years and have held a certification in training pre and post natal women for over 7. I have trained dozens of women to term (including my wife twice) and have written articles for My Phoenix Pregnancy as well as 3 T.V.'s website.
Most importantly before starting an exercise program check with your physician! There are a number of benefits associated with exercise before and during pregnancy. These include a quicker return to pre-pregnancy weight, flexibility, and strength. Women who exercise during pregnancy have fewer symptoms associated with pregnancy including backaches, excessive weight gain, fatigue, cramping, nausea, anxiety, and stress. The appetite is improved as well as self-image and promotion of better sleep.
The baby also benefits from exercise. Clapp (1990) observed that women who trained had shorter labors and a lower frequency of cesarean section. In addition, their infants had a higher Apgar score and fewer neonatal complications (Bell et al., 1994). Lower birth rates and a shorter stay are noted also.
There are three components to a well rounder program. Cardiovascular (CV) and resistance training, and flexibility. CV training during pregnancy enables women to deal with everyday tasks easier and allows the pregnant woman to cope with the increased physical work capacity needed for r the additional weight and prepare her for the physical event o f labor. As little as walking half hour three times a week will help. A heart rate monitor is recommended keeping the heart rate between 140-160 bpm.
Resistance training is important because the stronger muscles will help with posture changes associated with upper spine and shoulder forward rounding that occurs due to the size increase in both the breast and the abdomen. Exercises that can help combat this are reverse flies, seated high rows, pulldowns, lat raises, etc. These exercises help target the rhomboids, trapezius, and posterior deltoid muscles of the upper back. Strength training the inner and outer thigh and abdominal region will help with pushing that occurs during labor. The Kegel exercise is the most important for strengthen the muscles around the vagina and can be performed daily. Women should also do plie squats (feet and toes out) and hold at the bottom, abductor and adductor machines, and hydrants for the inner and outer thigh region. Exercises such as ball squats, lunges, seated leg curls, and leg extensions are great for strengthening the quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteals. Resistance training should consist of 1-3 sets of 12-25 reps (Never to Failure). Focusing on form and breathing.
The final component is flexibility. Being flexible will help reduce back pains, cramping, muscle tightness, and help maintain posture and assist in labor positions. Stretching can and should be done daily. Focus should be on the low back, upper back and shoulders, inner and outer thigh, and hamstrings. Hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds and DO NOT BOUNCE.
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