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3 safe exercises for pregnant women

Looking to keep fit during pregnancy? Here, mum-to be Faye Goldie demonstrates three safe yet effective prenatal workout moves, courtesy of physiotherapist Kelly McGinnity, UFIT’s Women’s Health Specialist.

EXERCISE #1: Superman in four-point kneeling

This exercise challenges back strength and stability, and works the long extensors of the spine, together with the glutes and shoulder muscles.

1. Position yourself on your hands and knees, with hands directly under the shoulders and knees directly below the hips. Find “spinal neutral”, the natural resting position of the spine; your lower back should have a small inward curve. Very gently, draw in your lower abdominals just above the pubic bone; your upper abdominals should stay relaxed.

exercises for pregnant women

2. Maintaining this position and keeping both hips facing the ground, slowly extend your left leg behind your body as you simultaneously extend the right arm in front of you (being careful not to lift the leg above the height of your hip, or your arm above the height of your shoulder). Hold this position for 10 seconds, or as long as you can manage comfortably; then, slowly bring your arm and leg back to starting position.

pregnancy exercises

3. Repeat with your right leg and left arm. Aim to do three sets of 10-second holds on each side, or however many sets you feel comfortable with!

pregnancy exercises

TIP: If your wrists become sore, make fists with your hands and position yourself on your knuckles, or hold onto dumbbells to keep your wrists in a neutral position.

EXERCISE #2: Modified side plank with leg cycle

This exercise works the abdominal muscles, glutes, deltoids and back muscles.

1. Start by lying on your side with your elbow bent directly under your shoulder; the bottom knee should be bent and on the ground with the top leg straight.

pregnancy exercises

2. Gently draw in your lower abdominal muscles from just above the pubic bone and push through your bottom knee to elevate your torso off the ground into a side plank position. Your body should be aligned from your knee to your head, and you should have a small inward curve at your lower back.

pregnancy exercises

pregnancy exercises

3. Lift your top leg slightly off the bottom leg and find an alignment so that the thigh, shin and foot form a straight line with the outside of the hip. Then, slowly “pedal” the top leg as if you’re riding a bike. The circle that you create with your leg should be just slightly in front of the bottom leg. Ensure that the rest of the body stays still and that it is only the top leg that moves.

pregnancy exercises

4. Repeat the cycling movement 10 to 12 times to complete the set. Aim to do three sets of 10 to 12 reps on each side, or however many you feel comfortable with – but be sure to stop if you lose form! TIP: Remember to breathe! If you find it difficult to breathe normally, then modify the exercise by only doing the side plank component with both knees flexed and positioned on top of each other.

pregnancy exercises

Workout notes:

  • Remember to breathe normally throughout your exercises. Breath holding can increase pressure on the pelvic floor muscles, which are already under extra stress during pregnancy due to both the added weight of your baby and the pregnancy hormone relaxin.
  • If you experience any back, pelvic, groin or pubic pain during or after the exercises, stop and seek advice from a health professional.
  • Consult your doctor before choosing or continuing any fitness routine during pregnancy

EXERCISE #3: Resistance band squat row

This targets the quadriceps, glutes, upper back muscles, latissimus dorsi (side-back muscles), biceps and deltoid muscles (located on the upper arm and top of the shoulder).

1. Start by threading a resistance band around an object that’s about chest height. Hold onto the ends of the band, and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms extended with a small amount of tension on the band. Stand in a neutral spine position with your shoulders relaxed (also, make sure to keep your kneecaps positioned over your middle to outer toes to avoid any knee pain!). Then, bend from your hips and knees and squat as if you’re about to sit on a chair.

pregnancy exercises

2. Pause at the bottom of the squat before returning to starting position; squeeze your glutes as you come back to an upright position.

3. Once you’re upright and in spinal neutral, row your arms back by bringing your thumbs towards your armpits and drawing your shoulder blades together.

pregnancy exercises

4. Slowly control arms back to your start position and repeat. Try doing three sets of 10 to 12 squat rows, or however many you can handle without losing form.

pregnancy exercises

Psst! For an extra challenge, engage your pelvic floor muscles as you begin your squat, and relax the muscles completely once you’re upright and have completed the squat.

TIP: As you get into the last trimester, squats should become shallower to avoid putting too much pressure on the pelvic floor muscles.

UFIT Clinic and gym locations:
Amoy Street, Galaxis Building (One-North), OG Orchard Point (Orchard), Bukit Timah, Tanjong Pagar and Raffles Place. ufit.com.sg

UFIT’s next prenatal programme starts 19 August. For more details, visit ufitclinic.com.