You may notice a trend in the next few posts about prepping for labor. With 4 weeks left, it’s definitely top of mind! I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scare of the actual birth part of labor. Prior to being pregnant with Bowie, I had just ran a marathon and was taking hot yoga classes 3-4 times a week. I was in shape, felt so strong and had an incredible, unmedicated birth. Fast forward two years and I am not nearly as strong nor have I made working out a priority. With 4 weeks left though, I have made it a point to eat healthier and continue to move as much as my round belly will allow. We invited Cami Kirschner, owner of The Barre Code in Austin, to share 5 exercises to prep your body for labor.

By Cami Kirschner

Exercising while pregnant is a fabulous way to prepare for labor and post-natal recovery. I was a client at The Barre Code while pregnant with my second child.  Not only did I have a relatively easy (is it ever?!) birth, but I felt strong post-natal. The primary piece of information we try to educate our pregnant clients on is use of breath.  Kind of like new age Lamaze. An important reminder that every pregnancy is different and you should consult your doctor with any questions about exercising while pregnant.

Belly Pump Breathing

This exercise can be done standing, sitting cross legged or on all 4’s.  To begin, inhale with your shoulders and chest down, letting your belly extend.  As you exhale draw your belly to your spine and wrap everything inward and upward.  This wrapping sensation will activate your transverse abdominals and the upward lifting will activate the pelvic floor. This method of breathing will help you stay connected to your deep core and pelvic floor muscles which will help during labor, assist with a faster recovery and pulls everything together, working to avoid separation.

Squats

Traditional squats are a great exercise when preparing for labor.  To properly perform this exercise, stand with your feet just wider than your hips, gently and slowly lower your seat down until it falls inline with your knees, keep your weight in your heels to protect your knees and keep your chest open and proud.  To stand up, drive your weight into your heels and use your arms to draw your body up, giving your glutes a nice squeeze at the top. This exercise can be taken slow or fast, you can spend time at the bottom rolling your hips around.  Squatting during pregnancy is important for pelvic floor tone, keeping your pelvis in position and opening your hips, all to prepare for labor.

Upright Push-Ups

While we focus so much on core strength during pregnancy, it is important not to neglect the rest of your body.  Traditional Push ups are one of the best exercises to strengthen your whole body. When pregnant (or really anytime), standing push ups are a great modification when working toward being strong enough to do standard push ups with proper form.  Standing push ups puts less pressure on your wrists which can weaken during pre-natal.  Find a surface that is higher than your belly button but lower than your chest (think counter top).  Walk a soft long arms distance away from the surface and then press your palms into the surface, walking them apart wider than your shoulders.  Come on to the balls of your feet into a planking position, lower your chest down toward the surface hovering just above it, avoid sinking into your shoulders, squeeze your glutes, engage your legs and lift up through your core, again wrapping your rib cage to your center line.  Similar to squats this exercise can be done slow or fast.  Push ups are meant to primarily work your chest but secondarily you can build tremendous core strength while stabilizing your body during the exercise.  This exercise is also a fabulous way to work on your posture when adding additional weight to your body.

C-Curve

As you can see herein, at The Barre Code, we are big on transverse abdominal strength as well as pelvic floor.  This is another exercise that activates and strengthens those muscle groups which are paramount for staying strong during labor.  While pregnant, this exercise is advised to be done with a ball at the base of your back.  Seated on the ground, bend your knees and place your feet firmly on the ground, hip distance apart.  Inhale and sit up nice and tall, as you exhale, roll your hips up and under creating a C-like shape from your chin to your knees.  Keep your shoulders away from your ears and your gaze long in front of you.  Take a light grip behind your knees and then begin to exhale as you continuously scoop your hips up and under.  As you inhale, release your belly imaging an accordion expanding then as you exhale pull everything up and in like the accordion squeezing together. This exercise is so effective in strengthening your core to again help avoid abdominal separation.

Glute Bridges

For this final exercise, lay on your back with your knees bent, feet hip distance apart and firmly placed on the ground, arms long by your side.  Lift your seat off the ground until you are resting your weight on your shoulders.  I recommend lifting your head off the ground to make sure you aren’t putting any pressure on your neck.  When you feel comfortable, lower your seat to a over and then drive your weight in your heels to lift your seat again.  You can repeat this slow or fast.  I recommend doing 3 sets of 15, varying the speed and intensity.  If you are uncomfortable laying on your back, roll onto your side in between sets and when you are ready to draw your self to a seated position.  This exercise strengthens your glutes and strong glutes are paramount in protecting your back which is critical during pregnancy and labor.