A common misconception I hear from my pregnant and postpartum patients is that you should not do core exercises while pregnant. This is far from true! Core exercises have been shown to be effective for reducing lower back pain, improving urinary leakage, and protecting your pelvic floor muscles during pregnancy. Doing core exercises while pregnant can also make your postpartum recovery easier and faster.
Why are my core muscles so important?
Your trunk is like a barrel with your tummy muscles in front, your pelvic floor on the bottom, your diaphragm on top, and your back muscles in the back. By turning these muscles on, we make our backs more stable, protect our pelvic floor, keep our abs functioning as well as possible, and keep our ribs mobile.
Check out this article HERE if you want more background on core anatomy and how to turn these muscles on!
How do I strengthen my core muscles while pregnant?
Below are 3 of my favorite exercises I prescribe to pregnant and postpartum people to keep their cores and pelvic floors strong!
1. Hands and Knees Breathe and Brace
This exercise is a simple and effective way to find your core muscles.
- In the hands and knees position, take a deep breath in and imagine you are breathing through your mid back area, right below the bra strap line.
- As you exhale, flatten your back and pull your tummy muscles in like you are giving your baby a hug with your abdominal muscles.
- As you inhale, gently relax your abdominal muscles without letting your tummy or back sag toward the ground.
- For added pelvic floor contraction, place a foam roller or a small ball or pillow between your knees. As you exhale and contract your abdominals, squeeze the object between your knees and perform a kegel, like you are stopping urine and gas at the same time. Release as you inhale.
- Perform 20 reps, 2 rounds.
2. Side Plank Hip Dips
This exercise is a little tougher but is great for getting the sides of your core nice and strong!
- Lay on your side with knees bent. Prop yourself up on your hand.
- Place a pillow, small ball, or yoga block between your knees.
- Exhale, squeeze the object between your knees, and pull your tummy muscles in like you are giving your baby a hug! Push your bottom knee into the ground to help you lift off the ground.
- Hold the side plank position for 1-2 seconds, then inhale and lower your hips to the ground.
- Exhale and push yourself up into the side plank position again squeezing the object with your knees and pulling tummy muscles in.
- Repeat 10-15x, 2-3 rounds per side.
3. Bridges with Pelvic Floor Emphasis
Bridges are a great exercise to work on strengthening your core and back side. By placing a pillow or ball between your knees and squeezing, it will help you engage your pelvic floor muscles. For any postpartum moms that have feelings of heaviness in the pelvis, this one is for you!
- Lay on your back with a gentle, neutral arch in your spine (no need to tuck your butt!).
- Place a pillow or small ball between your knees.
- Exhale and squeeze the object between your knees, perform a kegel by pulling in your muscles like you are holding in urine and gas, and pull you tummy muscles in like you are hugging your baby.
- Squeeze your glutes and lift straight up off the ground. Try to lift up like you are a board instead of rolling up off the ground.
- Hold for 1-2 seconds, then lower yourself down to the ground without losing any of the muscle bracing. Exhale and repeat the movement.
- Repeat 10-15x, 2-3 rounds.
If you are struggling with figuring out what core exercises are right for you, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 503-295-2585 to schedule an appointment to help you with your pregnancy. We treat back pain, pelvic organ prolapse, urinary or fecal incontinence or urgency, scar pain, diastasis recti, clogged milk ducts, sexual dysfunction, and so much more!
If you live outside Portland, Oregon, we offer Telehealth visits which are a great way to get the benefits of seeing a PT from the comfort of your own home! You can also read our blog about “How to Find a Good PT” or visit Pelvicrehab.com to find an experienced pelvic rehab practitioner in your area.