I’ll be honest, at this stage strengthening my back (in particular the lower back) is mainly for vanity purposes – I’m going on holiday in 29 days and I want to wear a bikini!
Yesterday was my first day of my new job but unfortunately they didn’t have the paperwork for me so I couldnt really get started. As a result, I did a spot of shopping in the afternoon to see if I could find a nice bikini. I couldn’t and what was worse was the full and hideous view of my behind and love handles. Why anyone thought it would be good to put reverse mirrors in a changing room, I’ll never know. I near enough lost the will to live.
Instead, and thank god I had some time on my hands, I did some research and got myself straight to the gym to focus on my lower back, obliques (side of your abdomen) and love handles in the hope that I’ll have one of those cute bumps and not just all round bump by the end of the month…I’ve also been having visions of my bump pulling my clothes forward, extenuating hideous love handles on my lower back :S
Having said all that, any exercises done now to strengthen the lower back can only be a good thing later in pregnancy when we’re carting around all that extra weight, particularly on the front.
I’ve already been doing a few pregnancy exercises that ‘strengthen’ the back and core (as recommended by a trainer at my gym).
THE PLANK – this is the exercise that is probably most hated…lay face down balancing on your forearms and toes, keeping your body off the ground. The rest of your body should resemble, well, a plank – keep it straight and parallel with the ground and hold this position for 30 seconds (if you can, work up to it, especially if you have never done it before and then on to 1 minute). Obviously, this is only suitable for earlier in pregnancy. Once you can no longer hold the position due to the weight of your baby, STOP doing this exercise.
SIDE PLANK – a mean relative of the plank, this is performed on your side. Lie on your right side and, keeping your body poker straight, raise yourself onto your forearm and balance on the side of your foot. You should not be leaning either backwards or forwards. Hold this position for 30 seconds or so. Repeat it on the other side.
SUPERMAN – this is a gentle exercise that puts your body off balance requiring your core, including lower back, to keep you upright. You’ll often see the older generation doing this exercise if you frequent the gym so it’s probably a good one to keep doing through out your pregnancy. This is a controlled exercise, so focus on contracting your core and moving slowly. On all fours, slowly raise your left leg and right arm until they are parallel to the ground; hold the position for a count of ten, then slowly lower your arm and leg. Repeat with the opposite arm and leg. Alternate 10-20 times.
These exercises, particularly the plank family, are good but I’m looking for something a bit more hardcore, so I’ve been on a few good websites to see what they have to say. Anything that requires you to lay on your front or back is pretty much off limits so I’m not including them. As ever, check with your midwife before you start doing any of the exercises mention in this blog!
Livestrong have a few good suggestions, some of which, however, I’m struggling to see how they can help the LOWER BACK, which is my main focus at this stage, but here are what I think are the best:
SIDE CRUNCH – Livestrong suggest this as an exercise to do during pregnancy and I’ve actually been doing this as part of an oblique/love-handle-be-gone workout by women’s health magazine (see below), but this version is a bit more stable so I’m going to stick with this one… “Begin by lying on your left side with your knees slightly bent and your left hand slightly in front of your body to keep your body stable. Place your right hand behind your head and raise your right knee as far as possible, trying to touch your elbow to your knee. Repeat this exercise for up to 25 repetitions or until your obliques tire out. Perform the same number of repetitions while laying on your right side.”
DEADLIFT – as mentioned in my legs section, this is also good for the arse/legs – hoorah! Livestrong say to do this exercise with a weighted barbell but I’d feel like a fanny in the gym with one of them so I’m just going to do it with some dumbbells (probably 6kg each). Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and soft knees, bend forward at the hips until your body is approximately parallel to the ground, allowing the weights to drop towards the floor. Slowly raise your body, using your lower back and arse to pull you back up to standing. Repeat 10-20 times.
PULL-UPS – pull-ups are something I have never been able to do but would love to! Mike used to have a pull-up bar in the kitchen doorway and I spent many a time dangling under it in the hope that I’d be able to one day magically pull myself up. No wonder he fell in love with me! Fortunately the gym has one of those assistance pull-up machines so I’m going to give it a shot. These not only target your back all over but also give you guns to die for! To perform, grip the bar with your palms facing AWAY from you and raise yourself up to chin level and slowly lower. Repeat 10-20 times or until it hurts.
Women’s Health Magazine has a GOODBYE LOVE HANDLES workout that you can download here and take on your phone to the gym. I’ve had a go at it a few times but find that half of the exercises don’t feel right for pregnancy (mainly the twisting ones). The ones I do are OBLIQUE V-UP (although I’m going to adjust it slightly and do Livestong’s SIDE CRUNCH, above), SAXON SIDE BEND, SIDE JACKKNIFE. My sides were killing the next day so it’s got to be doing something! The other exercises would probably be OK but I don’t like the TWO-HANDED WOOD CHOP as it requires you to do a stand up crunch. See what you think though and let me know how you get on.
If you are struggling with backache during your pregnancy ignore all of this until you are feeling better, and concentrate on gently strengthening your back back to health. Spine-health.com have some good, gentle exercises, ideal for pregnancy, so get your love handles on them…swimming is also good for your back and overall health, so I’m going to start going one or two times a week to get me back into the swing of it. Get some goggles though so you can put your face in the water, keeping your neck in line with your spine.
David Lloyds Health Club (aka one of the trainers there)
Livestrong – they also have lots of other exercises specifically for pregnancy.