Your baby needs your strength and endurance
Pregnancy is one of the most body-changing experiences for women – the weight gain, hormonal fluctuations, and loosening of ligaments – and can leave many women feeling weak,
particularly after a baby is born. It may seem arduous to even consider regular exercise. Your baby, however, needs your strength and endurance. You may not be carrying your baby in your belly
anymore, but your growing tot needs you to lift and carry her – along with the diaper bag and other baby essentials – making it paramount for you to prioritize getting or staying in
shape. Strength-training can help.
Strength-training is good for moms
In addition to improving your muscular strength, endurance and tone, regular strength-training will put you at less risk of getting injured.
"Strength training for the proper muscles will help to keep your muscles in synergy, keeping them working efficiently and preventing injury," explains Collins. "Injury happens when one side of your
body gets tight and the other gets too weak, so the idea is to strengthen your back and stretch your chest, strengthen your butt and stretch out your hip flexors."
If you're thinking you don't have time to exercise, think again. The following strength-training exercises can be done at home while your kiddos are napping.
"One of the most important exercises a new mom can do is supermans," explains Collins. The simple move will strengthen your back in all the right places. "This therapeutic exercise strengthens the
muscles in the upper back and will greatly decrease lower back pain by realigning your spine," she says.
Perform exercise: Lie on your stomach with your arms extended forward alongside your head. Keep your forehead down and your buttocks tight. Lift your arms, raising your upper body
while engaging your lower back muscles. Lower and repeat 8 to 12 times.
The old standard for strength-training is truly one of the best ways to increase your upper body strength. Collins recommends doing these against a wall, initally, to make sure you get the correct
posture and don't strain yourself.
Perform exercise: Facing a wall, place your hands on the wall and shift your feet back about a foot or two -- whatever is comfortable. Make sure that your hands are at chest level
and wider than your shoulders with your shoulder blades contracted back and down. Hold your body tight and contract all of your muscles as you lean into the wall, bending your elbows, and then push
yourself back. Repeat 8 to 12 times and do 3 to 5 sets. As the exercise against the wall gets easier, you can move to the floor and follow the same upper body movements.
Rowing is an excellent way to build and tone your back and arms, making it easier to lift and lower your baby, not to mention improve your posture. Carrying and feeding your baby (particularly
breastfeeding) tends to make new moms hunch forward at the shoulders. Rowing helps open your chest and strengthen the muscles that will keep your shoulders posturally aligned.
Perform exercise: Attach a fitness band to a stable anchor (like a post or rail). Grab the band, one side in each hand, and step back with your arms extended comfortably forward,
until the band is taut. Keeping your wrists facing eachother, row your elbows back, squeezing your shoulder blades together. The band should be tight enough that it engages your back muscles as you
row. Return to start position and repeat 10 to 15 times for 2 to 3 sets.
"To strengthen the core, first begin by gaining flexibility in your spine," says Collins. "A good exercise for this is the cat stretch (arching your back as you let your arms hang in front of your
legs) or seated toe touch (sitting on a chair, arch your back slightly as you reach down to touch your toes). As your spine becomes more flexible you will be able to move and stretch more freely
using your abdominal muscles every time you move."
Bonus: The cat stretch can relieve an aching back after leaning over the changing table. Try doing it a few times a day to help relax and increase flexibility. Another great way to engage
your core muscles is to keep your belly button pulled back to your spine throughout the day. It will improve core strength and make you look five pounds thinner!
Form, form, form!
The key to strength-training is to keep proper form at all times. This will not only prevent injury, but also make your training produce better results. "Go slowly and check your alignment. Do not
increase your weights unless you are able to do your exercise perfectly," suggests Collins. "It is more important to work smart than to work hard."
Note: Before you begin any exercise program, be sure to check with your doctor.
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