Pregnant and can’t work out your abs? Think again. One of the most common misconceptions about pregnancy is that you can’t engage in ab workouts. However, working out your abs helps shorten your labor time and keeps you feeling strong throughout your pregnancy. Here’s a look at a few of our favorite exercises for a well-rounded prenatal ab workout.
Tips for a Prenatal Ab Workout after 20 Weeks
Before we jump in, let’s remember that after 20 weeks, you’ll want to be cautious of a few things. First, no more prenatal ab workouts on your back. Doing so may cause the baby to place too much pressure on the vena cava, a major vein in the middle of your body, which may cut off blood flow to the fetus.
Also, be sure to engage in single-sided exercises. You don’t want to have additional stresses on your back or your superficial abdominals. Placing too much stress on your superficial ab muscles (the rectus abdominus) may cause them to pull apart along the midline, a condition known as Diastasis Recti. If they separate, typically no number of crunches can put them together again. The following exercises are designed with balance and backs in mind.
As always, listen to your body. If you’re tired, hurt, feel dizzy or in pain stop your workout and get some much-needed rest!
Bird Dog Extensions
This simple exercise works wonders as a prenatal ab workout. Start on hands and knees. Engage your core buy tucking your tail bone under, squeezing your glutes, and pulling your navel back toward your spine (humor me on this one!). Lift your opposite arm and foot simultaneously. Keep your foot flexed so that your toes are pulled toward your face and keep your chin tucked - don’t look forward.
Reps: 8 - 12 each side.
Rest: 15 - 30 seconds
Inclined Bicycle Crunches
This prenatal ab workout for pregnancy uses an inclined bench for this balanced ab workout to engage transverses abdomens (deep core muscle), oblique muscles on both sides of the trunk, and lower back muscles such as the multifidus which is crucial for helping to prevent low back pain.
Lie on the bench so that your head is where your feet would usually go. Hold on to the handle or leg rests behind your head. Engage your core and squeeze your glutes. Then pull your navel back towards your spine.
Bring one knee up towards your chest. As you lower that leg to start position, simultaneously bring your other knee up toward your chest.
Reps: 12 each side.
Rest: 15 - 30 seconds
Get back to basics with this simple plank.
Using an exercise mat or softer surface (save those elbows!) get into a plank position. Keep your elbows stacked over your shoulders to avoid injury.
Raise up on your toes (be sure your heels are farther back than your toes) and forearms and engage your ab, quad, and glute muscles.
Hold for 20 to 60 seconds and then slowly lower back down on your side.
Reps: hold pose for 20 - 60 seconds
Rest: 15 seconds
Alternatively, you can do a plank with a scorpion kick- through to mix things up. For the scorpion kick, start in a plank position. Next, rotate your belly button as you slide your foot through and across your body. Straighten your leg at the end of each extension.
Complete 8 – 10 reps, three sets and rest for 15 to 30 seconds.
Seated Deadlifts w/ Wrap Arounds
Work your hips and abs with this seated exercise.
This exercise uses a stability ball and dumbbells (two eight to 12-pound dumbbells).
Sit on a stability ball with your back completely flat and spine lengthened. Next, hinge forward at your hips with the dumbbells in front of each shin. Your knees should be wide enough to accommodate this position.
If needed, tuck a tennis ball under your chin to prevent your neck from arching. Using your lower back muscles, sit upright and wrap the dumbbells around behind you and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Return to the start position slowly and in one movement by bringing your hands back around in front and hinging forward at the hips with a completely flat back.
Reps: 10 – 12
Rest: 15 – 30 seconds
Seated Deadlifts with Resistance Bands
Another excellent seated exercise for your back, hips and core.
Sit on a stability ball with your back completely flat and spine lengthened. Place a medium-tension resistance band under both feet with a short choke grip on the bands. Keep your elbows tight at your sides and use your lower back to sit up straight. Don’t let your shoulders collapse, keep your shoulder blades pushed together and your chest out. Then lower back down slowly to the start position.
Reps: 10 -12
Rest: 15 – 30 seconds
Give these prenatal ab exercises a go two to three times a week to maintain healthy back, hips and abs during your pregnancy. Remember, growing a baby is tough work. Listen to your body and don’t push yourself if you aren’t feeling it. Take a longer rest between sets and lower the rep count if you’re having an off day. Or, if your body is saying take a nap, skip your workout for the day and try the next day.