“It wasn’t long ago that exercising while pregnant was frowned upon,” says Sydney-based exercise scientist Damien Kelly of Damien Kelly Fitness. “A safety-first mentality is wise during pregnancy, but being inactive is certainly not going to help.” Which is why we convinced Damien to share some toning moves for mums-to-be from his new book The Little Book of BIG Workouts (Wilkinson Publishing; $12.95). “These are some great exercises for your preggy months that’ll help you stay strong and safe,” says Damien.
“They target your obliques and can be done during most of pregnancy,” says Damien.
How? Lie on your side with knees bent 90 degrees. Prop yourself on your forearm by placing your elbow directly under your shoulder, with forearm pointing forward. Raise hips ups off the ground and brace your tummy. Keep your neck in a neutral position. Hold for a second then lower your hip to the ground. Almost touch then rise again. Do all reps on one side before swapping. Try two to three sets of eight to12 reps each side.
“A weak pelvic floor is the bane of many women’s lives,” says Damien. “This simple move can help to strengthen it.”
How? Lie on your side in a comfortable position. Bend your knees to 90 degrees but keep your feet in line with your spine. Draw up your pelvic floor, as if halting the flow of urine mid-stream and raise your top knee like you’re opening a clam. Keep your feet together. Raise the knee 40 centimetres, trying to maintain pelvic floor contraction the whole time. Do two to three sets of six to 10 reps.
“Lifting babies onto change tables and in and out of baths and cars, takes strength in your upper body and core,” says Damien. “This move targets both.”
How? Standing with good posture, hold a weight in front of your lap. In one big sweeping movement, keeping elbows straight, raise the weight up in front of you and finish with it above your head. In the same sweeping movement, return the weight to the starting position. Next, hold the weight at arms length in front. This time rotate the weight on the horizontal from left to right. Next diagonals: go from outside your right hip, swing with arms straight, diagonally across body until you finish up and on the outside of your left shoulder. Do desired reps on one side and then do the other. Try two to three sets of six to 12 of each move.
“This will balance the rest of today’s moves by strengthening your legs and getting your heart rate up,” says Damien. “Be cautious if you feel pain or tightness in your calves.”
How? Find a bench or chair that is just below knee height. Plant your left foot on the bench. Pause for a moment before slowly lowering your right foot to the ground touching down lightly with only your toes and step back up for your next rep. Focus on maintaining your posture throughout and fix your gaze on the horizon in front of you. Do all the reps on one leg, then change. Try two to three sets of 10 to15 reps each side.
“This is a great do-anywhere hip and core stabilizer,” says Damien.
How? Assume an all-fours position on the ground, knees under hips and hands under shoulders. Have your head in neutral (i.e. not too low or craned up). Simultaneously raise arm and opposite leg off the ground. Raise your arm until it’s level with the rest of your body. Keeping your leg relatively straight raise until it reaches level to the rest of your body. Pause for a few seconds, lower and repeat on the other side. Try to keep your torso relatively flat throughout, with minimal rotation. Do two to three sets of eight to12 reps.
Must read advice: Damien’s pregnancy exercise precautions
1 “If you haven’t been active pre-pregnancy, you’ve got to be careful ramping things up too quickly when you are pregnant,” says Damien. “If you were active, read your body but generally you can stay very active”.
2 “Body temperature is a must to monitor throughout your pregnancy,” advises Damien. “If you feel yourself getting too hot, take a break, get some fresh air, grab a drink and ease things off a little.”
3 “A maximum exercise heart rate when pregnant should be about 145bpm. Make sure you stay hydrated and refuel post workout,” says Damien.
4 “The most important thing is to read your body and use common sense,” advises Damien. “Pregnancy is not the time for breaking records, but staying active can make life far easier pre and post pregnancy and during the birth itself.”