Farel Hruska by Farel Hruska
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A woman’s body goes through vast and profound changes during pregnancy and postpartum recovery. Among these changes includes increasing amounts of a hormone called relaxin, which can make her exercise routine even more challenging.

Relaxin levels increase in the first trimester of pregnancy and aid in the implantation of the fetus in the uterus. Specifically, ligaments at the pubic symphysis and the sacroiliac joints experience laxity, which enables the pelvis to make room for her growing baby. However, because relaxin causes ligamentous laxity throughout the body, all of the joints could be affected, which may present some significant balance challenges. As a woman’s pregnancy progresses, her balance will naturally be challenged because of the increased weight distribution as baby grows. Relaxin is an added consideration to her already continuously changing body, which needs to be accounted for in developing her fitness routine.

Throughout the trimesters, this potential increased instability should be at the forefront of her workout programming. As a health and exercise professional, core (including pelvic) stability must be one of the main ingredients of the strength workouts you design for pregnant clients, along with offering safe and appropriate ways to progress and regress based on how her body feels in each exercise.

One of the most basic things you can do to help keep your client safe during exercise is to ensure there is a balance aid available if needed. This could be a wall, railing, tree, etc., but not you. This is increasingly important when training into her third trimester when she experiences the greatest weight distribution shift. Because every pregnancy is different (from baby to baby, mom to mom and trimester to trimester), progressions and regressions need to be planned so adjustments can be made in the moment.

In addition, relaxin doesn’t simply disappear once a baby is born. While there are differing opinions, relaxin could potentially stay in the body as long as 12 months postpartum. Therefore, you must continue to keep joint instability in mind when designing a client’s strength-training programming within her first year as a new mom.

The following three compound exercises can help create stability in a woman’s shifting body during pregnancy and postpartum:

Lat Pull With a Traveling Plié Squat (side to side)

Begin standing with feet hip-width apart and a resistance band overhead and slightly in front of the body. Step into a plie squat, and pull the band toward the chest with the hands drawing away from each other. Return to standing and repeat on the opposite side.

Regression for instability: Decrease the depth of the plié and/or loosen the band to provide less resistance.

Progression to challenge balance (if desired): Come up out of the plié and draw a knee up to create a balance challenge, and/or choke up on the band to create more resistance.

Mid Row With Alternating Reverse Lunge

Anchor the resistance band in front at chest height. Step back into a lunge as the arms pull into a row, squeezing the shoulder blades together. Return to standing and repeat on the opposite leg.

Regression for instability: Decrease the depth of the lunge and/or loosen the band to provide less resistance.

Progression to challenge balance (if desired): Come up out of the lunge and draw a knee up to create a balance challenge, and/or choke up on the band to create more resistance.

Rear Deltoid Fly With a Lateral Lunge

Begin standing with feet hip-width apart and a resistance band in front of the body at about chest height. Step into a lateral lunge and pull the band toward the chest with the hands drawing away from each other. Return to standing and repeat on the opposite leg.

Regression for instability: Decrease the depth of the lunge and/or loosen the band to provide less resistance.

Progression to challenge balance (if desired): Come up out of the lunge and draw a knee up to create a balance challenge, and/or choke up on the band to create more resistance.

Learn more about exercise programming for pre and post-natal clients. 

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