Exercise Program During Pregnancy

Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy

Women can maintain or increase their cardiovascular fitness as well as muscle strength and flexibility. They can also experience less pre-natal discomforts. Some of these discomforts include constipation, swollen extremities, leg cramps, nausea, varicose veins, insomnia, fatigue, back pain, and other orthopedic conditions.

Women can improve their posture along with body mechanics. They can also increase their energy levels and blood flow circulation. Women who exercise while pregnant maintain a lower resting heart rate. They also have increased stroke volume and VO2 max.

There is a major decrease in excessive weight gain. There is a major decrease in delivery problems. There is a 75% decrease in having to have a c-section. There is also a 75% decrease in maternal exhaustion. There is a 50% decrease for the need of oxytocin (which helps induce labor). It has been show that there is a 30% decrease in active labor time. After delivery during recovery time it has been shown that there are fewer incidences of post partum depression.

Cardiovascular Changes

The female body goes through a wide variety of physiological changes during pregnancy. The cardiovascular system is impacted tremendously during pregnancy. Blood volume is increased by 40-50%. Cardiac output increases by 30-50%. Stroke volume is increased by 40%.

The resting heart rate increases by 8 beats per minute during the first few weeks of the pregnancy. Resting heart rate is increased even more, up to 20 beats per minute by 32 weeks. The female body’s oxygen consumption is increased by 10-20%.

By the 2nd or 3rd trimester there is a decrease in maximal work capacity by 20-25%. The use of an RPE (rate of perceived exhaustion) scale is favored over the use of heart rate monitors during pregnancy.

Hormonal & Metabolic Changes

There are changes in the levels of progesterone, relaxin and estrogen during pregnancy. The changes in these hormones cause a growth of the uterus as well as breast tissue. There is a decrease in smooth muscle tone as well. The changes in hormones also cause a softening of the ligaments around the joints.

This is especially found to be true in the lumbosacral and pelvic areas. The hormone changes usually cause nausea, vomiting, and a decrease in appetite. This is normally during the first trimester. With the metabolic changes a pregnant women should consume an excess of 300 k/cal daily.

Musculoskeletal System Changes

The average weight gain of women during pregnancy is 27.5 lbs. With the excess weight gain comes postural changes. They in turn create muscular imbalances. The abdominal wall is stretched. The lumbar spine muscles are shortened and the upper back muscles become long and week. The anterior muscles of the chest and shoulders become really tight. As the baby’s head shifts forward muscular activity in the posterior cervical region increase.

Pre-Natal Exercise

  • Workout at a level of comfort, between 5-8 on a RPE (rate of perceived exhaustion) scale of 1-10. As the pregnancy progresses farther along it will take smaller levels of work to attain the same RPE.
  • Always avoid exercising to exhaustion. Therefore, if the intensity increases the duration must decrease. Cardiovascular exercise should be no longer than 45 minutes in duration.
  • In the 3rd trimester fetal nutrition and energy balance are very important. If more calories are burned during exercise more must be consumed to help balance out the energy levels. Eating more amounts in the 3rd trimester may be difficult stomach space is smaller and the risk of heartburn.
  • Exercise frequency should be 3-5 days per week.
  • It is important to take care of any muscular imbalances caused from the pregnancy. They can lead to discomfort, pain or even injury. The most important muscles to strengthen would be the scapular retractors, abdominals, and pelvic floor. The transverse abdominals should be trained in isolation at first then integrated into other exercises.
  • A strong pelvic floor will help improve controlling and relaxing during labor. These are the five layers of muscle and fascia attached to the pelvis. They support the internal organs and affect bladder, bowel, and sexual functions. Kegal exercises are a great way to strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor.

3-Day Split For Pregnant Women: (1st and 2nd Trimester)
Monday:

  • Warm-up 10 minutes light cardio on a treadmill (3-4 RPE)
  • Band Squats 3×10-15
  • Machine Bench Press 3×10-15
  • Lat Pull Down 3×10-15
  • Machine Shoulder Press 3×10-15
  • Transverse Abdominis Crunch 3×10-12
  • Multifidus Stabilization 3×10-12*

Wednesday: 20-45 Minutes cardiovascular exercise on a treadmill (5-8 RPE)

Friday:

  • Warm-up 10 minutes light cardio on stationary bicycle (3-4 RPE)
  • Leg Extension 3×8-12
  • Seated Leg Curls 3×8-12
  • Machine Fly 2×15-20
  • Seated Cable Row 2×15-20
  • DB Lateral Raises 2×15-20
  • Transverse Abdominis Crunch 3×10-12
  • Multifidus Stabilization 3×10-12*

Example 5-Day Split For Pregnant Women: (1st and 2nd Trimester)
Monday:

  • Warm-up 10 minutes light cardio on a treadmill (3-4 RPE)
  • Ball Squats 3×10-15
  • Machine Bench Press 3×10-15
  • Lat Pull Down 3×10-15
  • Machine Shoulder Press 3×10-15
  • Transverse Abdominis Crunch 3×10-12
  • Multifidus Stabilization (image below) 3×10-12*

Tuesday: 20-45 Minutes cardiovascular exercise on a treadmill (5-8 RPE)

Wednesday:

  • Warm-up 10 minutes light cardio on stationary bicycle (3-4 RPE)
  • Band Squats 2×15-20
  • Machine Fly 2×15-20
  • Seated Row 2×15-20
  • DB Lateral Raises 2×15-20
  • Transverse Abdominis Crunch 3×10-12
  • Multifidus Stabilization 3×10-12*

Thursday: 20-45 Minutes Cardiovascular exercise on elliptical (5-8 RPE)

Friday:

  • Leg Extension 3×8-12
  • Seated Leg Curls 3×8-12
  • Band, Back Flyes 2×20-25
  • Band, Back Rows 2×20-25
  • Band/DB, Upright Rows 3×12-15
  • Transverse Abdominis Crunch 3×10-12
  • Multifidus Stabilization 3×10-12*

For The 3rd Trimester until Birth:All exercise in upright position or on high incline.

Multifidus Stabilization

Lstab239531065378.jpg

• Lie face up on the floor with your right leg extended on the floor and left leg bent, foot flat on the floor and arms at your sides.

• Lock your lumbar spine into the neutral position as described above and tighten your glutes.

• Raise your right foot 12 inches above the floor, keeping your knee straight, and hold for three seconds. This activates the multifidi muscles, which fill the grooves along the spine.

• Relax and repeat 10 times per leg. You can also experiment with different rotations like in the image above.

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