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What Is The Best Workout For Pregnant Women?

Research shows that pregnant women can benefit from exercise. Although it is very important for pregnant women to consult a doctor before performing an exercise program, it is good for them to learn as much as possible.

By: Workout Of The Week

NOTE: This advice is from public members of the Bodybuilding.com forum. Always consult with your doctor before starting any exercise program.


TOPIC: What Is The Best Workout For Pregnant Women?

The Question:

Research shows that pregnant women can benefit from exercise. Although it is very important for pregnant women to consult a doctor before performing an exercise program, it is good for them to learn as much as possible and create a healthy and effective routine.

What are some of the benefits pregnant women can achieve through an exercise program?

What is the best workout for pregnant women? Be specific. Include exercises, sets, reps, rest periods, etc.

How often should pregnant women train?

Bonus Question: What kind of workout program did you follow when you were pregnant? (*Obviously, only women should answer this question.)

Show off your knowledge to the world!

The Winners:

    New Prizes:
      1st place - $75 in store credit.
      2nd place - $50 in store credit.

To use your credit, e-mail Will @ will@bodybuilding.com for more info.


1st Place - RC26

There are many benefits pregnant women can achieve through an exercise program including a healthy and fit body, a healthy baby, a less stressful life, and maintaining strength and exercising habits. When a woman is pregnant, her whole training program has to change.

Warnings:

    Pregnant women should not perform squats, because it can cause the separation of the placenta from the uterus. Also, jerky movements should not be performed. Make sure only light weights are used and every exercise should be done slow and correctly.

    Remember to breathe when exercising, because you don't want your baby to lose oxygen. Make sure you drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially before and after you work out. As far as eating goes, eat healthy and eat often. Try to get in 4 to 5 small meals a day.


Workout:
What is the best workout for pregnant women? Be specific. Include exercises, sets, reps, rest periods, etc.

The training program includes light weight training along with cardio. I've included all the major body parts, except for the abdominals and the lower back muscles. I don't think it's safe to train these two muscle groups when pregnant.

The training goal of pregnant women isn't to bulk up, but to stay fit, that's why only light weights will be used. Heavy weights shouldn't be used when pregnant, because you could end up hurting yourself and your baby. Each exercise has 3 sets with 15 reps each. Rest periods should be quite short. Keep rest periods between 2 to 3 minutes.

Another thing that is important to mention is that a lot of pregnant women have is back pain. This is mainly because 25-30 pounds of weight is gained during pregnancy, with most of the weight distributed around the abdominal area.

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While any form of back pain should be assessed by a qualified medical practitioner, certain exercises can greatly reduce the pain. There are many exercises you can do to improve and prevent back injuries. I have listed those exercises right here.
[ Click here to learn more. ]

This causes a women's center gravity to shift forward, which results in more curvature in her lower spinal column. A solution for this is stretching. Light stretching should be done occasionally after you warm-up, especially if you want to prevent back pain.

Along with weight training is cardio. One of the best cardiovascular activities pregnant women can do is swimming. Swimming can help strengthen your heart muscles and also improve oxygen delivery to the muscles. Swimming also strengthens your shoulder and abdominal muscles, and it reduces high blood pressure and joint stiffness.

Swimming is also one of the most relaxing cardiovascular exercises. But when it comes to relaxing exercises, yoga is number one. Yoga is very relaxing and beneficial to pregnant women. Yoga can help you prepare your mind and your body for one of the most fearful parts of pregnancy, labor and birth of your baby.

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[ Click here to learn more. ]

The Training Split:

  • Monday- Chest, Arms, Forearms
  • Tuesday- Cardio
  • Wednesday- Legs
  • Thursday- Yoga
  • Friday- Back, Shoulders, Neck
  • Saturday- Rest Day
  • Sunday- Rest Day

Monday: Chest, Arms, Forearms:

Bodypart Exercise Sets Reps
Chest Cable Crossovers 3 15
Biceps Standing Dumbbell Curls 3 15
Triceps Seated Dumbbell Triceps Extensions 3 15
Wrist Flexors Reverse Curls 3 15
print Click Here For A Printable Log Of Monday.

Tuesday: Cardio:

    Swim for 15 to 30 minutes.

Wednesday: Legs:

Bodypart Exercise Sets Reps
Quadriceps Leg Extensions 3 15
Hamstrings Seated Leg Curls 3 15
Calves Seated Calf Raises 3 15
print Click Here For A Printable Log Of Wednesday.

Thursday: Yoga:

    Perform yoga for 15-30 minutes.

Friday: Back, Shoulders, Neck:


How Often Should Pregnant Women Train?

Pregnant women should train 5 days a week, where 3 days are light weight training, 1 day of cardio, and 1 day of yoga. The training program above gives you the weekend off, so you can rest and pursue your other interests. Every 2 or 3 months, I recommend that you take a whole week off.

Also make sure you change your training program a bit every couple of weeks or months. Talk to your doctor as often as possible, to make sure you're in good health. I recommend that you keep a training log and show it to your doctor to make sure that he or she approves of it.

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It is the time many women wait for all their lives. The time when they are going to produce a life of their own. Some people will spend years trying to become pregnant, hoping and praying.
[ Click here to learn more. ]

Include your workouts and your diet in your training log. For your workouts, write down what time you went and left from the gym, and all the exercises performed along with sets and reps. For your diet, write down everything you ate, the time you ate, the number of calories, and how many grams of fat, carbs, and protein you took in each meal.

Do this on a daily basis, and when you give birth to your baby and look back at everything you did, you'll be amazed and proud of your accomplishments.

I hope that this article will help you meet your goals while you're pregnant. Just remember to follow through with your goal. Good Luck!


2nd Place - -CK, NSCA-CPT


Introduction

Training while pregnant has many great benefits for the mother as well as the baby. It is very important to get a doctors permission before exercising while pregnant. Although it is usually accepted by doctors it is not a good idea to start an exercise program once found out to be pregnant.

The only way exercise should be done during a pregnancy is if the expecting mother was exercising prior to the pregnancy. Exercise should be discontinued if there is bloody discharge from the vagina, any gush of fluid from the vagina, sudden swelling of extremities, severe headaches, dizziness, or swelling and pain in the calf of a leg.

High risk exercises should be avoided. Common sense would tell most but snow or water skiing, rock climbing, contact sports, scuba diving, any exercise that involves balance, etc.

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.


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.

VO2MAX CALCULATOR

Enter the total distance covered in meters in 12 minutes and then press the 'Calculate' button.

1600 meters = 1 mile
5280 feet = 1 mile
3 feet = 1 meter

Distance meters
Results
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.


Pre-Natal Exercise

There is not a "one size fits all" workout. It needs to be individualized for the pregnant women. They should workout at a level of comfort. That should be 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.

They should always avoid exercising to exhaustion. The duration of exercise should be determined by the intensity. So if the intensity increases the duration must decrease. Cardiovascular exercise should be no longer than 45 minutes in duration.

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After all, pre natal exercise should be directed toward muscle strengthening to minimize the risk of joint and ligament injuries. This article will provide guidelines on pre-natal exercise and other health considerations.
[ Click here to learn more. ]

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. Some studies have shown that women who exercised 5 days per week gave birth to lower weight babies. The only reason for lower birth weights was they had less subcutaneous fat than others. After 5 years those babies showed no differences than babies born at the same time from non-active mothers.

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.

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

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

For The 3rd Trimester Till Birth:

    All exercise in upright position or on high incline.


Review Of Other Articles
Or "Why Wasn't Mine Picked?"


coaster-carl123

Pro's

  • Good structure and grammar. Intelligent response.

Con's

  • Not enough content for an article.
  • Comments: A disclaimer in a submission like this is good. The run on sentence could have been tighter. Overall a very capable style was displayed. More content is needed for an article.


bigcalves

Pro's

  • Well written. This writer has a very capable style.

Con's

  • Short on content. No disclaimer.
  • Comments: Even though this writer is obviously a knowledgeable trainer, an authoritative position is not appropriate here. Every situation is different. A disclaimer would have been a plus. A little more content from this capable author would have made a better article.


Aussie LTD

Pro's

  • Well researched and documented. Capably writing style.

Con's

  • Not enough content for a good article.
  • Comments: Obviously a very capable writer. More content would be better. The structure and command of wordmanship again make this author's work pleasant to read.


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kelig

so glad to see this. I am stuck in a rut with my chest workouts. Sticking to incline barbell bench press but really miss the flat bench. Can you share any other chest workouts? Even with the bands perhaps. I powerlift and still train but with less amount of weight. Any tips would be helpful. 5 months down...4 more to go!!!!

Apr 30, 2012 4:24pm | report
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