Body Sculpting & Weight Training During Pregnancy
Benefits of Body Sculpting Training During Pregnancy and Rules of Safety
By Hugo Rivera, About.com
Research has determined that remaining active during pregnancy offers several benefits to the mother and to the future newborn as well. The key to reaping out such benefits is to adjust your exercise program in order to make it safe for yourself and your baby during this period and to keep in mind that the goal of exercising during this period is to maintain your present level of fitness, not to improve.
The benefits that exercise offers to expecting mothers include:
- Speedier recovery after delivery.
- Increased sense of well being and self esteem during and after pregnancy.
- Less leg cramps.
- Larger placenta which in turn provides an increased nutrient base for the baby.
- Decrease the risk of excessive weight gain caused by an increase of fat storage.
- Stronger lower back which in turn reduces the risk of lower back pains.
- Boost in energy levels.
- Decrease the likelihood of varicose veins.
- Reduced chances of having a Caesarean birth.
- Higher chances of achieving labor either a few days earlier or on time.
- Exercise helps prepare the body for the stresses imposed by labor and delivery.
How Much Exercise is Okay?
The amount of exercise that mothers to be will be able to tolerate during these 9 months is directly related to how active they were before becoming pregnant. If a woman has never exercised before in her life, this is not the time to start a full blown weight training and intense aerobics program. Starting a weight training program is very traumatic on the body. This is not the kind of stress that we want to put the body under at this time.
Just a Beginner? A sensible approach for someone who has never exercised before is to start a mild daily 20 to 30 minute aerobics program consisting of walking at a normal pace. Why walking? Because walking is one of the most natural and safest forms of exercise. At this time, it is crucial to choose exercises that do not result in a loss of balance since a fall during this period could prove to be fatal for both the mother and the baby. Therefore, aerobic activities such as aerobic dance, bench step classes, kickboxing aerobics, & roller blading are out of the question.
Precautions There are certain precautions that you will need to incorporate in your walking program in order to make it safe. Remembering that the goal during this period is to maintain, not to improve, your workout intensity should be mild to moderate. In other words, you should walk at a normal pace and should not attempt to push yourself. Pushing yourself will put undue stress in your body and will increase the chances of reaching two conditions that should be avoided at all times during pregnancy:
- Your heart rate should never exceed 140 beats per minute. Therefore, be especially careful to monitor your heart rate during exercise. That can be easily done by counting the amount of times your heart beats in ten seconds while you are performing the activity and then multiplying that number by 6. This will give you the amount of beats per minute. In order to avoid your heart rate from going this high, walk at a normal pace.
- Your body temperature should never exceed 100 degrees Farenheit (or 38 degrees Celsius). In order to avoid this, walk at a normal pace and choose a time and place where it is neither hot nor humid. Walking either early in the morning or in the late afternoons is the best time. Also, avoid wearing clothing that is too warm. If you rather walk indoors, do not use a motorized treadmill since it is easy to trip and fall while using these device, as it is the machine and not you the one that sets the pace. Instead, use the non-motorized models where you are the one that sets the pace. Other good forms of indoor exercises for expectant mothers are swimming and water walking.
If you have been weight training prior to becoming pregnant, then you may continue your weight training activities during pregnany as long as they are not activities that could result in a loss of balance and you lower your intensity to prevent an increased body temperature and heart rate. Again, the goal during this period is maintenance and not improvement. Therefore, don’t push yourself.
Women who weight training while pregnant should adhere to the following rules:
- Increase your rest periods in between sets to two minutes in order to maintain a normal body temperature and a low pulse (below 140 beats).
- Perform only 2 exercises per body part of 3 sets each.
- In order to stay away from reaching muscular failure (point at which it becomes impossible to perform another repetition in good form) choose a weight that you can perform for 12-15 repetitions and perform 8-10 repetitions per set instead.
- Eliminate exercises where you have to lay down flat in your back (such as flat dumbbell bench press) since this position can decrease blood flow to the uterus and therefore the baby.
- Eliminate exercises that may cause a loss of balance such as lunges and squats. Instead, substitute them for exercises like seated leg curls and leg extensions. As a matter of fact, if you have access to machines, this is the perfect time to use them. Remember our previous discussions on the fact that we prefer to recommend free weights since our body is designed to operate on a three dimensional universe and machines lock us in a two dimensional one? During pregnancy, being locked in a two dimensional universe is a good thing since that would make the exercises safer and would eliminate the possibility of losing balance. Also, by using machines, secondary stabilizer muscles, such as abdominal and pelvic muscles, are not activated. This is a good thing as we don’t want to create any undue stress in these areas at this time. Another reason why machines are more desirable at this time is to prevent joint injuries. During pregnancy, a loosening of the joints occurs. This loosening allows ligaments and tendons to stretch in preparation for delivery. Because of this, there is a higher risk of incurring a soft tissue injury if free weights are used. If you choose to continue using free weights during this period, then remember to pay close attention to your exercise form and to choose your exercises carefully.
- Eliminate the Abdominal exercise portion of your workout as we must avoid any exercise that may risk even mild abdominal trauma. In addition, avoid exercises where you have to lay down flat in your stomach. For instance, substitute lying leg curls, by either standing or seated leg curls.
- Don’t hold your breath while exercising since by doing so, you can cut the oxygen supply to your baby.
About The Author
Hugo Rivera, About.com’s Bodybuilding Guide and ISSA Certified Fitness Trainer, is a nationally-known best-selling author of over 8 books on bodybuilding, weight loss and fitness, including “The Body Sculpting Bible for Men”, “The Body Sculpting Bible for Women”, “The Hardgainer’s Bodybuilding Handbook”, and his successful, self published e-book, “Body Re-Engineering”. Hugo is also a national level NPC natural bodybuilding champion. Learn more about Hugo Rivera.