Exercise for Moms: Finding the Do's in the Land of Never's

There’s so much noise in the health and fitness industry. In any Google search you can find a billion different articles telling you something isn’t safe for your body or is wrong or is just plain dumb. Some sell fear, others tell you never to XYZ, and some provide very general and rudimentary information to a demographic that is as varied and individual such as pregnancy and postpartum.

In pregnancy there are lots of folks saying not to lift over 10 pounds, never to do a crunch, never to lie on your back, and the list just keeps going. At the end of the day, research indicates that exercise for pregnant women is HUGELY beneficial. In fact, check out these new guidelines about pregnancy exercise and decreased risk of major complications. The problem is finding evidence-based information that outlines what you can do instead of what you can’t, what to look for, and how to modify your workouts in a way that works for your body.

In postpartum, the focus tends to shift towards “fixing” something. Fixing your separated abs, fixing your pelvic floor, or making you look like you never had a baby at all. There can certainly be a lot of “don’t” statements around exercise, especially if a person has diastasis recti, pelvic floor dysfunction, or pelvic organ prolapse. Trying to find the do’s in the land of never’s can be incredibly frustrating.

Truth - women are really underserved in fitness. We are over-marketed, yet vastly underserved (Molly Galbraith said this in an amazing episode of the Women’s Health Podcast and I was all “YES GIRL!”). She’s right, we need to provide more information to women that is easily-accessible and not fear or guilt based.

Point- we need more YES and less NO, more DO and less DON’T!

So in the spirit of DO, I want to share with you 3 exercises that I think women, but pregnant and postpartum mommas especially, should be doing in their workouts because life. So, strap in and get your body moving to try these out!

1. Suitcase Carry

Loaded carries are my favorite way to add some sneaky ab work into a program. If you think abs are all crunches and planks, you just wait. There are SO many variations of the loaded carry, one of my favorites, the suitcase carry, is below… but lemme nerd out on you for a minute.

Think about it this way. Gotta get the groceries into the house? Loaded carry. Need to carry your sleeping toddler to his bed? Loaded carry. Walking your crying baby around the house to calm them? Loaded carry. Carrying the diaper bag and carseat? Double loaded carry.

We carry things every. damn. day. So let’s train that movement!

Here’s the Suitcase Carry: I like to start with light load to assess how it feels, and then work up to carrying 35 lbs fairly quickly, depending on the person. That looks scary in-type, but think about it. Newborns weigh 7-8 pounds, carseats weigh roughly 10 pounds, add some for a diaper bag, and then some more because newborns grow really fast… you’re already carrying near 35 pounds right out of the gate. It’s important to be able to manage that load when the time comes.

2. Goblet Squat to Box

Here’s the deal: squats are kind of getting a bad reputation for some things… Back hurt? Don’t squat that way. Knees bothering you? Don’t squat low. Have pelvic organ prolapse? Don’t squat at all.

I get it, we don’t want people doing things that contribute to symptoms, but let’s take a look at life….

Getting off the couch? You’re in a low squat. Picking up a toddler? You’ll probably squatting. Getting out of a chair? Hey there, squat. Oops, you dropped a fork on the floor! Squat (or hinge, but that’s next).

It is REALLY hard to completely avoid squat patterns in life, unless you don’t mind thinking about a task as simple as picking up a pencil and get really good at picking things up with your toes. (Been there, done that) But anyway, you get what I’m preaching, right? Instead of taking a functional movement off the table. Let’s train that movement in lots of different ways and strategies to find out what works and what doesn’t for that individual!

This variation of the goblet squat uses a box or bench. This super-functional squat movement that you’re likely doing with your newborn every day or maybe while putting the dishes away (with varied loads), but the box or bench gives you a little more guidance and support if you’re new to squatting or aren’t super comfortable with big ranges of motion or loads.  Watch the video to check out the goblet squat to box.

3. Kneeling Hinge

Hinges are awesome, but can be really tough and often we are told we are doing them wrong in everyday life- like, hey, you’re picking up your kid with a rounded back- that’s bad! There are lots of ways to skin a cat, so let’s not strike fear in the hearts of new moms by telling them picking up a baby out of the crib with a rounded back is going to ruin their body. K?

Oftentimes in mom-life the glutes get all stressed out and grippy- which can cause back pain during hinge patterns (like picking up a kiddo or unloading the dishwasher). And, honestly, the full movement can be hard to get especially when you’re tired, touched out, and just trying to get your kiddo out of the crib or off the floor. Ultimately, we are aiming to get the body stronger in gym so it can be resilient enough to function well in real-life.

In this video, I’m demonstrating a kneeling hinge. This is a great way to learn this movement pattern and start to bring awareness to the glutes during hinges. And I’m also a super big fan of exercises that involve not getting off the floor… so bonus. Check out the video.

As I was typing this I thought of like 50 other exercises that I love programming for pregnant and postpartum women. One of my favorite things to do is finding ways to move that mimic real-life stuff, because real mom-life is kinda hard on your body. Getting stronger helps!

Like this? Did it help you? Share it and let’s help all the mommas get a little bit stronger!

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