Helene Ahlson - Training During Pregnancy Part 2

Helene Ahlson has been a Better Bodies ambassador for more than ten years. We have followed her journey during all these years and now Helene is facing a new chapter of her life as she is expecting a child. Pregnant or not, Helene is sticking to her training centered lifestyle and here she shares some of her own tips for training during pregnancy. Here is part 2 of her "Training During Pregnancy" articles. (Read part 1 HERE)

When I wrote the first part of this article series, everything was still so new for me. I was trying to comprehend that I had a little life growing inside of me, that eventually would be a real human, a new little individual.

I went from having put all efforts on myself, my career with work and competitions, to having to let go of my ego and prioritize something else. From the moment I knew I was pregnant I let go of some stress and I transferred focus from myself to the little one inside of me, and it felt like such an obvious and natural thing to do. And I have been loving my pregnant belly more and more every day.

During this whole pregnancy I have not only gained perspective of life and what actually matters, I've also gained more knowledge and experience about what training during a pregnancy really is. As a Personal Trainer and Online coach, this experience has been equally important as the knowledge I had gained through previous studies.

As I am writing this I am one day out from estimated child birth. While my first article focused on the first and second trimesters, this one is focused on trimester 3.

During the third trimester (week 28-40) the belly grows a lot and the abdominal muscles will start splitting more in the middle as the gravity point shifts. This will increase the impact on the back and often leads to neck and back problems. To counter this, having done core and weight training to strengthen core and back muscles is very important.

To know your own body well and be aware of muscle tension is a big advantage for child birth. There is a big difference between training in week 29 and week 39. Towards the end of the pregnancy you're bigger, your breath will be harder to catch and the belly will be in the way for many things you could do before. You may also start to feel mentally tired of being pregnant.

During the last trimester it's important for the ones who are already active, to be paying close attention to how you train and how it affects you.

To begin with...

If any of the following applies to you, you should get a doctor approval before you continue training:

  • You have had 3 or more miscarriages.

  • Your water broke early.

  • There is a risk for premature birth.

  • You're expecting twins or multiples (discuss with your Dr.).

  • You have issues with a weakened cervix.

  • You have experienced bleeding during 2nd or 3rd trimester.

Other medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart diseases etc. should be thoroughly evaluated by a Dr. before you seek any recommendations regarding training.

Helene Ahlson

Pointers for training during the 3rd trimester

Listen to your body

If you have been training close to normal until now, you should know your body pretty well and how it reacts to training. You should be able to decide whether you are too tired to train or whether you can increase intensity and weights. Even if you feel you know exactly how your body usually responds and will respond to training, there are a few things you need to consider when you are in the final trimester, especially if you are pregnant with your first child.

  1. Energy levels during and after the workout. Are you more energetic or more tired than usual?

  2. How does your pelvic feel like? Does it hurt after the workout? If so, what did you do differently this time?

Always analyze your workouts during and after so that you know whether your body reacted differently and if there is anything you need to adjust in your training. As mentioned in my first article: your body's signals are what decides how your training can proceed and develop during pregnancy, especially during the third trimester.

Keep weight training - but reduce the weights

We aren't chasing any world records at this time, even if many pregnant women may start to feel stronger during 2nd and 3rd trimester. When you weight train during pregnancy you'll always think "function", the most important thing is to know WHY you train and which exercises you choose to perform. Training should first of all be focused on maintaining your strength and condition, and condition you for child birth and the upcoming mom-life with all that comes with it (monotone lifts and positions that may not be optimal from an ergonomic perspective etc.). WHAT you are training need to be a choice considering the fact that you no longer have minimal support from your inner core muscles due to the physical changes your body has gone through.

I recommend to choose exercises that are focusing on the deep core muscles and pelvic floor. Even exercises for back, rear delts, general posture and glutes. All these muscles are being affected a lot during pregnancy, as well as when the child is born and during nursing.

You should already have removed your ab training during the 2nd trimester, but you can still do other exercises that stabilizes your core and aren't targeting abs specifically. Equipment like medicine balls, TRX, kettlebells and stabilizing balls can come in handy here. You can perform exercises that challenges your core some, but nothing that targets abs specifically (with achieving a 6 pack being on your mind).

Lower the intensity

To sweat is healthy, even when you are pregnant. Many women are afraid of getting warm during training while having a baby in heir belly, and to some extent you have to be careful. The fetus doesn't have the same capabilities as you when it comes to transporting away heat, and this is the reason you shouldn't become TOO hot and focus on getting your sweat on while pregnant. Drink cold water frequently during your workout to help cooling off your belly from the inside.

Continuing walks and light jogging (if you are used to jogging/running already) is good, as long as it doesn't hurt anywhere, and doesn't cause contractions.

Stretch and mobility

It happens easily that you'll get stiff and that some muscles gets tight and shortened during pregnancy and your first time as a mom. This is natural due to the gravity point shifting and your posture. Muscles that probably should be prioritized a bit more are lower back, shoulders/neck, glutes, hip flexors, and chest.

The Training

During the second part of the 3rd trimester your primary focus should be on preparing your body for child birth. This means keeping hip flexors in good shape and being able to control your pelvic floor with specific exercises. This part is important during the birth, especially when you push. Also, breathing and relaxation exercises can be good to make time for and add to your schedule. The short breaks during the most intensive parts of birth can may be the deal-breaker to whether you can do it or not.

The following exercises may work for you during the 3rd trimester, as long as you have been able to train more or less as usual and without pain up until this point.

Helene Ahlson

Exercises during the 3rd trimester

Crosstrainer - Less impact than jogging and a good way to warm up or do cardio. Rowing Machine - Great for cardio, and helps strengthening the back side of the body (which is extra important during pregnancy)·  

Stationary Bike - Great for cardio, even high intensity, but reduce the tempo.         

Squats - Works for most, but don't go as deep as usual, and lower the weights. Squats with dumbbells or kettlebells may be better than barbell if you are experiencing back issues. Different varieties of squats like holding rings or backed up towards a wall with a stabilizing ball can be good alternatives for you if you don't want to add external weights and pressure.

Deadlifts - A great exercise even for pregnant women... IF you are used to doing it. Since your belly is growing it can be necessary to eliminate deadlifts later in pregnancy. Sumo deadlifts may work better - as long as your pelvic allows it.

Hip Thrusters - Great exercise for all pregnant women. Feel free to add rubber bands for additional resistance.

Wallball Thrusters - Good one, but keep the resistance low. Do more reps with lighter ball instead of fewer with heavier ball.

Standing Barbell Rows - Good and strengthening exercise for the whole back side of the body. It does though demand quite a bit of core control to keep the back straight.

Incline Chest Press - Instead of a flat bench, use an incline bench so that you are half-way sitting when you do chest presses. This way you avoid laying flat on your back which puts a lot of pressure on vena cava.

Inclined Push Ups - Push ups with arms on for example a bench works as long as you're able to stabilize your core and keep your back straight.

Seated Dumbbell Arm Exercises - Most arm and shoulder exercises with dumbbells works great. Doing these seated eliminates some of the need for core control.

All Seated Machine Exercises - Exercises seated in various machines are generally OK through the whole pregnancy as they are putting less pressure on the core.

Kettlebell Swings - Good exercise if you have done it before, but use lighter weight and think about core stability. This is good for both strength and conditioning. ·         Farmers Walk with 1 Weight - Good exercise for the inner core muscles, very functional! In this one it is important that you don't compensate by leaning your body in either direction. Keep your hips straight and still. Challenge yourself a little by only holding one weight so that the opposite side is working.

Diagonal Lifts - Good shoulder and glute exercise. Stand on all four and lift arms and legs diagonally.

Crab Walk - Good for the back side of your body. Remember to keep your shoulders active.

Kegel Exercises - You can't train these too much. Add them during workouts as well as in everyday life.

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