If you’re working with pregnant clients — or have experienced pregnancy yourself — you’re aware that pregnancy usually comes with its fair share of aches and pains. The hips, lower back, upper back and neck are all common locations for discomfort during pregnancy.
Luckily, as a coach, you can help your pregnant client decrease those aches and pains, and keep her body from feeling overly sore.
Below is a quick circuit of stretches and exercises I use with my clients. It isn’t be strenuous, but it helps to get the blood pumping and the body moving, and only takes about five minutes to complete.
You can use this circuit as a dynamic warm-up with a pregnant client — in fact, you could encourage her to practice it daily throughout her pregnancy. One or two sets through the exercises on most days of the week is sufficient, but especially on non-training days.
The only equipment needed is a bench, a couch, or a chair (make sure whatever your client is using is secured and won’t slide).
Disclaimer: As always, please make sure that your client has consulted with her doctor to confirm she has no contraindications to exercise during her pregnancy. These exercises are safe to do from Week 1 to Week 42, as long as your client is feeling comfortable doing them.
Wide Child’s Pose with Side Stretch
- Knees about as wide as a yoga mat, toes together.
- Bum to the heels, focusing on turning the tailbone up toward the ceiling.
- Stretch the arms forward and rest the head on the floor, hold for five breaths.
In addition to what’s demonstrated in the video above, you can have your client to the following to add a side stretch:
- Walk the arms to the right to feel a gentle stretch down the left side of the body.
- Root the left hip downward, and hold for five breaths.
- Walk the arms to the left to feel a gentle stretch down the right side of the body.
- Root the right hip down, hold for five breaths.
If your client needs to feel more supported, have her rest her belly on a bolster, pillow, or rolled up towel.
NOTE: If your client feels pain in her pelvis or she’s experiencing symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD), skip this particular variation. You can have her try the stretch while standing facing a wall instead:
- Stand facing a wall, stretching the arms up the wall
- Walk the hands over to one side to feel a gentle stretch, and then walk the hands over to the other side.
Instruct your client to get into a side-lying position with her head, hips, and heels in line, supporting her head with her bottom arm and stretch her top arm out in front of her.
- Press the hand of the outstretched arm into the floor.
- Exhale and squeeze the glutes to lift the top knee up into the air.
- The heels stay together so the range of motion is quite small. Your client should feel a bit of a burn in her glutes on the leg she’s lifting.
- Perform 10 to 15 repetitions per side.
NOTE: A common form break is to allow the hips to rock backwards. To prevent this, make sure your client is pressing her hand into the floor to keep her weight shifted slightly forward.
- Exhale while squeezing the glutes to lift the hips up in the air. (If your client needs to support her neck she can place her hands behind her head.)
- Inhale while lowering the hips back down toward the floor, keeping a small arch in the lower back.
- Perform 15 to 20 repetitions.
NOTE: Your client should be moving her whole body as one unit through the hip thrust. Her ribcage and hips should stay in line on the way up and on the way down.
Make sure your client is set up with good alignment, with her feet a bit wider than shoulder distance and a comfortable foot placement for you (this is often slightly turned out to the sides).
- Inhale while sitting back and down into the hips, keeping a small arch in the lower back even at the bottom of the squat.
- Exhale to stand back up, squeezing the legs strongly.
- Perform 12 to 15 repetitions.
NOTE: Make sure that your client is squeezing her glutes as she stands, but doesn’t drive her hips forward to flatten her lower back. I cue my clients to “leave your bum behind you” at the top.
This exercise will help mobilize your client’s thoracic spine, which will in turn help her maintain good posture.
- Stand with back against a wall, without pressing the low back to the wall.
- Walk the feet six inches away from the wall.
- The ribs should be “stacked” over the pelvis (you may need to cue your client to draw her front ribs downward). drawing the front ribs down. You’ll feel some action in your abdominals here).
- Place the arms against the wall at 90-degree angles, with the forearms, wrists, and hands drawing back into the wall.
- Slide the arms up the wall until they’re straight overhead, still in contact with the wall as much as possible, though it’s OK if contact is lost the higher the arms go. Your client should do her best to keep reaching back, but focus on mastering the alignment of the rest of her body first.
- Perform 10 to 15 repetitions.
NOTE: Watch that her lower back maintains a gentle curve, but doesn’t arch as she raises her arms.
Thank you so much to Dr. Kate Durnin, a Chiropractor at Peak Health and Performance in Calgary Alberta, for modeling in the wall slide photos.
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