Strengthening your upper-body in the second trimester
With pregnancy exercise the focus tends to be on building the strength of your pelvic, abdominal, and lower back muscles, as these are the areas put under the most strain over the course of your pregnancy and during labour. But the strength of your arms and shoulders is important, too.
Good upper body strength will help you keep a good posture instead of slouching over and rounding your shoulders. As a new mum, you’re also likely to be doing a lot of lifting and carrying of your new-born (shared with your partner, of course), so it’s good to have some strength and endurance in your arms and shoulders.
Here are a few upper body workout exercises that you can do by yourself at home or in your own space at a gym.
Working your upper body safely
Remember, for these (in fact all) exercises to be effective and safe you’ll need to make sure you’re doing the exercises with good form – get a friend or gym instructor to check out your posture as you do a few reps so they can help you get the movements completely right. Poor form may do your body more bad than good.
These exercises make use of free weights, so you need to use extra caution to ensure you stay safe. There is the risk of a weight making contact with your bump – and potentially causing harm to your baby – if you do not have control over it. So make sure you choose only very light weights that you find easy to lift. Exercises requiring you to lift weights above your head should be avoided because there’s greater risk of injury if they’re dropped.
As always, check with your doctor or midwife before taking up a new exercise activity.
We can’t stress enough how important it is that the free weights you choose are light. If you’re a beginner, a pair of 1kg or 2kg dumbbells will be fine. Dumbbells also come in sets usually ranging from 1kg to 5kg, so you can start with the lightest and gradually work your way up when you feel ready to do so.
Make sure you continue to breathe evenly throughout all these exercises and only use the number of repetitions as a guideline. Do as many as you feel comfortable with. If you start to feel pain, stop.
Remember: if in doubt about an exercise, leave it out.
Top half training
Warm-up for the upper body. As you surely know by now, you’ll need to warm-up to help reduce the chances of sustaining an injury. For your shoulders and arms, try (1) marching on the spot while swinging your arms by your side, (2) shoulder circles, where you simply rotate your shoulders clockwise 10 times and then anti-clockwise for another 10 times, are great as well.
(3) Overhead stretch – extend your right arm overhead and bend the elbow so that you can place one hand between your shoulder blades. Now reach behind your back with your left arm, bending your elbow so that the fingertips of your left hand meet the fingertips of your right. Hold this position for as long as is comfortable and then relax. Repeat with the arms in opposite positions.
Lateral raise – Stand straight with feet shoulder-width apart and with good posture. Start with your arms by your side with a dumbbell in each hand and your palms facing inwards towards you. Lift your arms outwards to the sides until they are shoulder height (as long as it’s comfortable) and then return to the starting position. Try 10 repetitions and focus on your breathing – exhale as you lift and inhale as you lower.
Bicep curl – Again, stand straight with your arms by your side and a dumbbell in each hand, but this time have your palms turned outwards facing the front. Keeping your elbows in towards your ribs, raise the dumbbells to your shoulders. You can alternate arms or raise both at the same time. Try for ten repetitions.
Triceps extension – Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent and your chest leant forward. Have a dumbbell in your right hand and use your left hand to hold a chair in front of you (for support). Start with your right elbow at your side and bent at a 90-degree angle. Keeping your elbow fixed by your side, slowly straighten your arm so it extends behind you. Then bend the elbow again to return to the first position. Complete 10 repetitions and then repeat with the opposite arm.
Upright row – Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, knees relaxed, arms by your side with a dumbbell in each hand, and palms facing back. Simply pull your elbows up so they’re at shoulder height, and then lower them back down to the starting position. Try for 10 repetitions.
Working out your arms and shoulders with a comfortable weight means it’ll be easy to hold and cuddle your new-born baby in a few months’ time, and pushing that shiny new pram around will be a piece of cake.