As time goes on and I am now in my 37th week of pregnancy, my workouts are becoming, let's say, low impact. I am still keeping active. Still moving. Still feeling great (majority of the time). Most recently, I have been doing some really great treadmill workouts accompanied by these stability ball exercises and it feels awesome. If you don't own a stability ball and do belong to a gym they will almost always provide them.
Now, if you are pregnant and about to pop, I will say that a stability ball can be a very valuable investment for both preparation and during labor. Stability balls can be used to speed up dilation and move the baby down lower into the pelvis. You can do this by gently bouncing up and down, rocking side to side and performing pelvic tilts (which I will cover below). You can also go onto your hands and knees into a kneeling position and rock leaning over the ball to help loosen the pelvis. The stability ball is an excellent tool because it takes pressure off your back and hips while performing these movements. Bonus, you can do these while you are relaxing in the evenings watching TV or talking with your spouse.
Okay, on to the tougher stuff. Here are 9 exercises that will continue to tone your muscles and strengthen your body for labor and delivery -- or for that hefty infant car seat you're about to be lugging around with you! Try performing 2-3 sets of 15-20 repetitions of these exercises.
1. Ball Squat
Place the stability ball against a wall and gently lean up against it positioning the ball into the small of your back. Position your feet hip-width apart (or wider if you choose) with toes facing forward or turned out slightly. Gently lean into the ball, as you shift your weight into your heels as you lower your hips down. The ball will glide down the wall with you as your hips go slightly below the ball. Then exhale as you push through the heels and return to your starting position. Caution: As with any squat, never allow your knees to break the plain of your toes -- sit back into your hips.
2. Ball Chest Flies
Sit on the stability ball holding each of your dumbbells and gently begin walking your feet away from the ball until your head, shoulders and upper back are resting on the ball. Position the dumbbells above your chest towards the ceiling with your palms facing one another, arms and wrists straight. Pull your belly button to your spine to engage your core and slowly lower the dumbbells downward until they are straight out from your chest, elbows slightly bent. Feet should be planted the entire time at shoulder-width apart and your torso and thighs should be parallel with the ground at all times.
3. Modified Ball Bridges
Sit on the ball and lower your hips down until your mid to upper back are leaned against the ball and feet are planted on the ground, shoulder-width apart. Gently raise your hips off the ball using your glutes and hamstrings to push through your heels until your pelvis is lifted towards the ceiling, parallel with the ground. Exhale to return to your starting position.
4. Shoulder Press
Sit on the ball with your feet planted on the ground. Pull your belly button in towards your spine to engage your core and hold both dumbbells to the side of your head. Palms should be facing forward and elbows bent. Exhale as you raise the dumbbells above your head until you touch the ends of each dumbbell together. Arms should be straight without locking your elbows. Inhale as you lower back down to your starting position.
5. Seated Knee Extensions
Sit on the ball while placing both hands on your hips or on the sides of the ball for balance. Pull your belly button to your spine to engage your core and slowly lift one foot off the floor keeping your knee bent, keep the ball as still as possible. Exhale and extend the leg. Inhale and bend your knee again to return to your starting position. Repeat on the other leg.
6. Standing Hamstring Curls
Stand with your back against a wall, place your hands against the wall at your sides for support. Place one foot on top of the ball and make sure you are balanced. Pull your belly button to your spine to engage your core and slowly press your heel into the ball and roll the ball away from you. Inhale as you roll the ball back toward you as your return to your starting position. Repeat on the other leg.
7. Bicep Curls
Sit on the ball with your feet planted on the ground. Hold the dumbbells at your sides with palms facing forward. Exhale and pull your belly button to your spine to engage your core and bend at the elbows while you bring the dumbbells towards your chest. Inhale as you lower the dumbbells to the starting position.
8. Dumbbell Chest Press
Sit on the stability ball holding each of your dumbbells and gently begin walking your feet away from the ball until your head, shoulders and upper back are resting on the ball. Position the dumbbells near your chest and armpits with your palms facing forward, elbows bent to 90-degrees. Pull your belly button to your spine to engage your core and slowly press the dumbbells toward the ceiling, directly above your chest with your elbows straight but not locked. Feet should be planted the entire time at shoulder-width apart and your torso and thighs should be parallel with the ground at all times.
9. Pelvic Tilts
Sit on the ball with your feet planted on the ground. Using your abdominal muscles to initiate the movement, tilt your pelvis upward to rotate your hips forward. Return to your starting position by continuing to use your abs as you return your spine to a neutral position. This exercise may not look or feel like much but it is very important to have strong pelvic floor muscles for labor, delivery and your recovery. Do these are often as you can!