Home>>Family Medicine>>Mother-Baby: Exercises to Strengthen Muscles during Pregnancy

Exercises to Strengthen Muscles during Pregnancy

Each of the following exercises is designed to develop the muscles around your trunk and pelvis, as well as the muscles of your arms and legs. Exercise helps strengthen the muscles needed for labor and delivery. It also helps reduce backaches, swelling, and constipation. Strengthening your arm muscles will help you lift and hold your baby for long periods of time after he or she is born. These exercises may be done throughout your entire pregnancy but should be avoided if you begin to experience any pain. Report any unusual or unexpected symptoms to your physician.

  • Quadruped arm/leg raise: Get down on your hands and knees. Tighten your abdominal muscles to stiffen your spine. While keeping your abdominals tight, raise one arm and the opposite leg away from you. Hold this position for 5 seconds. Lower your arm and leg slowly and alternate sides. Do this 10 times on each side.
  • Modified push-up: Get onto your hands and knees, with your hands directly underneath your shoulders. Slowly lower yourself toward the floor, being careful to keep your spine straight. When you can do 2 sets of 15 easily, do this with your heels in the air. Gradually progress to doing this with your legs out straight.
  • Lunge: Stand and take a large step forward with your right leg. Dip your left knee down toward the floor and bend your right leg. Return to the starting position. Repeat the exercise, this time stepping forward with the left leg and dipping the leg on your right side down. Do 3 sets of 10 on each side.
  • Wall squat: Stand with your back, shoulders, and head against a wall and look straight ahead. Keep your shoulders relaxed and your feet 1 foot away from the wall and a shoulder's width apart. Keeping your head against the wall, slide down the wall, lowering your buttocks toward the floor until your thighs are almost parallel to the floor. Hold this position for 10 seconds. Make sure to tighten the thigh muscles as you slowly slide back up to the starting position. Do 3 sets of 10. Increasing the amount of time you are in the lowered position helps strengthen your quadriceps muscles.
  • Heel raise: Balance yourself while standing behind a chair or counter. Using the chair to help you, raise your body up onto your toes and hold for 5 seconds. Then slowly lower yourself down without holding onto the chair. Hold onto the chair or counter if you need to. When this exercise becomes less painful, try lowering on one leg only. Repeat 10 times. Do 3 sets of 10.
  • Rowing exercise: Tie a piece of elastic tubing around an immovable object and grasp the ends in each hand. Keep your forearms vertical and your elbows at shoulder level and bent to 90 degrees. Pull backward on the band and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Repeat 10 times. Do 3 sets.
  • Thoracic extension: While sitting in a chair, clasp both arms behind your head. Gently arch backward and look up toward the ceiling. Repeat 10 times. Do this several times per day.
  • Arm slide on wall: Sit or stand with your back against a wall and your elbows and wrists against the wall. Slowly slide your arms upward as high as you can while keeping your elbows and wrists against the wall. Do 3 sets of 10.
  • Shoulder abduction: Stand with your arms at your sides with your palms resting against your sides. With your elbows straight, lift your arms out to the side and toward the ceiling. Hold the position for 5 seconds. Do these with a 2 to 4 pound weight in each hand. Repeat 10 times.
  • Biceps curl: Stand and hold a 5 to 8 pound weight in your hand. If you do not have a weight use a soup can or hammer. Bend your elbow and bring your hand (palm up) toward your shoulder. Hold 5 seconds. Slowly return to your starting position and straighten your elbow. Repeat on the other side. Do 3 sets of 10.

Written by Phyllis Clapis, PT, DHSc, OCS.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2008-07-07 Last reviewed: 2007-07-20
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.