Helpful Exercises That Will Strengthen the Back During Pregnancy

It’s important to strengthen the back during pregnancy because backache is a common problem among pregnant women. According to the North American Spine Society, more than half of expecting mothers experience back pain at some point. There are several factors that cause this issue:

    • Women typically gain about 25-35 pounds during pregnancy and the spine has to support this. A growing fetus also puts pressure on the nerves and blood vessels in the pelvic and back. 
    • The ligaments naturally become softer and stretch to prepare for labor. It puts a strain on the joints of the lower back and pelvis, which leads to back pain.
    • Pregnancy shifts the center of gravity, and women begin to adjust their posture and the way they move, even without noticing it. This results in back strain.
    • As the uterus expands and the rectus abdominis muscles separate along the center seam, it can worsen back pain. 
    • Stress may lead to muscle tension in the back. Women often experience backache during stressful periods of pregnancy. 

Fortunately, there are several effective and safe exercises that can strengthen the back during pregnancy and help prevent and decrease unpleasant symptoms.   We’ve created this mom-to-be workout guide so that you can keep your back on track during pregnancy and beyond.

Helpful Exercises That Will Strengthen the Back During Pregnancy
*This is a guest post and all opinions are those of the author. This post may also contain affiliate and/or paid links. Rest assured that we only work with companies and individuals that we trust. While some of those companies and individuals may work in the medical field, this post is not intended to be a substitution for medical advice. Always speak to your doctor if you have concerns about your mental or physical health.
Helpful Exercises That Will Strengthen the Back During Pregnancy
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Why Do You Need To Strengthen The Back During Pregnancy?

Doctors or physical therapists often recommend exercises to pregnant women because regular, adequate physical loads strengthen back & abdominal muscles and boost flexibility. They ease the stress on the spine and this way, prevent or reduce pain. The safest exercises for moms-to-be are walking, swimming, stationary cycling, and other exercises that we’ll discuss below.  

Best Back Exercises without Equipment

Here are the most effective exercises to strengthen the back during pregnancy that you can perform at home. They all are low-impact and safe activities, but if you ever feel discomfort, stop immediately. In case you have a pre-existing back issue, do get your doctor’s approval for any exercises, including the below ones.  

(Before you start doing exercises, you should warm up by walking in place for a few minutes.) 

Pelvic Tilts

It’s one of the easiest, yet effective exercises for back and abdominal muscles. This exercise can be done lying on the back, sitting, or standing on the hands and knees. 

    • Lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent.
    • Flatten the lower part of the spine against the floor so that you can’t feel space between the back and floor.  
    • Relax your buttocks to isolate abdominal muscles.
    • Hold for up to 10 seconds.
Cat-Back Stretch

It’s one of the best exercises for the back core.

    • Stand on your hands and knees, palms are facing down below the shoulders, knees are under the hips, the back is flat.
    • Arch your back up and lower your head.
    • Hold this position for five seconds.
    • Lower your spine gradually, relax to the neutral position.
    • Make sure to lift and lower your back smoothly, without jerking. Repeat the exercise 5 times. 
Forward Bend

This category of exercises for the back is good for pain relief, stretching, and strengthening the spine. 

    • Sit down on the chair with a hard back and seat.
    • The arms are relaxed.
    • Lean forward slowly, allowing your arms to hang in front of you.
    • Hold this position for about 5 seconds.
    • Sit up slowly, don’t arch your back.
    • Repeat 5 times. 
Rocking Back Arch

This exercise helps stretch and strengthen the back, hips, and abdomen.

    • Stand on your hands and knees, your weight is evenly distributed between the hands and knees.
    • Your back is in a straight line.
    • Rock back and forth for five seconds.
    • Get back to the starting position, arch the back upwards as much as you feel comfortable. 
    • Repeat the exercise 5-10 times. 
Trunk Twist

This exercise is good for stretching the back and upper torso.

    • Sit down on the floor.
    • Legs are crossed.
    • The left hand is holding the left leg, the right hand is on the floor for support.
    • Twist your upper body slowly to the right.
    • Look over the right shoulder.
    • Switch the hands and repeat the exercise to the left side.
    • Repeat 5-10 times. 
Arm raises

If you want to strengthen your shoulders and upper back, do try this exercise.  You can add a dumbbell or wear wrist weights to make the exercise more challenging. 

    • Stand on your hands and knees, make sure your back is flat.
    • Raise the right arm in front of you to shoulder level.
    • Hold this position for 5 seconds.
    • Lower the arm and repeat the exercise 5-10 times.
    • Do the same with the left arm.
Overhead pulldowns

They are great for strengthening the middle and lower back.

    • Stand with your legs apart.
    • Raise your arms above your head.
    • Imagine holding a barbell in your hands.
    • Pull the arms down, bending the elbows to the sides until your hands reach shoulder level.
    • The “bar” must be behind your head.
    • Repeat the exercise 10-15 times, perform 3 sets.
    • If your fitness level allows, add a one- or two-pound dumbbell in each hand.

You can also choose to join prenatal yoga classes or aqua-natal classes (gentle stretching in water for expecting mothers) with a qualified instructor. Such classes offer specially designed exercises to strengthen the back during pregnancy while in a unique, relaxing atmosphere. 


Exercises to Avoid When Pregnant

While moderate-intensity physical activities are safe and highly recommended for moms-to-be, there are some exercises that can impose a risk to woman and fetus’ health. So, make sure to avoid the following workouts:

    • Avoid heavy weight lifts since they put too much stress on the skeletal and cardiovascular systems.
    • While low-impact yoga exercises can be effective for back cramps, yoga poses where you hold your breath are a no-no for pregnant women. Actually, holding a breath is a clear indication that you have to stop the exercise immediately. 
    • After the first trimester, avoid exercises where you have to lie on the back since it affects the blood flow to the fetus. 
    • Do not exercise lying on your belly.
    • Do not stand still for long periods, it’ll only worsen issues with your back.
    • High-impact and contact sports like soccer, hockey, basketball, gymnastics, horseback riding, water skiing, etc. can lead to an abdominal injury, falls, and excessive joint stress.  
    • Avoid scuba diving since the pressure can lead to birth defects and fetus decompression sickness. 
    • Avoid sports at altitude since it can cause altitude sickness, which, in turn, decreases the oxygen supply to the fetus. 
How to Improve Your Pelvic Health During Pregnancy
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We hope our post was helpful for you! Remember that staying active is beneficial for both you and your future baby. Do include several exercises into your daily routine that will strengthen the back during pregnancy. They will help to maintain your spine, keep your muscles fit, and your cardiovascular system in good condition. Always listen to your body, and don’t do things that feel uncomfortable or painful for you. And, of course, consult your doctor if you have any questions or complaints. 


Author Bio

Thomas Nemel is a passionate writer and a fitness junkie. He’s been writing on topics related to parenthood, healthy lifestyles, and fitness for 2 years now. In his free time, Thomas enjoys riding his motorbike and being outdoors.  Connect with Thomas via Facebook or LinkedIn.

How to Improve Your Pelvic Health During Pregnancy

Bladder control, sexual dysfunction, pelvic and lower back pain are common symptoms of pelvic health issues.  But pelvic health shouldn’t be something we think of only when there’s a problem.   Being proactive about pelvic health can help to avoid many long term problems. For expectant mothers, working on improving pelvic health during pregnancy can not only help during labor and delivery, but also in the postpartum period. 

Find out more about the Train4Birth program from Dr. Monika Patel DPT, CSCS and how you can improve your pelvic health during pregnancy.

How to Improve Your Pelvic Health During Pregnancy
*This is a guest post and all opinions are those of the author. This post may also contain affiliate and/or paid links. Rest assured that I only work with companies and individuals that I trust. While some of those companies and individuals may work in the medical field, this post is not intended to be a substitution for medical advice. Always speak to your doctor if you have concerns about your mental or physical health.
How to Improve Your Pelvic Health During Pregnancy

When my employers first asked me to specialize in pelvic health, well, I wasn’t so sure.  At the time, I’d just finished my year-long orthopedic fellowship through the Institute of Advanced Musculoskeletal Treatments (IAMT) with some of the top manual therapists in the country.

All these thoughts and reservations went through my head- I didn’t want to specialize “too soon.” I’d just finished with 4 years of intensive learning and I wanted a “break.” I didn’t want the “emotional strain” I’d heard about when working in this field. I didn’t know exactly what it would involve. And, I was really super-super shy about anything remotely reproductive related and didn’t think I had the courage to talk to people about it.

So, I politely declined for 2 years and continued on with my mostly orthopedic caseload.

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Until, I felt a pull.

Do you ever have those moments where something just keeps re-occurring in your life until, finally, you listen?  

It was like that with pelvic health in my career. I decided to listen to what my employers had to say about how my skills might match the field they patiently had in store for me. There are so many times that we have to make decisions for ourselves or our families that we aren’t always sure of, that it felt almost nice to have a professional track with mentorship and guidance presented promisingly.

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So, I decided to shadow a pelvic health therapist and was really amazed at all she knew and what she could help people with that literally no other healthcare provider could. Even midwives and OBGYNs don’t necessarily know the pelvic floor musculature by name or how movement or pregnancy truly affects the pelvis.

The therapist I shadowed did an internal mobilization of a soccer player’s coccyx that had gotten dislocated with a harsh fall. That teenager was unable to walk in the clinic herself without a wheelchair, never mind play her favorite sport, and was able to walk out of the clinic, independently, and pain-free following the 2 minute mobilization.

I was hooked.

As soon as my year long-training commenced, I was able to help people who’d had incontinence for 20+ years.  I helped people who had stopped going out to have dinner with friends for fear they’d laugh too hard and leak regain confidence, control, and strength and actually join a supper club.

I was able to help men who’d been catheterized after prostate cancer regain their ability to pee again independently (which is linked to pride).

I was able to help a mother who had sustained a grade 3 tear during delivery of her baby heal postpartum without a trace.

And, just as my employers predicted, I loved it.

Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor Muscles with Perifit
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It felt refreshing, rather than daunting, to talk about the things less talked about and topics often ignored for far too long in the medical world.  So, I decided to delve into another yearlong program in pelvic health. The pelvis really is such a keystone to the entire body’s musculoskeletal system that it started to seem negligent to ignore approaching any and all patients with this knowledge.

Sure enough, not only did the people I could serve expand, but the rate at which I was able to get anyone with, for example, low back pain better greatly improved. The body is so interlinked and if you, our your healthcare team, ignore the pelvis, that’s like running a race without ever tying your shoes.

What Does a Pelvic Health Physical Therapist Do?

You might wonder what else a pelvic health physical therapist knows or could help you with. Here’s a quick glimpse:

    • How to help prevent, identify, and treat the three (really four) main kinds of incontinence: stress, urge, frequency and/or a mixture of any of the above.
    • How to help protect and activate the 4 muscles that make up the deep core so that they all work together with good and almost subconscious coordination to avoid.
    • How to palpate all the ligaments and the 35 muscles that attach to the sacrum.
    • How to palpate and check function of all 3 layers of the pelvic floor.
    • How to assess the pelvic floor for internal trigger points.
    • How to teach people good bowel, bladder, and sexual function habits.
    • How to care for the pudendal nerve, the nerve that extends out from the sacrum and is in charge of innervating bowel and bladder structures.
    • How to make pregnancy, both pre and post partum, a much less fear-based experience.

Gosh, and so much more.

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When it comes to postpartum care, countries like France literally subsidize what they call “perineal re-education”. (There’s a great essay by write Claire Lundberg called “The French Government Wants to Tone my Vagina”) because they know that even if women feel okay after birth, the inhibition of their pelvic health during pregnancy can cause (expensive and timely) issues down the road. So, it’s better for the overall healthcare system to preventatively invest in helping women heal properly postpartum than it is to wait until they are in their 40s, 50s, and 60s when gravity + pelvic floor sleepiness has already taken its toll and it’s much harder to fix.

I would take it a step further when it comes to preventative healthcare, and say that all women should have the opportunity for their body to be assessed for potential risk factors for ANY musculoskeletal condition from an early age…(but, that’s another blog topic).

Improving Pelvic Health During Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a sweet spot in women’s’ healthcare journey. It’s a time where women are often extra motivated to create healthy lifestyle habits and change. It can also feel really empowering to care for yourself while pregnant.  All expectant mothers should work on improving their pelvic health during pregnancy.

This is exactly why Train4Birth, the deep core exercises + education+ accountability/support program was born. It’s essentially the equivalent of having a PT (virtually) by your side throughout your entire pregnancy for $188 dollars. That’s a tremendous value –when the average cost of incontinence in the US is approximately $900 per person annually.

Plus, when it comes to resource management:
1) It can be easier to afford pelvic health care before you take (usually un-paid) maternity leave.

2) The cost of Train4Birth, which includes the information usually covered in about four in-person PT sessions, which would be about $600, is 1/3 of that cost.

3) It’s VERY hard to find time for self-care with a newborn. With the ability you start Train4Birth starting at any stage of your pregnancy gives you a jump start.

4) Plus, if you are all “tuned up” and the healthiest version of yourself going into labor, you’re less likely to experience instrument assisted birth or complications you have to deal with down the road.

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There are a lot of premade pregnancy recovery programs out there, but, because all of our bodies are unique and what helps us truly recover will depend on a deep understanding of your individual movement history, your anatomy, and your specific connective tissue I’m a bit leery of any program that doesn’t also include a listening ear.

Regardless of how you decide to care for your body, mind, and soul, I just want to encourage all women that the pelvic floor and deep core is an essential part of our health. To care for your pelvic floor is to care for both your present day and future self.


Author Bio

Dr. Monika Patel is a mom + DPT + fitness pro + environmentalist + lover of all things peanut butter. I love making people’s Birth-Days extra special and have to reign in my tendency to dream about RV life. I love to hear people’s stories. I don’t love to cook. My car usually has crumbs on the bottom of the floor. And I hope to make even just a tiny dent in improving the world.  

Feel free to reach out with questions or thoughts at connect@train4birth.com