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
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Helpful Exercises That Will Strengthen the Back During Pregnancy

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

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.