The 3 Best Lower Body Strength Training Exercises in Pregnancy

By Jessie Mundell

Building and maintaining a strong lower body is important for many reasons during pregnancy, namely the fact that it will help support your pelvis and spine through your daily activities as your body weight increases. Climbing the stairs, walking to work, or chasing a toddler around requires a fit and stable mama-to-be.

However, there’s more to it than just that.  As I chatted about in the previous article, The 3 Best Upper Body Strength Training Exercises in Pregnancy, strength training during pregnancy can significantly support your posture and alignment. Great posture is important for decreasing your pregnancy aches and pains, allowing baby to grow in  an optimal position, and having a smooth labour and delivery.

In my upper body strength training article, I talked a lot about training your upper back, and with good reason.  It's vital for maintaining good posture and spinal alignment throughout your pregnancy.  Same with this article.  More "backside of the body training" (i.e. your posterior chain), and more specifically, more training of your backside!

The glute muscles should be a main focus throughout your pregnancy training (and postpartum, too!). Here’s why you want strong glutes:

  1. Strong glutes will help support your lower back and give you stability through this area.
  2. Strong glutes will help align your pelvis into a good position for baby’s development. Your baby being in good pelvic position during pregnancy is a great thing for when delivery time comes around.
  3. Strong glutes will help decrease back pain, as per the reasons above.
  4. Strong glutes just look amazing, don’t they?

So what do I recommend for strong glutes?  Read below to find out more:

Hip Thrusts

Hip thrusts are arguably one of the best glute activation exercises you can do. They’re great for any level of exercise experience too, making pregnancy a great time to start working on them even if you’ve never done them before.

Note: Barbell hip thrusts might not be a comfortable or safe option as you get further along in your pregnancy. You could switch to using chains or bands across the hip flexors or thighs, higher reps of bodyweight versions, and single leg hip thrusts.

Hip Thrust Cues:

  • Set up on a bench with your shoulder blades hooked onto the edge, arms reaching out to the sides, and knees bent to a 90 degree angle.
  • Raise the hips up so you have a straight line from your knees to shoulders, by squeezing your glutes as tight as you can.
  • Lower the hips down towards the floor as you raise your upper body up, and return to the starting position.

Note: Be very careful not to hyper-extend your lower back in this position.  Think about keeping your ribcage and your pelvis tucked towards one another the entire time.

Reverse Lunges

This lunging variation is fantastic for glute activation, balance, and single leg stability. You can begin practicing this exercise by just using your bodyweight, or for more advanced exercisers, raise the difficulty level by loading it will dumbbells, kettlebells, or barbells.

Note: Watch that your ribcage doesn’t flare up on this exercise and you don’t crunch through your lower back to gain stability through the movement.

Reverse Lunge Cues:

  • Take a “medium” distance step backwards (not too short or long) while keeping your front knee tracking over the same ankle, in order to get the glute working hard to control the movement.
  • Lunge down, bending deeply through both knees, with the back knee reaching towards the floor.
  • Pull yourself up by squeezing your front leg glute and hamstring strongly to return to standing.

Goblet Squat

Squatting exercises are some of the best you can do in pregnancy to improve your posture and support the pelvis. The goblet squat is excellent for developing awareness around your lumbar spine (lower back). It will teach you what it feels like to be in a neutral position, which is a gentle curve through your low back, not rounded or excessively arching.

Note: Squats in pregnancy serve another important purpose, and that is activation of your pelvic floor muscles. On the way up from the bottom of your squat, give a gentle pelvic floor contraction (e.g. kegel). Fully relax your pelvic floor muscles at the top of your squat.

Goblet Squat Cues:

  • Stand tall holding the dumbbell at your chest, with the chin tucked down slightly.
  • Sit backwards and down into your hips, keeping that great neutral spine position as you get to the bottom of your range of motion.
  • Tighten your glutes (and your pelvic floor) and return to standing.
  • As you come out of the bottom of your squat, feel like you are trying to ‘spread the floor’ apart with your feet - major glute activation!

There you have it!  Three of the best lower body exercises to perform during pregnancy. Oh! And it's good for all of you non-pregnant ladies as well!

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About the author:  Jessie Mundell

Jessie Mundell is a certified kinesiologist and a Precision Nutrition Level 1 coach, as well as an author and mother. She specializes in pre- and postnatal exercise and corrective exercise. Learn more about Jessie on her website and connect with her on Twitter.

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