While there are endless variations of upper body exercises you could perform, your best bet during pregnancy (and most other times) is to stick to the basics. The following three moves offer the biggest bang for your buck through your pregnancy and postpartum recovery.
You’ll soon notice that the exercises below follow a common theme: they all train the back side of the body, and focus in on the back muscles themselves. Training your back muscles and muscles that stabilize your shoulder blades is essential in supporting optimal posture through your pregnancy, which is a top priority.
You won’t need to forgo pushing and pressing exercises as soon as you become pregnant, but I do recommend doubling your pulling to pushing exercises, especially as you move further into your second and third trimester.
At this point, the extra weight on the front side of your body will be pulling your upper back into a more kyphotic position (rounded upper back), and your lower back into a more lordotic or hyperextended position (excessive arching). These exercises will help you to reduce these pregnancy by-products and keep you in the best posture possible.
Why is it so important to focus on posture during pregnancy? For a few big reasons:
The following three exercises are fantastic for giving your body the support it needs during your pregnancy. As a bonus, you will get great core activation, which will also keep your body (and baby) properly aligned.
This exercise will mainly train the rhomboids, trapezius, and lats. It’s a sneaky one, and is not as easy as it looks to execute!
Note: Play around with the resistance of the band you’re using. If the band is too tight, you can extend through the spine to compensate through the pull, which is not what we want.
The lats are a major back muscle that span a huge portion of the spine. This makes the lat pull down and/or pull-ups important exercises for spinal stability and shoulder mobility, both things that we need to keep training during pregnancy.
Note: Performing these exercise with proper technique is really important for getting the lats to fire with as much tension as possible, and not relying on other muscle groups to take over the pull. Take your time with each rep. If you’ve been training chin-up/pull-up variations, keep it up! If not, you might want to start with the lat pulldown or inverted rows.
This exercise fills a couple different roles for us: more great back strengthening, plus the split stance position will involve glute activation, hip flexor lengthening, and core stability — all which are extremely important in pregnancy and for keeping the pelvis in a neutral position. Win-win!
Note: This exercise is a single arm movement, known as a unilateral exercise. It is important for you to train bilaterally (both arms together) and unilaterally (one arm at a time) in order to even out potential weaknesses and correct differences in your movement patterns.
For best results, perform 3–4 sets of 8–12 reps each. Perform each of these exercises two times per week, and you'll be well on your way to a healthy and strong back.
85% of women will have a baby at some point in their life. If you work with women, you work with pre- and postnatal women.
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