Planks are useful in strengthening and toning your abdominal and core body muscles. But are they safe for pregnant women as well?
Keeping up a regular exercise program is vital for any pregnancy as it contributes to the overall well-being of the mother and the baby. Many pregnant women wonder whether plank exercises are safe in their condition. The answer to that is yes. Planks can be safely performed during pregnancy, provided you do them right, follow your doctor’s guidelines on the best plank exercises suited to your condition, and more importantly not overdo it.
Benefits of Planks During Pregnancy
- Planks can prove useful for a pregnant woman as doing them regularly can improve stability, increase energy levels, and significantly reduce lower backache, a problem faced by many women especially in the later stages of pregnancy.
- The best part about planks is that these exercises can be modified to suit a woman’s current physical needs.
- Strengthening the core abdominal muscles is extremely useful as it prepares you for the process of childbirth, making it easier for you to push when you are in labor. Regularly doing planks throughout pregnancy makes it easier for the abdominal muscles, which usually get stressed during labor and childbirth, to heal during the postpartum phase.
- During pregnancy your body produces hormones which make your muscles lax in order to facilitate childbirth. Planks can help your abdominal muscles regain their strength as they stretch in preparation for labor.
- Planks also help improve posture. Along with abdominal muscles, these compound exercises also help in toning the muscles in your arms, legs, and the lower back. Doing this exercise poses no risk for the baby, since there is no pressure being exerted on your belly.
How to Perform the Exercise
The basic form of planks is generally considered safe for all pregnant women.
- To begin, lie face down, with your weight supported on your forearms, and palms outstretched on the floor, facing down.
- As a rule of thumb, your elbows should be placed shoulder-width apart. Now push your body off the floor and raise your toes.
- Your body weight should still be supported by your elbows and forearms. Tighten your abdominal muscles by pulling them in.
- Maintain your back in a straight line, from the tip of your shoulders till the feet. Hold yourself this way, without arching your back, for at least 30 seconds.
- Then lower your body again. Repeat this thrice.
For starters, this may seem challenging. Take it easy by modifying the workout just a little bit. Lower your knees to the ground, and you will find doing the plank now is much easier.
For those women who have mastered the basic plank exercise, advancing to doing the side plank should not prove difficult.
- To begin, lie on one side, bending the bottom arm at the elbow. The entire weight of your body should be supported on your bottom arm.
- Keep the legs straight. Your feet should be placed one in front of the other.
- The positioning of the elbow is crucial, it must be positioned right below the shoulder. Put the free hand on the hip, and push-off your torso.
- Your body should always be in a straight line, not bent anywhere. Hold your body up this way for at least 30 seconds, or more if your endurance level is stronger. Then lower the body again.
- Repeat this thrice. Switch sides and again repeat three times.
- How you breathe during performing planks is important. Breathe deeply and steadily. Even when you are pulling back your abdominal muscles, do not attempt to hold your breath.
- If you feel tired, dizzy, nauseated, or experience increased heart rate, stop! Take a breather, and then start again.
- Never lie on your back while exercising, especially during and after the second trimester, as this can hamper the flow of blood to the uterus and placenta.
- If you have never done planks before and plan to do them when you are pregnant, it is advisable to consult your doctor before you begin any form of exercise routine.
If done the right way under proper guidance, planks is a highly advantageous form of exercise for a pregnant woman. Endorphins released during exercise act as stress busters, improve posture, and prevent you from gaining excess weight. The benefits are endless. So if you are pregnant and plan to make planks a daily part of your exercise, talk to your doctor first, as these are surely the safest method of exercise options available, guaranteed to alleviate lower backache and help labor proceed smoothly.