Crunches and Sit-ups the First Trimester?

QUESTION

Dear Fitness Expert,
Is it ok to do sit-ups or crunches during the first few weeks of pregnancy?

Thanks.

ANSWER

Absolutely. In fact, OB/GYNs and trainers recommend working your lower back and abs throughout your pregnancy because these are the very muscles you are going to draw upon when you are in labor and need to push. However, that being said, there are safety guidelines that must be followed.

In the first trimester, abdominal crunches are fine but as you move to the second and third trimesters, it is not recommended that you lie on your back. Studies indicate too much pressure can be placed on the fetus/umbilical cord (the baby's source of energy and nutrition) when the mother performs exercises while lying on her back. Instead, you can get a great workout, continuing to strengthen those abdominal muscles doing side crunches.

The big ball is one of the best things you can work out on/with. By sitting on the ball, you can use light hand weights and do a variety of back, chest, arm, leg, and abdominal workouts without the pounding you might get from aerobics or running. Check out your local library or bookstore to find some ball work out books -- I would suggest Swiss Ball: For Strength, Tone and Posture by Maureen Flett. It's a wonderful introduction for working out with the ball.

Be sure that you have permission from your OB/GYN to workout. Take the book with you to show your physician the kinds of exercises you do. You should have a great time. Good luck.

If you are a member to a gym, speak with one of the trainer and ask him or her to show you how to do proper side crunches (remember, form is as important as the technique). If you do not have a gym membership, there are a number of workout videos you can check out to learn how to exercise the abs while pregnant. We recommend trainers Kathy Kaehler and Denise Austin for safe, effective training while pregnant. Good luck, stay strong and keep in touch.

-- Alex

Alexandra Allred

Alexandra Allred is a former member of the US Women's Bobsled team, is an accomplished martial artist, and continues to teach kickboxing while juggling her career as a full-time writer and mother of three. She has interviewed hundreds of athletes, models, actresses, trainers, doctors, and health/fitness experts as she sought to find answers to her own questions about working out while pregnant, arranging breast-feeding around a training schedule, diet when pregnant and breastfeeding, and encouraging her whole family.

Alex is the author of ten books, including Atta Girl! A Celebration of Women in Sports and Entering the Mother Zone: Balancing Self, Health & Family. We're excited to have her on board!