What About Sit-ups and Crunches During Pregnancy?

QUESTION

Dear Fitness Expert,
I have the 6 Second Abs for Crunches, in which you sit in an upright position. Would be safer than traditional sit-ups and crunches while pregnant?

Thank you for responding,

Tawni

ANSWER

Hi Tawni,
Of course, this is contingent of several things... You must first get permission from your doctor. We do not know your medical history so we want to be sure that you have been given medical permission to exercise. Assuming that you have, we must also consider how far along you are in the pregnancy.

The main reason physicians and trainers ask that pregnant women NOT lie on their backs while exercising is for both mom and baby. The pressure and weight of the baby can make oxygen flow more difficult so it has always been suggested that women remain upright. The reality is this -- do what is comfortable.

For my own clients, I allow them to continue full sit-ups into the beginning of their second trimester. Then, we gradually move from crunches -- do not jerk on the back of your neck if you clasp your fingers behind your head. Instead, interlace your fingers in front of your chest, gently putting your thumbs under your chin. Each time you do a crunch, lift your chin as though you are trying to touch your chin to the ceiling -- to side crunches into the third trimester. By your third trimester, you can perform side crunches (with or without weights) on either side, still working the obliques but not putting undue strain on your lower back or the baby's oxygen supply. Again, this is "old school" thinking but many clients still report feeling like their air supply is limited in this position.

My favorite workout for abs and pregnant people is with the ball. The ball -- be sure to get the large exercise ball -- will absorb much of the shock your lower back and hips would otherwise absorb. Sitting on the ball, you can roll forward so that the ball is centered in the small of your back and, with hand weights, you can do several variations of crunches. It's great for your breathing, the baby, low-impact crunches and isolating the stomach muscles for a nice workout. How can you be sure of what you are doing? You can find several exercise ball workout guides at Barnes & Noble or on-line. My favorite is the Swiss Ball: For Strength, Tone, and Posture by Maureen Flett. Fabulous! Good luck and keep on crunching.

The research on pregnant women who worked out throughout their pregnancy -- particularly ab work -- show faster labor and delivery, speedier recoveries, better overall experience while pregnant and happier/healthier disposition!

Crunch away!

-- 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!