Mama’s Got Biceps- Building Muscle

Weight training with machines, free weights or resistance bands is a great way to build muscle strength and create a more toned body. Although many women include strength training in their fitness workouts, once they become pregnant, many often discontinue their training because of fears that it may be harmful.

Contrary to past concerns, strength training done properly is a safe and effective way to provide the muscular strength needed to compensate for posture adjustments and weight gain and help prepare the body for all the lifting involved with childcare. Strength training during pregnancy for women with non-complicated pregnancies poses very little risk to the fetus or the mother as long as these general guidelines are followed:

Weight training with machines, free weights or resistance bands is a great way to build muscle strength.

Avoid any lifting while lying on the back after the first trimester (such as during a bench press).

Weight training can be done two to three times a week with a rest day between sessions to allow muscles to recover.

One set of 10 to 12 repetitions is sufficient to gain strength.

Monitor your exercise technique by watching your form in a mirror to avoid improper lifting.

Use your breathing to enhance strength training. Exhale as you lift; inhale as you return to start position.

If a particular exercise produces pain or discomfort, it should be discontinued. If pain persists, the client should consult with her health care provider.

Always consult with your health care provider before starting any exercise program during pregnancy.

Resistance Bands:

Resistance bands provide a safe and inexpensive alternative to weights and equipment. You can purchase inexpensive bands at fitness equipment stores.

Perform 10 to 12 repetitions of each exercise for one to two sets. Remember to use your breathing during each exercise, exhaling as you lift and inhaling as you return. You can increase or reduce the resistance of the band by shortening or lengthening the band. Increase the resistance when the last repetitions are not challenging.

Bicep Curl:

This exercise helps to define the bicep muscles in the front upper arm. Place the band under each foot, and grasp each end of the band with palms facing up and arms at sides. Bending from your elbows, bring your palms to your chest, and then lower to starting position. Keep your elbows tight to your body as you do this exercise.

Reverse Curl:

This exercise strengthens the entire bicep muscle and forearm. Place the band under each foot and grasp the ends of the band in your hands. Start with palms facing your body and arms extended and resting on your thighs. Keeping your arms close to your body, curl your arms up, bending at the elbows until your fists reach your shoulders. Your hands should curl toward your body as you raise the band. Remember to keep your elbows tight to the body as you do this exercise.

Chest Press:

The muscles of the upper torso are targeted in this exercise. Place your hands at chest height on each side of an open doorway. You feet should be 6 to 10 inches behind your body, so that you are leaning forward through the doorway. Press your body back like a push-up and return. Make sure that your feet are securely placed on the floor, moving any rugs that may cause you to slide.

Tricep Extension:

This exercise targets the muscle of the back of the upper arm. In a standing position, place one end of the band securely under your right foot. Bring the band behind your back and grasp with your left hand. Your arm should be bent with your elbow at head height and hand holding the band behind your shoulder. Slowly straighten your arm keeping your elbow stationary as you lift. You can support your elbow with your other hand if needed to keep in position. Return to start position. If you are unable to fully extend your arm, reduce the resistance on the band.

Doorway Chest Press:

You will strengthen the muscles of the front upper chest (pectoral) with this exercise. Bring the band around your back with the ends in each hand. Shorten the length of the band until there is no slack. Start with your wrists at chest level, palms facing out. Press your palms straight out until your arms are fully extended, and return to start position. Remember to exhale as you press out and inhale as you return. Use slow, controlled movements in each direction.

Lateral Raise:

This exercise helps to define the deltoid muscles. Place the band securely under each foot. Grasp the ends of the band with your hands. Start with hands and sides and slowly raise the bands until they are above shoulder height. Slowly bring the band back to starting position. If you are unable to raise the band that high, lengthen the band to reduce the resistance.

Upper Back Raise:

You will target the muscles of the upper back and latissimus dorsi with this exercise. Place the band securely under each foot. Grasp the ends of the band in each hand. Bend slightly forward with arms extended straight. There should be slight resistance on the band in this position. Bring your arms up and back with the elbows bent until your elbows are slightly above shoulder height. Return to starting position. If you experience back discomfort in this position, you can modify it by doing one arm at a time and supporting your back by placing one hand on a support as you bend forward.

Sitting Abdominal Lean Back:

This is a great exercise for strengthening the abdominal muscles without stressing the lower back or requiring a supine position. Sit in a sturdy armless chair or on a large therapy ball. Place the band under one leg that is fully extended. Bend forward and grasp the ends of the band in each hand. There should be slight resistance in the band when you are bent forward. Keeping your arms straight, lean back slowly, bending ONLY at the hips. It is important for you to keep your back straight as you lean back to target the abdominal muscles effectively. Lean back to the point where you feel your tummy muscles tighten and hold for a count of five. Slowly return to start position. If you do not feel any contraction in your abdominal, shorten the length of the band to increase the resistance. Remember to use proper breathing – exhale as you lean back; inhale as you return to start position.

Basic Breath:

This exercise will teach you how to isolate and control your abdominal muscles.

In a comfortable sitting position, breathe in slowly and deeply. Breathe out, and while you are exhaling, tighten your tummy muscles, pulling your navel toward your spine. Remember to concentrate on contracting the muscles below your belly button, and don’t flatten your back. Hold the contraction for several seconds and then slowly inhale and relax the abdominal muscles.