As busy new mums or mums to be we simply don’t have time to waste doing exercises that are ineffective in getting us results or that may even cause us injury. Exercise time is precious and need not involve hours in the gym on various machines. For a pregnancy and post natal exercise programme to be effective, the right exercises need chosen and they to be performed correctly with good technique. Think quality rather than quantity.
So which ones should you avoid, why should you not bother doing them, which ones
would be better, and how can you make your exercise programme more efficient
Here’s the top five time wasting exercises you can do and what you can do instead to
get a shapier, well-balanced more sculpted look in less time!
1. Bicep Curls
Many people still stand there performing the bicep curl up and down with a dumb-bell
or bar. The bicep is one of the smallest major muscle group of your body, so it
doesn’t need as much attention as you think and secondly the curl is an
isolation exercise. An isolation exercise means you are only exercising one muscle, in isolation, and ignoring the other muscles which complement it, known as the ‘assisting’ muscles. Isolation exercises are not functional. When you do daily activities your body does not just use one muscle in one direction to do something.
For example. When you lift a box or car seat you are not just using your biceps. You are also using your shoulders, forearms and triceps. By not allowing the other muscles to assist and support the main muscle you can promote muscle imbalance plus miss out on multi-tasking your muscles in one move!
Which exercise to do instead. The push-up which tones your shoulders, chest, biceps, triceps and abdominals in one move. So, you get more for your money and time!
2. Abdominal curls (or sit-ups)
Endless rounds of sit-ups or abdominal curls is not the most effective way of flattening
your abdominals after you’ve had a baby. Firstly the move will actually make any separation of your abdominals worse, leading to lower back pain. Secondly most people perform them with incorrect technique. Thirdly it is simply not a functional move – that means that you are only recruiting one muscle the rectus abdominals (or six-pack muscles) in only one direction lying on your back. In everyday life and activities you do not lie on your back lifting your head and shoulders up! The sit-up or crunch misses out on engaging the deep abdominal muscles, the transverse and the obliques (waist).
Two things you need to do with post natal strengthening of the abdominals:
One is to learn to control your abs by re-connecting and re-training them when they are doing exercises so they can ‘switch on’. Two, you need to do stabilisation movements. This means your body is in a position where it must stabilise your spine and pelvis for a certain amount of time. Your body learns to co-ordinate and recruit the deep abdominal muscles (the core stabilisers) which have been most effected by pregnancy – it’s these muscles (which are like a corset, deep
muscles wrapping around your body) that flatten the abdominals post pregnancy.
Which exercise to do instead. Focus on improving core stability with planks (pillar holds), side planks (side pillar holds), hip extension holds, and all fours opposite arm and leg reach variations such as the ‘bird dog’.
3. Leg extensions
My pet hate! This is where you are sat on a machine in the gym, with your back supported and our feet under a roller thing. You extend your legs up level with your knees and then bending them to take them back to the start position.
This exercise isolates your quadriceps, front thigh muscles. Most peoples front thigh muscles are stronger than their hamstrings (back of thighs) and glutes (bottom) and just focusing on strengthening these, whilst ignoring the other muscles creates a muscle imbalance leading to injuries. As you are also sat on a machine you are not
using the glutes (bottom) or hamstrings, which you can also exercise and tone in other more effective exercises whilst at the same time sculpting your thighs. You can also
damage your knees as you can lock these out when extending the legs. As the knee joint is commonly stressed during pregnancy due to weight of the growing fetus and a weakened core, you wouldn’t want to make this worse!
Which exercise to do instead. Squats, lunges and power skips
Bonus Tip. Incorrect technique
Even good exercises such as the plank and the squat and lunge are ineffective if
performed with incorrect technique. Plus this can lead to injuries and pain which set you back from exercising.
In the plank for example you must avoid letting your hips sag or flexing your
lower back. Your body should form a straight line from your neck through your
With the squat you should load your heels, keep your abs tight with your navel
slightly pulled in and focus on squeezing your glutes as you extend up to
standing. Your knees should not go forward over your toes.
If you are unsure of the incorrect technique it is worth hiring a personal trainer or attending a group class so that you can be shown the correct form, which is easier and more effective than trying to work it out for yourself!