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How can I work my core muscles while pregnant?

The question

You recently wrote that pregnant women should do core exercises, but not on their backs. How can I work my core and not lie on my back? I am used to doing crunches.

The answer

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The term "core" describes all the muscles located between the knees and the rib cage. A strong core that works as a unit helps support the spine and pelvis against the strain of extra baby weight. Expectant mothers should pick exercises that train the core as a unit.

Safe positions for core exercises during pregnancy include kneeling on all fours, standing or lying on your side.

Even if you could do traditional crunches, I would not suggest it. Crunches primarily work your rectus abdominals in isolation, not the entire core. The rectus abdominals are the superficial abdominals that run vertically down the front of your trunk (think "six-pack"). While these muscles may be aesthetically appealing, they don't actually help stabilize the spine.

Try these exercises instead:

Quadruped opposite arm and leg reach: Start on all fours, with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Step 1: Activate the pelvic floor muscles by doing a Kegel. Step 2: Straighten your opposite arm and leg without letting the rest of your body move. Switch and repeat for 12 reps.

Side plank from knees: Lie on your right side, with your knees on top of each other and your right forearm on the floor. Your knees and shoulder should make a straight line. Lift your hips off the ground and hold for 10 to 30 seconds. Switch and repeat on the opposite side.

Trainer's tip

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If you regularly did side planks before you got pregnant, try a variation on the above exercise. While holding the plank position on your knees, lift and lower your top leg 10 times.

Send certified personal trainer Kathleen Trotter your questions at She will answer select questions, which could appear in the Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail website. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

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