The TRUTH About Planks and Pregnancy!

Here's the thing, you're going to spend the majority of your pregnancy Google searching EVERYTHING! And you'll hear the same answers on almost every site.

What I learned is everything plays to the lowest common denominator. So instead of giving a range of advice you'll hear blanketed "you must avoid" / "you can do" statements.

For example:
Avoid crunches
It's safe to walk

I want to just say DUH.... I think we know that right? 

I'm not going to do that! I'm going to actually encourage the opposite! You see, being pregnant is an INCREDIBLE time to train like an athlete. I'm not saying take on a whole new sport and run marathons out of nowhere. BUT what I am saying is each week you'll be putting on extra weight, and throughout your entire pregnancy you have double the blood volume which has incredible oxygen uptake! So you'll basically had built in resistance and a greater capacity to train!

That being said, I'm going to talk about one of the most stressed about exercises during pregnancy: PLANKS!  You'll discover there is a tremendous gray area about planking while pregnant. I'll let you Google all the standard "don't do this" type of stuff. I assume you know at this point crunches and lying on your belly are bad! I'm going to talk to you about the benefits and give you a way to train into planks so you're doing them RIGHT!

 35 weeks pergnant

35 weeks pergnant

I did planks until the last day of my pregnancy. They are an amazing way to continue to work your core. Here is WHY you should be working your core: 

1) If we stop using our ab muscles throughout our entire pregnancy we are asking for pain during pregnancy and pain after pregnancy.
2) Our core is LITERALLY designed to provide stability. If we stop working those muscles we set ourselves up for a risk of overstretched TVA (transverse abdominis) which when stretched pulls on the other ab muscles and increases ab separation.
3) The stronger our core is the more control we have during labor and delivery.
4) Our core is the most essential part of functional movements. If we do not have a strong core we run the risk of injury with the slightest movement of tying our shoes or picking up something we've dropped (hello slipped disks).
5) When you train your core throughout pregnancy your recovery is much faster AND you'll be more adept at handling the stress of caring for the baby.

 On baby moon at 28 weeks pregnant 

On baby moon at 28 weeks pregnant 

Those reasons alone should peek your interest in training your core!

Now lets talk about how you can train your core effectively!

STEP 1: YOU MUST CONNECT TO YOUR DIAPHRAGMATIC BREATH
This means you are able to control the inhales and exhales through your stomach and ribs versus your chest and shoulders. (Check out my video on diaphragmatic breathing here)
You cannot move to Step 2 until you have this totally down. This is the foundation of everything so don't get too excited and skip ahead. Really get this breathing technique down first!

STEP 2: PROGRESS SLOWLY STARTING IN A MODIFIED SIDE PLANK

 14 weeks pregnant 

14 weeks pregnant 

When you can control the deep inhales and exhales in this position on both sides it's time to progress! This can be challenging so keep your focus on the breath!

STEP 3: BEAR POSE
In bear pose we are on all 4's. Hands are in line with the shoulders and knees are directly under the hips. In this position it is essential to have that control of breath. When you are filling up the belly on the inhale, do not let your belly just drop with gravity. You need to be very much in control of this inhale. On the exhale you are focusing not on sucking in and tightening as hard as you can but think of hugging your core around your baby. 

 5 months pregnant

5 months pregnant

PLEASE NOTE: If you find your belly coning at all or coming to a point in this position you need to stop and go back to standing or sitting and practicing the core breathing. 

STEP 4: BEAR LEG LIFTS
Now that you've got your breathing working and flowing in this bear position I want you to lift one foot off the ground only about 1/4 to 1/2 inch. This is JUST enough to engage your abs and throw your breathing off. That means it's time to focus your breath EVEN MORE!
The goal is to get into a rhythm. Inhale lift the leg, exhale drop the leg, or vice versa. Whatever rhythmic pattern you choose as long as you are connected to your diaphragm the entire time you are ready to progress!

STEP 5: MODIFIED PLANK
This position is going to increase the challenge of keeping your breath in the correct diaphragmatic rhythm. If it is too much go back to bear pose. 

I want you to get comfortable in each position. If you ever struggle in one position go back a step and continue to practice there. When you can hold modified plank (either on hands or on forearms) and feel comfortable with your breathing then you can progress!

 5 months pregnant getting ready to do a towel slide out pushup

5 months pregnant getting ready to do a towel slide out pushup

STEP 6: PLANK!

Take your time getting to this! Plank is ONLY effective pregnant (and not pregnant for that matter) if you can attach your diaphragmatic breathing to your muscles. When you can do this, you are SAFELY and effectively working your core with the use of planks pregnant! When you get comfortable in Plank you can challenge yourself even more with increased instability, different surfaces, tempos etc!

 28 weeks - using TRX bands on the sand to challenge my stability even more!

28 weeks - using TRX bands on the sand to challenge my stability even more!

I hope this helps give you some clarity in how you can use planks in your pregnancy and still be incredibly safe! It's all about progressing slowly and safely!

I'd love to give you even more good stuff. Download my free guide where I share even more about pregnancy right here!

xo
Becky