Beginning Weight Training During Pregnancy
By Lisa Stone, ACE
Q. I am 19 weeks pregnant and walk 2 miles every day. I would like to do a little muscle toning but don't know if it is okay to start at this point in the pregnancy. My husband has free weights and a nautilus so I have access to most types of weights. I would especially like to work on my thighs and upper arms. Do you have any suggestions?
A. As long as you aren't at risk for preterm labor (ask your healthcare provider), then doing some strength training using light (5-10 lbs) hand weights shouldn't be a problem. You can also try using the Nautilus equipment, though you may find that you have a hard time getting properly positioned with your growing belly and breasts - free weights will probably work better for you at this point.
The best exercises for your thighs are squats and lunges. Try them first without using weights. Then, if you feel up to it, try holding a 5-lb weight in each hand with your arms down by your sides or with the weights resting on the tops of your thighs. You can also do side leg raises, either standing or side-lying. Again, try them first without weights, then add weight as you get stronger - position the weight on your outer thigh between your knee and your hip (ankle weights positioned on the thigh work well for these). Be sure to keep your toes pointing forward throughout the exercise.
For your upper arms, you'll want to work your biceps, triceps, and shoulders. Use hand weights for bicep curls. Use lighter weights for tricep kickbacks. You'll have to experiment with different weights for the shoulder raises - some women have stronger shoulders than others. Another great exercise for your entire upper body is standing push-ups. To do these, stand with your toes against a wall and take 2 steps back. Place your hands on the wall, shoulder height and shoulder distance apart. Bend your knees slightly and tighten your abdominal muscles. Inhale as you bend your elbows to lower your chest toward the wall. Exhale as you push yourself away from the wall, contracting your chest muscles. You can change your hand position by widening it or raising your hands higher on the wall to work different arm and chest muscles.