Functional Fitness for Functional Moms

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Why is functional exercise important during pregnancy?

Functional Fitness for Functional Moms

A recent trend in the field of sports conditioning advises us to “train the movement not the muscle.” Now what, you may ask, does this have to do with prenatal exercise? In many ways, pregnancy is an athletic event. Think about it. Your body must adapt to changes in your center of gravity. As the hormone relaxin takes effect, balance and stability are challenged.

The human body works as an integrated system, and should be trained with programs that use the sum of its parts working in concert, as opposed to single muscles working in isolation. Motherhood is the ultimate form of multi-tasking. Being a Mom is a dynamic activity. It requires dynamic strength, dynamic balance and dynamic flexibility. The American Heritage Dictionary defines “dynamic” as being “characterized by continuous change, activity, or progress,” and being “related to energy or to objects in motion.” The movements of motherhood involve consistent changes in energy, direction and intensity. Nothing is predictable. Toys are dropped. The baby gets bigger week by week. Mom is in constant motion as she goes about her day. Have you ever seen a mother stand still and “bicep curl” her baby? I think not!

Dynamic motherhood requires a dynamic training plan. Programs that enhance functional strength, balance and flexibility are more effective than static isolation exercises. The body's core stabilizers keep the “function” in the word functional.

The transverse abdominus and the pelvic floor are used in sport conditioning, as a means of enhancing alignment and stability. Core stability facilitates, agility, quickness and coordination. These qualities are basic requirements for the sport of Motherhood.

Let's take a look at a common movement of motherhood. Bending down to pick up either your baby, or your baby's toys, will be an essential part of your day. Your doctor will remind you to bend your knees to protect your lower back. Ironically, many women end up hurting their knees, if their legs are not strong enough.

Practicing squats may be a solution. Stand with your feet in parallel alignment, about hip width apart. Pretend that you are going to sit on a big, comfy chair. Bend your knees, maintaining parallel alignment. As you bend, think of “hugging your baby with your stomach” to activate your transverse. As you straighten your legs and return to the starting position, feel your pelvic floor being drawn up like a hammock. To make this exercise even more functional, add weight. You can use resistance tubing under your feet, hand weights, or a body bar. Hold the resistance with both hands. When you come down into the squat, perform a “row”. Bend both elbows, making a letter “T” with your torso. Squeeze your shoulder blades together. Straighten your arms. Then straighten your legs.

   

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