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Staying Limber

During pregnancy, you ask your muscles to do more than ever before. They usually rise to the occasion, but sometimes they get a bit stiff. The following stretches will help your hardworking muscles stay limber. When you stretch, remember to hold the position until you feel a gentle stretch, never a sharp pull. Be sure to breathe while you stretch. Move fluidly and gently--never bounce. If any stretch feels uncomfortable, don't do it. The best time to stretch is after exercise, when your muscles are warm and most flexible.

Cat/camel back stretch. To set up: Get on your hands and knees on the floor. Hands should be shoulder width apart and directly under your shoulders. Knees should be hip width apart and directly under your hips.

The move: Slowly begin to tuck your chin in toward your chest while gently arching your back, tilting your pelvis back, and pulling your abdominal muscles toward the ceiling. Stay in that position for 20 seconds. You should feel a stretch in your back. Then slowly and gently bring your head up, tilt your pelvis forward, and relax your abdominal muscles. Stay in that position for 20 seconds. Repeat both stretches 2 or 3 times.

Calf and thigh stretch. To set up: Stand about 3 feet from a wall. The move: Keep your back leg straight with heel on the floor and turned slightly outward. Step in toward the wall with your front foot, bending your knee. Your front foot should be about halfway between your back foot and the wall. Place the palms of your hands on the wall, lined up with your shoulders, elbows bent. Lean into the wall until you feel a stretch in the calf and thigh of your back leg; keep your back heel on the ground. Hold for 20 seconds. Then stretch the other leg. Repeat the stretch 2 or 3 times for each leg.

Arm and chest stretch. To set up: Stand about a foot from a wall, feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent. The wall should be on your right side. Place your right arm against the wall beside you with the palm of your hand placed firmly on the wall, thumb pointing up.

The move: Gently turn away from the wall. You should feel a stretch in your arm and chest. Hold for 20 seconds, repeat with the other arm, and repeat 2 or 3 times on each side.

Two-part arm/shoulder stretch. To set up: Stand with your feet shoulde width apart, knees slightly bent, arms by your sides.

The move: With palms facing each other, slowly raise your arms in front of your body and over your head. Your arms should stay parallel to each other, and your elbows should not be bent. When your arms are straight up, reach for the sky. Hold the stretch for 10-20 seconds and then slowly return your arms to starting position. Now, beginning with your arms at your sides, lift your arms straight out from the sides of your body, palms facing the floor. When your arms are straight out from your shoulders, gently pull them back, keeping them straight with palms facing the floor. Hold 10-20 seconds; then slowly return to starting position. Repeat 2 or 3 times.

Quadriceps stretch. To set up: Stand with a table or chair in front of you. Hold on to it with your right hand to keep your balance.

The move: Keeping your right leg planted firmly on the ground, bend your left leg back toward your buttocks while you reach your left hand back to hold your foot. (The palm of your hand will be on the laces of your shoes.) Keeping your left knee pointing toward the ground, pull your left foot gently toward your buttocks. You should feel a gentle stretch in the front of your thigh. Hold for 10-20 seconds and then return to starting position. Switch sides and repeat the stretch. Stretch both legs 2 or 3 times.

Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.

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