Performing exercises on a stability or balance ball can improve your strength, balance and coordination. Your core, the muscles of the stomach and lower back, work extra hard with ball exercises to keep your body stabilized. This can be especially beneficial during pregnancy. As your belly grows, you may experience postural changes that cause stress to your lower back and other areas.
It is important to consult with your health care provider before beginning any prenatal exercises. If you experience any discomfort or unusual symptoms during exercise, stop your workout and describe the issues to your physician. To determine if you have the right size stability ball, sit on the ball with your feet on the floor in front of you. With a correctly sized ball, your thighs and lower legs will form a 90 degree angle. If you are new to ball exercises, deflate is slightly to help your balance. Start with one set of each exercise, completing eight to 15 repetitions each. As you get more comfortable, you can add one to two sets per exercise. Inhale and exhale slowly and deliberately with each exercise.
Sitting on the ball, place your feet on the floor in front you and relax your shoulders. Pull your belly button in towards your spine to engage your core muscles. Alternate rocking your hips side-to-side and front-to-back in a controlled manner.
Stand up tall facing away from a wall with your feet shoulder width apart or wider. Place the ball between your lower back and the wall. Bend your knees and lower your hips down. Avoid dropping yours hips past your knees and don't allow your knees to bend past your toes. Tighten your core and thigh muscles and press your hips back up.
Performing exercises on your back is not recommended past your second semester. Incline ball crunches provide a good modification during pregnancy. Sit on the ball and slowly walk your feet out, rolling your back down onto the ball. Drop your hips so that your knees, hips and torso create a V shape. With your arms across your chest, engage your core and lift your shoulders a few inches off of the ball and then slowly lower back down.
Seated Dumbbell Exercises
Many of the basic seated dumbbell exercises that you perform on a bench can be done safely on a ball during pregnancy. The American Council on Exercise has an online Exercise Library where you can view exercises such as the lateral raise, front raise, triceps kickback and seated curl. To view these exercises, select "Beginner" for the experience level and "Dumbbells" for the equipment.
Exercises to Avoid
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists cautions that certain exercises should be avoided as you progress through your pregnancy. Scuba diving and exertion in the supine position are absolutely inadvisable. Activities like skiing that increase the risk of falls should be avoided. Activities that cause extreme joint stress like running, tennis and other plyometric activities should be undertaken with caution. If you are a beginning exerciser, progress slowly and pay attention to pain, discomfort or spotting that may signal a problem.
- "IDEA Health and Fitness Journal"; Prenatal Progress; Andrea Talmadge; November 2006
- British Journal of Sports Medicine: Guidelines of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists for Exercise During Pregnancy and the Post-Partum Period
- American Council on Exericse: Strengthen Your Abdominals with Stability Balls