Being a mom means being constantly busy. While being busy is not necessarily a bad thing, it can mean that mom misses out on some very important “me” time. Everyday activities like picking up baby, cleaning and doing laundry, and getting in and out of the car can take a toll on the body, especially when the accompanying movements are done incorrectly. Here are 4 exercises that you can do at home- or anywhere for that matter- that will help you get moving and change the way you do your everyday exercises.
Squats are the kind of exercise that can make everyday activities go from good to great in a very short amount of time. Just thinking about everyday activity and normal motions that we perform, the squat is an integral part of our everyday routine! However, with disconnection to our muscles and repeated utilization of poor form, we often go from great to bad without even realizing it. The squat is meant to strengthen the gluteus, hamstrings, and quadriceps all while protecting the joints of the knees, hips, and low back.
So where do we go wrong? Often times, our squats are accompanied by pronating (feet flattening inward) ankles, excessive forward leans in our torso, knees that extend beyond the toes and occasionally bow outward or concave inward. All of these things contribute to poor form, a good amount of unnecessary force on our joints, and overall discomfort that could be avoided.
The correct form for a squat should have feet hip width apart, knees behind the toes, ankles, knees, and hip in alignment and no sign of excessive forward lean.
Lunges are another exercise that is great for building strength through the gluteal muscles, hamstrings, and quadriceps. When done correctly, you should feel the work being done primarily in the gluteus and hamstrings with secondary work in the quads.
Two common mistakes with lunges are:
1. Letting the front knee go excessively beyond the toe
2. Dropping the back knee all the way down to the floor.
Ideally you want to create two 90 degree angles at the knee and hip of the front leg when performing a lunge. You always want to take a good size step to allow you to sink into your glutes. Too short of a step will cause you to put more work and strain into your knees. Too large of a step will cause you to over stretch the muscles and reduce the effectiveness of the lunge.
Push-ups are designed to increase strength in the pectoral muscles, triceps, core, and shoulders. In addition to increasing strength, building up pectoral muscle is beneficial for breast tissue support. When doing push-ups you want to make sure that you are targeting the pectoral muscles and not primarily working the deltoids (shoulders). Hands should be about shoulder width apart, it’s ok to go a little wider, and in line with your chest. As you lower to the floor, you should inhale in your nose from your diaphragm, belly expanding outward. As you begin your ascent up, exhale from your mouth tightening your abdominal muscles to support your back.
You can perform two different versions of a push-up:
1. Standard form requires you to be on your hands and toes. The movements should still be the same as described above.
2. Modified form requires you to have your hands and knees on the floor. To perform this version, start with your body in the standard form then lower your knees down to the floor keeping your back straight and your core braced. Continue your push-up as described above.
If neither option works for you, consider using a desk or even the wall to increase your strength and ability to perform a push-up.
Planks are a great exercise for building the core. Not just affecting the superficial abdominal that we can see, planks target the oblique muscles and the transverse abdominis (TVA) which gives us stability in our lower back as well. There are many variations that you can utilize to get in a great core workout. However, when getting back into the swing of things, I recommend the basic plank. When working on building back up the core, many people try to hold their planks for at least 30 seconds. In my personal and professional experience, 30 seconds is too long to attempt to hold a plank when first building true core strength.
One of the best ways to build core endurance and ensure that your plank is perfect every time is to perform 10 second planks. By isolating and focusing on hold your plank perfectly for 10 seconds, you eliminate the risk of poor form over the course of your plank. Studies have even shown that your core is stronger and has better endurance when doing 10 second plank variations versus a standard crunch routine.
When performing your 10 second plank, always begin on your forearms and toes, or forearm and knees for a modified version. By starting on your forearms you are more conscious about how far your hips and mid-section are from the ground, thus making it harder to allow the lower back to slump down. Breathing into your nose, exhale from your mouth as if you are blowing out of a straw. What this does is tighten up your TVA keeping your core box nice and strong and eliminating the possibility of lower back slump. Holding for 10 seconds, you are trying your hardest to have the perfect plank. Once your 10 seconds are complete, you will rest for 5 seconds before performing another plank. You want to get to 10 repetitions of 10 second planks with 5 seconds of rest in between each plank. This will build up your endurance, allowing you to eventually increase your time on your plank.
Want in on more exercise tips from Kerri? Join us on Thursdays at 10:30 am for “Moving Mamas” at Baby+Company Cary.
**Please note: this class is for mothers at least 6 weeks postpartum who have received the ok from their health professional to start back an exercise program. There will be a $15 charge for each class (please bring cash, credit card) and we will be convening outside so please dress yourself and your babes appropriately for the weather.**