Becoming a mom is like being thrown into a sport that you’ve never trained for. There are so many movements that you’ll repeat over and over again, and over time, these movements can cause injury if they are executed improperly. Sometimes it’s not even a matter of improper execution, but just repeating the movement too much without counter movements.
There are 3 movements that we need to train for specifically
Carrying a car seat: The problem is that car seats are quite large, and the handle must be held far from the body. This challenges your core and when you don’t have the specific strength and endurance for this movement it can cause unilateral (one-sided) low back pain due to the strain/pull on the back
How to train for this: The farmer’s carry is a great exercise to train for car-seat carrying. Hold a weight (or your empty car seat) as far away from your body as possible. Be aware of your core and try to keep your body even, even though the weight wants to pull you over to one side. Walk a straight line for at least 30 seconds, and then repeat on the other arm. Ensure that your strength is even on both sides so that your body is able to carry the car-seat on both sides. As you get stronger, increase the weight. Post birth, try to have a partner do the heavy lifting for the first 6 weeks as you heal from childbirth.
Picking a baby up out of a crib: This is a tough movement, because the weight (the baby) is far from your body, and you’re separated by the crib. Some cribs can lower to allow for an easier pick up, but there is still a good chance that you will lift improperly. Lifting with a rounded back can cause back pain, or even worse, disc herniation.
How to train for this: There are two muscles that need to be strong to execute this movement. The shoulders and the back extensors. These can be trained with one very specific movement called the bent over front raise. Holding two light weights in your hands, hinge at the hips with a straight back and engaged core. Hold this position as you lift your arms up and down, without lifting the shoulders up towards the ears. Repeat 15 reps for 3 sets. Add a mini band around the wrists for extra work in the shoulders.
Picking a baby up off the floor: Similar to lifting a baby out of a crib, this lift has the potential to cause back pain or injury if executed improperly. Many people don’t have the mobility to get down into a deep squat, so they end up rounding the spine to reach the floor.
How to train for this: Because you need to lift from lower down, your lift will look more like a deep squat. Unlike the crib lift, you will be using more of an elbow bend which requires strong biceps. The perfect exercise to train for this lift is a squat curl. You will hold two dumbbells in your hands (10-15lbs), squat down, perform a bicep curl at the bottom of the squat, stand up with a straight back, and repeat 15 reps for 3 sets.
There are also 2 mom-specific positions to consider, that require countermovements to keep you balanced and injury free.
Breast or bottle feeding: As a new mom, you are spending a good chunk of your time (40 minutes every 2-3 hours) feeding your baby. You are more than likely cuddling your little one with a rounded back and shoulders while you feed.
How to train for this: This is quite tough to “train” for, so instead, we counter that position with movements that strengthen the back (postural muscles), and movements that mobilize the front (chest and shoulders). A great countermovement to do is the reverse fly. When done correctly, can strengthen the muscles that pull the shoulder blades together (rhomboids) to help balance your posture.
Holding baby on one hip: We all tend to hold things on one side of the body, and it’s usually to keep our dominant hand free to perform tasks. When you are consistently holding a baby on one hip/arm, you will start to feel pain on one side of your back, as well as in the wrist. Aside from pain, your body is creating strength imbalances since we don’t tend to switch sides.
How to train for this: There are many things we can do to counteract the imbalances and pain points we create by holding baby on one side only. We start by balancing the strength in your legs. Single leg get-ups allow you to figure out which leg is weaker, and working one leg at a time helps to balance the strength out. Start with your weaker leg, see how many you can do, and then balance it out on the stronger side.
The second thing we can do is balance out our strength on both sides of the core. Your obliques opposite your baby holding side will be stronger (they pull you into neutral when you have the weight of your baby on the other side). Try doing side plank hip dips to balance both sides. These can be done from the knees or from the toes (depending on your fitness level).
The last thing we can do to counter holding baby on your hip is to mobilize the wrists. This is a really important mobility exercise to do to stay injury free in the wrists. Try this wrist mobility sequence to keep the wrists free of pain!
There you have it! Add these exercises to your toolbox to train for the specific movements and positions you will surely find yourself in during the first year post-birth. Treat it like a very specific sport you’re training for and keep your body strong and mobile, and ready for all of the physical challenges that come along with having a baby! The earlier you start, the better. Start training for these movements during pregnancy, and you will be well prepared for when the baby comes :)
Please remember that after giving birth, your first priority is healing. The first 6 weeks are all about recovery. Here is a free download outlining your 5 step blueprint to pregnancy and childbirth recovery.
Healthy Moms cardholders receive $50 off the Glowing Mama 101 course. See Stephanie Sibbio's business listing to find out more: https://gohealthymoms.com/stephanie-sibbio-fitness-nutrition-coach