Planks are a kind of abs exercise that involves holding your body in a straight line off the ground, and it helps strengthen your back and core muscles.
While it’s generally safe to do planks when pregnant, planking can become more difficult as your cycle progresses, and some complications can arise.
So, when should you stop doing planks when pregnant?
If you lead an active lifestyle, you can continue your plank routine in your first trimester. However, you should quit planking by the fourth month of your pregnancy cycle.
As your uterus expands, your abs muscles also stretch and become increasingly weaker. As a result, practicing planks after the first three months of pregnancy can reinforce the strain on your core, causing diastasis recti.
Read on to discover more about planking and your prepartum period.
What is diastasis recti?
Diastasis recti happen when the connective tissue between the right and left abs muscle (linea alba) is overstretched and does not come back together, causing a gap in your belly.
This condition often results from increased pressure on the abdominal wall during pregnancy but may also be acquired (that is, a person may be born with it).
Symptoms associated with diastasis recti include:
- A bulge or pooch below or above the belly button
- A coning in your belly
- Weakness in the abdomen
- Low back pain
- Poor posture
When to stop doing planks during pregnancy
You should avoid planking if:
You’re in your second or third trimester
Although planking helps strengthen the abs muscles, it can threaten your abdominal health during your second or third trimester. So, you should avoid it during this period.
Also, planks may disrupt your breathing pattern during this period, making it difficult for your growing baby to get oxygen.
Your abdomen bulges while holding a plank position
If you experience a coning or doming during your plank section, your cores are likely too weak to cope with the intra-abdominal pressure. Stop the exercise.
You’re entirely new to planking
It’s generally not advisable to learn planks while pregnant. If you haven’t yet mastered the form or breathing to use when planking, opt for non-ab exercises until after child delivery.
Your doctor disapproves of it
Ask your doctor before starting or continuing any exercise during pregnancy, especially if you have a history of miscarriage, premature birth, or other complications. If they say you shouldn’t plank, then listen to them!
You’ve been previously diagnosed with diastasis recti
If you have diastasis recti, planks can make the condition worse. If you’re not sure whether or not you have diastasis recti, consult with a health professional.
Other Abs exercises you should avoid when pregnant
Best abs exercises to do when pregnant
Pregnancy doesn’t entirely exempt you from exercising your core. The following are some recommended abs workouts you can do prenatal.
- Lie face-up on a mat with your chin tucked into your neck and your shoulders on the ground.
- Putting your soles together in a frog-like position, squeeze your glutes to move your hips upward towards the ceiling.
- Next, gently press your lower back into the ground, drawing your belly button to engage your midsection.
- Complete five reps.
- Keeping the back straight, bend on all fours with your shoulders directly over your wrists and hips over your knees.
- Keeping the back straight, extend the right arm and left leg while engaging the core muscles.
- Hold the position for a few seconds, then return to the start position.
- Repeat on the opposite side. This is one rep.
- Do two sets of 4 reps.
- Begin on all fours with a neutral spine.
- Inhale and move your tailbone upwards and chest forward in a cow pose position. Allow your belly to sink.
- Next, exhale to round your spine outward, draw your pelvis forward and tuck in the tailbone (cat position).
- Repeat points 2 and 3 simultaneously for 5-10 seconds.
- Lie face-up on a mat with your palms facing downwards and flex your legs to knee level.
- Place feet shoulder-width apart and keep the spine straight.
- Inhale as you draw your pelvis slightly up towards your ribs. Hold for 5 seconds.
- Exhale to return to proper form.
- Do five reps
This exercise will activate your entire rectus abdominis and transversus abdominis (TVA).
- Start on your back with your feet off the floor and your knees bent.
- Raise your arms towards the ceiling.
- Next, lower your right leg as you extend it towards the floor. Simultaneously, bring your left arm up to your ear.
- Hold the position for 3 seconds while activating the core muscles. Do not allow your back to come off the floor.
- Slowly return to the start position and repeat on the opposite arm and leg.
This exercise will strengthen your core muscles without having to do much work. Here’s how to do pallof press
- Tie one end of a resistance band to a sturdy structure such as a pole or related objects.
- Hold the free end of the resistance bands up by your chest with both hands. This should create tension in the band.
- While you exhale, push the band away from your body by straightening your arms forward. Engage your core muscles to prevent the band from pulling you towards the pole.
- Hold this position for 4 seconds and slowly return the band to your chest.
- You will require a dumbbell or kettlebell to do this exercise.
- Stand in an erect position.
- Hold one weight in the right hand with your arms by your sides. Do not allow it to touch your thighs.
- Begin walking forward with your feet. Engage your core as you move to prevent your torso from bending laterally.
- Continue for 3 minutes.
- Repeat on the left hand.
Benefits of abs exercises during pregnancy
No doubt, abs training can help you return to your usual shape postpartum.
Other benefits of core exercises during pregnancy include;
- It strengthens your abdominal muscles
- It decreases the risk of low back pain
- It helps reduce the risk of diastasis recti
- Improves posture
- Increased postpartum recovery
Planks are excellent exercises for working the core muscles but are not recommended at certain stages of pregnancy; you should stop doing planks after the first three months of your pregnancy cycle.