So much attention seems to be focused on pregnant women remaining safely active, staying adequately nourished and hydrated, and preparing for childbirth. What we really need is to zone in on the real-life scenarios that come after delivery, especially in terms of the muscles involved in the tasks ahead. Here is why.

Our daughter had been an avid exerciser for years, and pregnancy was not about to stop her. She continued to engage in her usual yoga, weights, and hiking for as long as possible throughout the course of 9 months. Even so, she experienced one of those “I sure wish I had known about that before” moments.


Our granddaughter, like all 2-month-old infants, has her fussy moments. When this occurs, her mommy walks around with her, bounces her, and cradles her in one arm while attempting to get the little lady to take a bottle with her other hand. If this sounds like a challenge, it truly is…as well as quite taxing on certain muscles.

The observation of all of this multitasking led to the realization that someone needs to inform potential new mothers of exactly what muscles they need to strengthen, during pregnancy or before.

Prenatal Programming Considerations

Cradling a baby with a single arm, supporting the head and neck, places a significant load on the bicep and shoulder muscles. Bouncing the infant to facilitate a burp or simply to calm her relies on strong quadriceps muscles. Walking around the house for countless sleepless hours can wreak havoc on the muscles in the lower back if they have not been appropriately strengthened prior to the blessed little one’s arrival.

A comprehensive prenatal exercise program could easily incorporate exercises for these specific muscle groups while keeping mom’s health and safety in mind. Shoulders respond quite well to shrugs while holding heavy dumbbells. Dumbbell front raises, too, will encourage muscular development in the anterior head of the deltoid.

A basic bicep curl, executed either with dumbbells or a barbell, will strengthen the arms that will be supporting an ever-increasing weight as baby grows. Muscular endurance will be required here, so a program of lighter weights and higher volume is a prudent approach.

Quadriceps can be cultivated by performing stationary or walking lunges. Again, high volume is the key here, using little or no weight during the motion. Good form on these lunges can also help strengthen the lower back.

Prenatal Prevention Strategies

The best ally an expectant mother can have is good posture. As the months go by, it is easy to see how the load in front of the body causes the back to compensate, and not in a safe way. Pulling in the abs and keeping the hips in alignment will ensure that the lower back acquires the stability it will soon need.

Trainers, enlighten your soon-to-be-new moms with what awaits them…not only the joys of a newborn, but also the need for specific muscular strength and endurance.

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Cathleen Kronemer

Cathleen Kronemer is an NFPT CEC writer and a member of the NFPT Certification Council Board. Cathleen is an AFAA-Certified Group Exercise Instructor, NSCA-Certified Personal Trainer, ACE-Certified Health Coach, former competitive bodybuilder and freelance writer. She is employed at the Jewish Community Center in St. Louis, MO. Cathleen has been involved in the fitness industry for over three decades. Feel free to contact her at She welcomes your feedback and your comments!