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Do oblique exercises on a stability ball to boost the intensity.
Your oblique muscles along the sides of your abdomen help you twist your upper body and bend from side to side. Performing seated oblique exercises during all three trimesters of pregnancy can strengthen these muscles, decreasing pregnancy-related back pain and improving your posture, notes Dr. Paula Amato in the book "Pregnancy Day by Day." Because doing abdominal exercises on your back can decrease the flow of blood to your baby, it's safer to do oblique exercises from a seated position. Talk to your obstetrician before trying any new exercise while pregnant.
Target your obliques with side bends. Sit up straight with your arms at your sides. Keeping your arms and torso straight, bend to the right and reach your fingertips toward the floor. Return to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side. You can also do oblique twists by leaning back slightly, bending your elbows and holding your hands close to your chest. Twist your torso to the left until you feel tension in your obliques and then twist to the right. Or do the leg lift and twist exercise by sitting on the edge of your seat with your right knee bent and right foot on the floor. Extend your left leg until it is straight as you twist your upper body to the left. Repeat on the opposite side. For best results, aim for 20 repetitions of each exercise on each side.
Mix It Up
As long as you are accustomed to it and your doctor approves, you can increase the intensity of each seated oblique exercise by holding a pair of dumbbells or a medicine ball. You can also sit on a stability ball as you exercise, which will force your oblique muscles to work harder as you struggle to remain upright on the ball. As your oblique strength improves, you can elevate one or both feet as you exercise to further challenge your muscles.
Position your stance wide to keep your body stabilized as you perform seated oblique exercises. Concentrate on using your oblique muscles to perform each exercise. Do not allow your arms or neck to do any of the work -- not only can this lead to injury, it reduces the tension in your obliques. Always sit up straight and keep your spine in a neutral position as you perform the exercises -- never arch or curve your back, which can lead to discomfort.
Immediately stop doing oblique exercises and consult your doctor if you experience extreme shortness of breath, dizziness, amniotic fluid leakage, contractions, vaginal bleeding, intense muscle weakness or chest pain. Dr. Amato in "Pregnancy Day by Day" warns that these could be signs of a serious complication, such as pre-term labor. Always breathe properly when exercising. Exhale during the contraction part of the oblique exercise -- when you are twisting or bending -- and inhale as you return to the starting position.