It’s a new day and a new week. After feeling pretty crummy some of last week, this week feels like a refreshing change. After a few days off to regain my normal strength, I am back to my workouts. I returned to yoga this past weekend and completed a heavier lifting session too. It feels good to feel more like my normal self.
I’ll be honest. My workouts are starting to feel more challenging. Sometimes, a lot more challenging. As the baby grows, I lose my breath much more quickly. Belly pumping helps keep my diaphragm strong, but eventually you just have less room for it to expand.
I’ve also noticed my joints feel softer and looser. Squatting heavy sometimes leaves my hips and knees feeling a little sore, which normally doesn’t happen. I compensate by moving a little more slowly through my movements so I’m extra careful to maintain good form. This loosening happens naturally at this late stage in pregnancy. The relaxin levels are beginning to increase in my body. It doesn’t help that because I was still breastfeeding, my body was still producing relaxin when I got pregnant with this bambino.
Lastly, and also related to increased relaxin levels, the biggest change I’ve been dealing with is some symphysis pubic diastasis (SPD)–or a separation of the pubic bone. The biggest symptom is pelvic girdle pain. This one I’ve been feeling for a few months. I had mentioned it to my doctor and again, since my body never fully recovered from my last pregnancy, I experienced this earlier than most women would (if they ever do–I didn’t have this with Isla at all!) I can literally feel my pubic bone pulling apart during certain movements. Ouch! This pain is most noticeable during single leg exercises. So, some days I avoid these types of exercises, or modify them.
However, despite these changes and challenges, I charge on. Because the truth is, when I don’t exercise, I feel worse. Even last week, taking a few days off meant I experienced some back pain. Back story (pun kind of intended), I broke my back almost 10 years ago. Back pain was supposed to be a regular thing for me, but thank goodness, with the right exercises I feel great! After all the experiences I’ve been through, exercise is always worth it!
Thinking about my exercise programs, modified or not, I think primarily about functional movements. These are movements that mimic movements we make in every day life. For example, while we aren’t necessarily doing push ups, we are pushing car doors closed. While we aren’t doing back squats with a barbell on our back, we are (or should be) squatting to pick things up off the ground.
Today’s post is about a functional exercise that is one of my favorites. Many people suffer back pain due to poor posture and while there is much you can do to improve your posture, my favorite exercise for helping change posture is rows. A standard pulling exercise, working a critical muscle group.
Rows can be completed with bands, cables, dumbells, kettlebells–you name it! It’s versatile and is great at opening up the chest and activating our upper and mid-back muscles. Muscles that, in our world of desk jobs and smart phones (which mean we’re constantly hunched over), are typically underactive.
I generally teach this exercise with three different grips.
Palms facing in…
Palms facing up…
Palms facing down…
By rotating the hands in this way, you are also rotating the shoulders blade, thereby strengthening the maximum muscle fibers. No matter what piece of equipment you’re using, there are four pieces in a row that I find most important:
- Keep your shoulders down and away from your ears. Shut down those upper traps that want to do everything for you!
- Keep your core neutral. You don’t want your spine curving, so keep your abdominal muscles activated and strong.
- Retract your scapula (ie. squeeze your shoulder blades together). This is the actual exercise. Hold this squeeze for a couple of seconds to work the proper muscles.
- Keep your shoulders from rolling forward as the arm re-extends. If you roll the shoulders too far forward, you will reactivate your chest muscles. Remember your back is the primary mover in this exercise, not your chest!
I encourage you to try this exercise today. Whether you expereince back pain or not, this is a movement we should all be doing properly. Push ups get all the glory, but pulling exercises are just as important!
What exercises do you incorporate in your workouts to improve posture? What exercises helped you after an injury? Share in the comments below.