Performing squats in pregnancy might be beneficial as the simple movement of lowering the hips then standing back strengthens the lower half, pumps the heart rate, and tones the body. But there’s a catch, performing squats in excess may leave you feeling tired and weak. Hence, the benefits are limited to doing it in the required repetitions. Read on to know more about squats, their benefits, guidelines, and when to avoid squats. Also, it is better to consult a doctor before you begin them.
Is It Safe To Do Squats During Pregnancy?
Yes. Squats are one of the best exercises to keep you healthy and make you feel better during pregnancy, provided you do not overdo them or indulge in strenuous workouts.
You can continue with this exercise throughout, for a healthy pregnancy. However, it is advisable to check with your doctor before beginning any exercise routine during pregnancy.
Squats help build the lower body strength and facilitate smooth movement of the hips, core, and pelvic floor muscles. Squatting also helps open up your pelvis and assist your baby’s descent.
Benefits Of Squatting During Pregnancy
Now you know that squats are good for you and your baby. Let’s see them in detail:
- Strengthen glute muscles: Squat workouts help strengthen your glute muscles. Moreover, it helps maintain the shape of your bottom.
- Alleviate lower back ache: Your back pain, which is common during pregnancy, is relieved as squatting exercises help stretch your lower back areas. The pain is caused due to ligament loosening.
- Prevent constipation: A majority of women experience constipation as they near the end of pregnancy. Squats help in the normal functioning of the digestive system and relieve flatulence (1).
- An excellent birth posture: Squatting positions help you cope with contractions during labor. The exercises facilitate the expansion of the birth canal, and thus an easy descent of your baby. Squatting also helps in relaxation of the perineal muscles (2).
- Strengthen the leg muscles: Squatting during the third trimester help strengthen your leg muscles. Strong legs help in labor and the final push to give birth.
- Strengthen the pelvic floor muscles: Squatting helps to lower the pressure on pelvic floor muscles, strengthen them and prepare the muscles for birthing (3).
- Maintain center of gravity of the body: Squatting exercises during pregnancy help in maintaining the center of gravity of your body, which shifts during pregnancy (4).
As your pregnancy matures, there is discomfort in your body. Squatting alleviates the discomforts and keeps you fit.
Squats you can perform during pregnancy
Here are a few squatting exercises that you can try during pregnancy. Even though they are safe, check with your doctor before trying them.
1. Simple Squat
It is one the easiest squats to perform throughout your pregnancy without using any equipment. Simple squats will prevent or reduce the pain and discomfort in your lower back area.
How to do:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and turn your feet in an outward direction to maintain your balance.
- Bring both your arms in front of you and press your palms together. Slowly bend your legs in a deep squatting position.
- Open out your palms and press your knees with both your hands to make space for your tummy. Slightly bend towards the front, maintaining your balance.
- Hold the position until you feel comfortable.
2. Sumo squats
It targets the inner muscles of the thighs and glutes and opens up the hips.
How to do:
- Stand straight and keep your feet wider than shoulder-width apart with your toes pointing outward and knees in line with the toes.
- Lower yourself into the squat position as far as you are comfortable.
- Make sure that your knees do not cave in toward each other.
- Return to your normal position by squeezing your glutes up.
- Perform a set of this exercise with 10 to 15 repetitions.
3. Dumbbell Squat
They help in strengthening your leg muscles and glutes, also maintain the shape of your bottom.
How to do:
- Stand straight with feet shoulder-width apart.
- Take dumbbells in hand then stretch your arms towards the front for balance.
- Slowly lower your position into a squat position as far as you are comfortable, keeping your back straight and knees behind or in line with the toes.
- Now, return to the original position by squeezing your glutes muscles up.
- Perform a set of this exercise with 10 to 15 repetitions.
4. Box set-up squat
It helps strengthen your hips, glutes, quads, and lower back.
How to do:
- Put a box firmly on the floor. Place the foot of your first leg on it.
- Extend the knee of the first leg and hip to stand on the box. Then, place the foot of the second leg on the box.
- Step down with the second leg and return to original position by placing down the foot of the first leg.
- Repeat it with the other legs.
5. Deep Squat With Pelvic Floor Contraction
The pelvic floor muscles aid in supporting the uterus, bladder and other organs. As your bump grows during pregnancy, the muscles become weak. It is necessary to keep these muscles active to facilitate smooth delivery.
How to do:
- Stand facing a wall with your feet in a wide sumo squat position.
- Lower your body as much as you can without over-stretching.
- Keep your arms extended in front of you or hold onto the wall for balance.
- Once you attain this squat position, perform a Kegel exercise, wherein you squeeze your pelvic floor in such a way that you are trying to stop the flow of urine.
- Hold your body in this position for ten seconds and return to normal position.
Repeat this exercise for five times.
6. Squats Against Wall With Exercise Ball
This exercise helps in strengthening the core muscles during the squat movement.
How to do:
- Stand straight with your back erect against a wall.
- Keep an exercise ball between the wall and your lower back.
- Place your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Stretch out your arms in front of your body for balance.
- Lower yourself as far as you are comfortable.
- If you are putting a lot of pressure on your knees, then stretch your feet far enough maintaining a 90-degree angle at the knee.
- Return to the original position.
Perform a set of this exercise with 10 to 15 repetitions.
7. Chair Squats
This exercise, also known as half chair squats, works for women who are not comfortable with regular squats.
How to do:
- Stand erect with feet shoulder-width apart.
- Now, slightly sit back into the chair with your bottom resting on it for one to two seconds.
- Stand back to original position slowly using your glutes muscles.
- Once you are comfortable with the exercise, you can increase the duration of holding time to 15 seconds and gradually to 60 seconds.
Perform a set of 10 to 15 repetitions.
Apart from the above-mentioned squats, a few equipment-based squats can be performed during pregnancy. Before you start with squats, take your doctor’s advice. Based on your health condition, they can advise you on the squats that are safe for you.
How Do Physical Changes During Pregnancy Affect Squats?
You may begin squatting early in pregnancy, but as the weeks pass, your growing tummy and changing body will have an impact on the way you exercise. Therefore, you need to adjust your exercise routine to suit those changes.
Things to remember:
- The hormones produced during pregnancy cause the ligaments of the joints to stretch, which can lead to increased risk of injuries (5).
- An uneven distribution of your body weight shifts the center of gravity. Moreover, if you are using any equipment, the extra weight puts stress on the joints and muscles in the pelvic area and the lower back leading to loss of balance.
Basic Guidelines To Follow While Doing Squats
Here are a few safety tips you should remember while squatting in pregnancy:
- During the first trimester, you can increase the intensity of the workout as long as you are comfortable doing it. You may increase the number of repetitions.
- During the second trimester, lower the intensity of squatting because your tummy might just be growing. Also, stop doing exercises, which are difficult to perform.
- Ask somebody to be around, as you might need help with the props or in maintaining your balance.
- Drink a lot of water to keep yourself hydrated. Keep a water bottle with you and take sips in between the workouts.
- Wear loose fitting, comfortable cotton clothes that allow air to flow and prevent excessive sweating while squatting.
- Wear a good quality maternity bra that gives extra support to your breasts as you exercise. Do not wear under-wired bras as they may cause discomfort or pain while exercising.
- Your shoes should protect you against any injury when doing the squats. The shoe that you wear should have an anti-skid sole and fit you properly without hurting the toes. Tie the shoelaces properly before beginning any exercise.
- Perform the squats on a flat surface to avoid any risk of slipping and falling.
- Avoid doing squats right after the meal. Maintain a gap of one hour or so between your meals and the exercise regime.
- Avoid performing squats on an empty stomach.
- Avoid overdoing the squat exercises. If you feel exhausted, then stop doing it or slow down your activity.
In spite of the safety precautions, squats can prove to be bad in certain cases.
When Should You Not Squat?
There are times when you should avoid squats:
1. When baby is not in an optimal position after 30 weeks.
If your baby is not in a head-down position, avoid performing squats. Squatting might push the baby’s bottom further down to the pelvis into an awkward position. If your baby turns into an optimal position (i.e., head-down), then you can start squatting again.
While doing squats, if you experience any pain then stop exercising. Discuss your squatting technique with your doctor before resuming your exercise.
3. Medical reasons
If you have any medical complications such as low-lying placenta, the risk of preterm labor, placenta previa, short or funneling cervix, or multiple pregnancies then you would not want to induce early labor by squatting.
Can Squats Induce Labor?
Yes. They can. Squatting helps open the pelvic area and strengthen the muscles around it. The pelvic opening provides more space for your baby to descend the uterus, which causes the cervix dilate, thereby inducing labor.
When you squat to induce labor, it creates more room for the baby to move down into the birth canal.
A study has found that women who deliver in a squatting position (6):
- Have fewer chances of instruments, such as forceps, being used for the delivery.
- Can avoid second and third degree perineal tears.
- Have less need for an extension of episiotomies.
From the first trimester to the delivery, squats during pregnancy can help you at every stage. Squats can also help you go through smooth labor. However, you should begin with light and simple exercises. You may gradually increase the intensity to a certain level once you think your body is strong enough and has the required stamina. Also, remember you can do them only if you are feeling comfortable. Therefore, the best thing is to consult your doctor before beginning your squat exercise regimen.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is it safe to do squats in my third trimester?
You can perform squats in all trimesters of pregnancy unless your doctor has advised you not to or you have certain pregnancy-related complications (7).
2. What muscles are used when squatting?
Over 200 muscles are at work while squatting. Some of them are (8):
- Soleus at posterior of the leg
- Quadriceps femoris (vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius, and rectus femoris) about the knees
- Gluteus maximus (GM) and the hamstrings at the hips
- Muscles supporting the vertebral column such as transversus abdominis, erector spinae, quadratus lumborum, and deep posterior spinal group
- Roger L. Hammer et al.
(2000); Exercise During the Childbearing Year.
- S.A. Fazlani; (2004); Protocols for Exercise during Pregnancy.
- Pelvic floor exercises.
- Preventing a Fall During Pregnancy: Strength and Balance Exercises.
- Exercise During Pregnancy
- Ayesha Nasir et al., (2007); Child birth in squatting position
- Squats for pregnant women: prenatal fitness tips
- BRAD J. SCHOENFELD (2010); SQUATTING KINEMATICS AND KINETICS AND THEIR APPLICATION TO EXERCISE PERFORMANCE
- Safety and Benefits of Exercise.
- Not All Squats Are Created Equal in Labor & Birth.