It amazes me how much physical work I’ll do in a single morning with my boys: Wrangle 3-year-old out of Batman jammies, dress octopus-like baby, crawl on kitchen floor in search of dropped Lego (so baby doesn’t eat it), remove baby from dog’s water dish 47 times, lug car seat to car while trying not to spill hot coffee in outstretched arm … and it’s only 9am. Whew!
Motherhood is one heckuva sport. It’s physically demanding, the rules are constantly changing and your opponent (if you want to look at it that way) is constantly growing. Strategy and technique are important, but it also helps to do some strength training. Following are three exercises all moms should master to stay on top of their game.
The word “deadlift” might sound scary, but all it means is to pick something up from the ground. In the gym, that something is a non-moving object such as a barbell or kettlebell. Mamas, your object is a moving target that gets bigger and faster by the day. You deadlift every time you take your baby out of the bathtub, pick your kid up off the floor, bend over to grab the laundry basket, and probably countless other times every day. Here’s the right way to do it:1. Stand directly in front of your weight (ie. barbell, baby, etc.) with feet at shoulder width. With your weight in your heels, push your hips back and bend your knees to reach both hands toward the weight. Your back should be flat and your abs engaged. Your hips should come below your shoulders and above your knees.2. Grasp the weight, keeping your shoulders pulled back and lats engaged.3. Squeeze your glutes and drive your hips forward to straighten your legs and rise to standing. As you rise, keep your arms straight and keep the weight(s) as close to your body as possible.To continue the movement (when performing reps in the gym, or lowering your child to the ground):
4. Push your hips back and softly bend your knees to lower the weight(s) to mid-calf height. Your hips should form a hinge and your back should remain flat from your tailbone to the top of your head.
5. Rise to standing as in step 3.
Standing Band Row
You likely don’t do a lot of rowing or pulling movements as a mom. But that’s exactly why you should do them in your workouts. Moms are constantly leaning or moving forward: while nursing, holding a baby, driving, taking a break from the madness by perusing Facebook on your phone. All of these movements put us in a forward posture, which eventually creates a slumpy, slouchy appearance and can result in low back pain and other imbalances.
To prevent this, one of the best exercises you can do is a cable or resistance band row. This move strengthens the muscles of your upper back and shoulders, helping you stand upright. To do it:
1. Stand in front of a cable pulley machine, or anchor a resistance band around a secure surface. Grab both handles of the cable or band and take a few steps backward until you feel slight tension.
2. With your arms fully extended and palms facing inward, assume an athletic stance, with feet at shoulder width, knees slightly bent, and abs engaged.
3. Pull both handles toward you, making sure to squeeze your shoulder blades together at the end of the movement.
4. Slowly release the handles to return to your starting position.
The farmer’s walk is basically the same thing as carrying your groceries into the house. You can load all of your bags in one hand, or you can distribute the weight on both sides of your body. You can perform the same exercise using dumbbells or kettlebells. If you load one side of your body heavier than the other, you’ll be forced to use your obliques (side abs) to maintain an upright posture. Regardless of how you load your body, it’s important to stay neutral through your spine. This means you are keeping your lower abdominal muscles engaged to avoid arching your back or rounding forward. Here’s how to do an offset farmer’s walk:
1. Choose two unevenly weighted dumbbells, such as 15- and 30-pounds. Hold one dumbbell in each hand. Stand upright and keep your abdominal muscles engaged and shoulders pulled back.
2. Walk forward, maintaining neutral alignment through your spine. To do this, focus on keeping your ribs directly over your hips and do not allow your body to tilt toward one side.