Train to Beat Back Pain


By Lisa Rhea

Pregnant or not, back pain affects so many people and often leads to inactivity. But many times, the cure is actually exercise.

Strengthening your core and posterior chain can make the world of difference for many with back pain, and is completely safe (for those cleared by their doctor to exercise) during pregnancy.

Today, I’m focusing on some of my favorite exercises the posterior chain. This is especially important during pregnancy, when core function becomes limited. While there are several core strengthening exercises that are safe that I recommend for pregnancy (which I’ll share next time), training your glutes during pregnancy is one of the best ways to ward off back pain.

Last pregnancy I gained 35 pounds, and my baby weighed 8 pounds, 8 ounces (born on his due date!) yet I never suffered from back pain. I was able to remain active up until he was born and had a very comfortable pregnancy.

This pregnancy so far, at 23 weeks in and on track to have another big boy, I have yet to have any problems. While I certainly limit impact exercises and have restrictions due to safety concerns, I’m getting a good workout in five days a week. I’m on my feet and out and about, chasing my little one around, all without discomfort.

One thing holds true for both pregnancies – I do a lot of glute activation exercises, squats, thrusters, sumo deadlifts and step work. Even if you haven’t been exercising or weight training, I recommend adding bodyweight versions of these exercises to your daily routine to help curb pregnancy back pain.

Glute Activator

This is my favorite sequence for firing up my glutes. I do this at the start of every workout so that I can make the mind-muscle connection with my posterior as I do other exercises. Alone, completing several rounds is a great workout as well.

When I use this as a warm-up, I do 2 rounds of 10 reps for each exercises /each leg. I also do this routine a couple times a week for 3-4 rounds of 10 reps each exercises/each leg as part of my main workout.

The key is to go slow, focus on squeezing your glutes and pausing a bit at the top of the motion.

For more great glute exercises, check out my post Got Glutes? A Quick Guide to a Better Backside – to modify the floor exercises for pregnancy, simply place your shoulders on a bench or bosu ball.


Squats are definitely my favorite, I must admit. They simply work the best for completely working your lower body. Good form is essential and it’s never to late to learn. Check out Squat School with Johnny Griffiths for several great coaching cues to get your squats in check.

During pregnancy, some women have very loose joints. I have never noticed any difficulties with controlling my movement during squats, but if you feel unstable, consider doing box squats, as shown here. Simply choose a box that is your desired depth of squat, and align your feet at the base. Lower down slowly, until you’re sitting on the box, then quickly rise back up. Remember to keep your knees out, chest up and focus on keeping tension in your glutes.


Deadlifts are excellent for working your entire posterior chain, but the form can be tricky if you’re new to lifting. One excellent option is to use a kettlebell. This removes the bar placement confusion. While I typically prefer conventional deadlifts myself, during pregnancy, I turn to sumo deadlifts as they provide room for my belly during the movement.

Keeping your knees out and your hips open, be sure to control the decent and squeeze through the glutes on the way up. One common mistake is to spread your feet so wide that you’re not actually sitting back at all and unable to open the hips.


Looking for a great full body conditioning exercise that will hit both your glutes and your core? Look no further. Thrusters are an excellent compound movement that will get your heart pumping without any jolting impact. These involve a squat, and again, if you’re not secure in your squatting, use a bench or box.

I like to use a barbell, but many prefer dumbbells, which allow for a neutral grip (palms facing in). Use whichever you are comfortable with. You don’t want to load the weight too high, given the vulnerability of the shoulder joints. Again, the goal is to control the movement.

Step Repeats

A great cardio option for building your glutes is stair work. This could be on the step mill inside, or my preference – on a long set of stairs outside. To get the focus on your rear instead of your quads and calves, be sure to keep your weight in your heels as you step. Leaning forward and/or skipping steps can also increase tension in the posterior.

If pregnant, be sure to hold on to the railing if unsteady and be conscientious of any pelvic pain. For some, single leg/alternating leg movements can cause pelvic discomfort. If you’re feeling pressure on your pelvic floor, slow down and avoid all impact. For me, there’s a point during my second trimester where I have to stop running and start walking. I just take shorter rest breaks and receive the same cardio benefit.

Give these a try and let me know if you have any questions. Stay tuned for my pregnancy core training recommendations next time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s