Good alignment helps everything, health-wise. Just like getting the wheels on your car aligned helps tires last longer, moving in alignment will help prevent unnecessary wear on your body. It also helps you function better in general – which applies to all your biological jobs, including pregnancy.
One exercise I give all my prenatal clients is the squat – modified. Squatting is an exercise that helps create better pelvic alignment – and it’s a natural way to improve pelvic floor function & glute and hamstring strength (which improves walking, which improves pelvic floor function…). It’s also pretty darned fun.
However, a full squat is a fairly advanced exercise for most North American bodies, since we have spent our lives in chairs and on toilets for all the activities that once would have meant squatting. As a result, it’s best to do seriously modified squats – all the benefits of a full squat, but none of the damage that can happen when we try to do a ‘natural’ thing without the years and years of practice we once would have had.
The nice thing about all squat prep work is that it, too, helps create all around better alignment and improved pelvic floor health. Lower leg health, back health, and hip health too.
So today I’d like to show you my favourite squat prep exercise. Once you get the hang of this, you’ll be able to do it every time you get out of a chair. I love that this makes it a (relatively) easy exercise to work into your day.
Before you start working on this squat, though, you should spend a bit of time getting to know your hamstrings. This will help you get a mental understanding of how to do the exercise, which is important because it’s very easy to use your old motor programs here. The bridge is also a great exercise in it’s own right! Here’s how:
Once you are warmed up with a few bridges, you can move to a chair and try applying the ‘backwards’ motion to your squat. This is best done in front of a mirror so you can make sure your shins STAY VERTICAL. Any sneaking forward is cheating, and will mean you’re not getting the full benefit of the work.
Try getting out of the chair your normal way first, and notice how far forward your knees go as you’re standing up. Then work on maintaining a vertical shin as you rise. You will probably need to lean far forward to do this – you may also find it helpful to hold a weight like a kettlebell or a gallon of milk in your hands, or to get a friend to hold your hands to support you as you come up. As you gain strength you won’t need this any more. And remember – the way to keep your shins vertical is to feel like you’re moving backwards – even think about pulling your knees back in space.
GIANT BRAND NEW TIP – I just discovered that this gets easier the further back in the chair that you sit. So if the edge is impossible, scoot your bottom back and try it there. Gradually move forward until you find the point that is doable but still a challenge.
If you still find this very difficult, it might be a bit too advanced for you at this time. Don’t worry, though – here’s what you can practice: First, start by prepping your joints and getting length into your calves and hamstrings, here. Next, you can practice your squat holding onto a door knob or pole, like Taylor is demo’ing in this awesome post. Work on getting that backwards knee feeling and only use as much support as you actually need. And do plenty of bridges. Go back and try the chair squat again every week or so – soon you’ll be killing it.
One thing to remember – this is movement, not exercise. So don’t do 3 sets of 15 squats – your body doesn’t need 45 squats in 15 minutes. Instead, just try for a few sprinkled over the day – 6-10 is awesome – or just do it when you stand up out of a chair. Good times!
P.S. Not having a baby? Try this anyway – all humans should be squatting regularly for optimal health.