Training for Motherhood: Squats and Carries

{A little side story, because it rocks!} Just recently, my husband and I decided to join a gym close to our house, since all of our belongings including my beloved garage gym is all packed up until next year (#militarylife).

I was getting my AMP workout on last week and was in love with a conversation I’d heard amongst a few chicks. They were maybe 18 or 19. They were lifting weights. I could tell they were new to the scene but they were determined and so encouraging to one another. The best part was when I heard them say how stoked they were for their muscles to get BIGGER. WHAT?! I got goosebumps. I’ll be honest and say growing larger was definitely not a goal of mine when I was their age (a decade ago?!)

Not only is muscle on women incredibly gorgeous and feminine, it’s pretty essential especially during our childbearing years. As our bodies go through incredible transformations growing babies, muscle is what can support that change and help our bodies shift and grow with ease.

Last week, in part one of this series, we discussed the importance of incorporating push and pull movements in our workouts to reflect the common movements we perform daily as mothers. This week in part two, we will focus on the core and lower body (my favorite!)

Some of you may have heard me talk about the importance of having a strong core and lower body as a mother before. #MomsNeedGlutes. But why is that? Aesthetically, having a nice bum is well…nice. But there’s so much more to it. Considering where our baby grows, how our bellies protrude out and down, how much pressure there is on our lower backs and pelvis, building and keeping a strong core and glute system is incredibly important for us during pregnancy but even more important afterwards. As the core and glutes act as stabilizers of both the spine and pelvis, not only will your body be more comfortable supporting such physical change during pregnancy, but a smoother recovery postpartum is more likely with the addition of a solid and well thought out retraining program.

So what does training glutes and core look like during pregnancy and postpartum? Are planks ok? Crunches? Weights?

Well, first of all, it really does depend on the client. But I would definitely not recommend joining in on a 30 day plank challenge right away. Nor would I personally program in any crunches for my clients. There’s so much more that you can choose to use that will help you create a strong system for your changing body. And yes, these exercises are beneficial for women even beyond the childbearing years! These are exercises that will accommodate those changes during pregnancy and postpartum (even years postpartum) without causing any unnecessary harm or stress to weakened areas.

And remember, as I've shared in previous posts, the core and pelvic floor work as a team. You can't have one properly functioning without the other. (More info on that here & here.)

Another quick reminder: The core isn't just abs. You've got the top, bottom, front, back, and sides, all working together as one supportive unit. See the diagram below for a visual of the entire core.

(Borrowed with permission from Burrell Education)

When programming for clients whether they’re expecting, newly postpartum, or years postpartum, I look at the physical demands their life requires of them. Think about all of the bending, lifting, pushing, squatting, and lunging you do

I love using carries and holds for core work. It's fun and oh so challenging. Plus, it provides a challenge to the core without exacerbating or causing extra pressure to abdominal separation or the pelvic floor, as maybe a plank or crunch would.

Incorporate a squat with a hold and you’ve got my favorite glute and core move, the goblet squat!

Here’s what that looks like:

Training tip: For an exercise like this, you can start by choosing a weight that is comfortable, but causes the last few reps to be difficult. Start with 3 sets of 8 and work up to 3-4 sets of 10.

Hold your dumbbell up by your chest with your palms facing up. Imagine holding a nice, freshly poured glass of your favorite wine. Don't let it spill! Keep your shoulders slightly squared but make sure your ribs are stacked over your hips and not thrusting up or out. Keep your tailbone untucked. Your feet should be about shoulder width and toes can be pointing out slightly. Press your weight into your heels and lower your body down as if you were sitting in a chair. This is where I recommend doing a nice inhale into your ribs. Once your knees hit about 90 degrees or lower, start your exhale, keep your weight back in heels, and press back up to standing. Again, inhale as you lower down into your squat and exhale as you return to starting position.

Here's a close up of how my hands look for a goblet hold:

Note: This hold can also be turned into a carry! If you decide to try a carry, use the same posture as before (ribs stacked over hips and tailbone untucked) and walk for 15-30 seconds at a time in a straight or not so straight line. Continue breathing comfortably throughout the duration of the exercise and then take a nice break, about 60-90 seconds between each carry.


-I would consider this an advanced move for core work. If you are newly postpartum, I would recommend 1. Focusing on core/floor recovery first and 2. Mastering the moves separately before putting them together.

-For mamas later in pregnancy, the front carry or hold may not be as comfortable for you at this time. Consider a regular farmer's carry or racked carry for core and a regular bodyweight squat for lower body.

-Always be conscious of how your body is functioning during certain movements. This should not bring on any pain, discomfort, pelvic heaviness, incontinence, or doming of the abdomen. If you notice any of these things while performing any exercise, let's chat and reassess!


P.S! This is just one of MANY core a glute strengthening exercises that I love using. If you’re interested in learning more and would like to try out some of my favorite core and glute building workouts, you’re in luck! I have a FREE workshop starting May 15th where we’ll talk about all things #momlife and how to build strength for all seasons. Live training plus core and glute workouts included! Save your spot for A Stronger You by registering here!

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