Pregnancy workouts: pregnant woman holding her bellyPregnancy workouts: pregnant woman holding her belly
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Kickoff's certified personal trainers and registered dietitians share detailed analysis, discussion, and how-tos about the questions we get most often

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Baby on Board? Try These 3 Pregnancy Workouts

When you’ve got a baby on board, it brings your health into focus. Many moms-to-be look to make changes to their diet and exercise routine that will keep their growing baby as healthy as possible. But, let’s not forget about Mama! Your body is doing a lot right now, and a good pregnancy workout plan can help you have a healthy pregnancy.

Exercise can help ease pregnancy symptoms like back pain and constipation. It can also promote a healthy rate of weight gain, and decrease pregnant women’s risk for preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and a cesarean section. Doing pelvic floor exercises can even make delivery easier. (Can we get a hallelujah! 🙌)

So, get ready for a fit pregnancy! We’re sharing essential fitness tips for expecting moms and outlining three pregnancy workouts that you can use from the pre-pregnancy through postpartum recovery.

Pro tip: According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), it’s typically safe for pregnant women to exercise as long as they are healthy and their pregnancy is normal. But, you should discuss your exercise program with your doctor to make sure it’s right for your pregnancy.

Tips for Working Out During Pregnancy

Pregnancy workouts: pregnant woman dancing GIF

Before we jump into our pregnancy workouts, we should clarify a few things. First, there will be no actual jumping. (More on that below.) 

Your body is going through a lot of changes right now. And while many forms of exercise are pregnancy safe, you should take a few extra precautions to protect your body and your baby. Here are the best practices for pregnancy exercise:

  • Stick to low-impact exercises: Remember how we said there would be no jumping? The ligaments around your joints become more relaxed during pregnancy, which increases your risk of joint injury. Stay safe by avoiding high-impact exercises that include a lot of bouncing or jerking motions.

  • Avoid contact sports: We don’t want any balls (or anything else) flying at the belly. Stay away from soccer, basketball, hockey, karate, and boxing.

  • Keep your balance: Starting in the second trimester, your belly is going to change your center of gravity, which makes it easier for you to fall. Exercise near a sturdy piece of furniture so you have something to hold onto if you start to feel unsteady, and avoid activities with a high risk of falling, like road biking, horseback riding, skiing, surfing, and gymnastics.

  • Avoid overheating: During pregnancy, it’s more difficult for your body to regulate its temperature, which makes it easier to overheat, especially during the first trimester. Stay cool by avoiding outdoor workouts on hot and humid days. Try working out in a temperature-controlled room. If you start to feel hot, place an ice pack on the back of your neck to cool down.

  • Drink plenty of water: This is good advice for anyone who’s working out, but it’s especially important for pregnant women. Drink water before, during, and after your workout to prevent dehydration and decrease your risk of overheating.

  • Aim for a moderate intensity: To get the cardiovascular benefits of your pregnancy workout, you want to get your heart rate up and work up a good sweat. However, you should still be able to talk — but not belt out a tune — during your workout.

  • Avoid standing still: When you stand still, blood can pool in your feet and ankles. So even if you’re doing a standing exercise like an overhead bicep press, keep your feet moving by marching in place or walking around the room.

  • Skip exercises where you lie flat: When you lie flat on your back, your uterus presses on a vein that brings blood to your heart. This will become worse in the second and third trimesters, so avoid doing sit ups, crunches, glute bridges, and any other exercises that require you to start and end in a lying down position.

  • Try a supportive sports bra and belly band: As your breasts and belly change, they will become heavier and more uncomfortable. (Building a baby is hard work!) And this will be even more noticeable during exercise. Stay comfortable by upgrading to a more supportive sports bra and try a belly band if your bump is making you uncomfortable during the third trimester.

Those are the essentials of pregnancy exercise, but you’ll also be able to do different activities based on your own fitness level.

For new fitness mamas: When you start working out, ease your way in. Aim for 10-15 minutes of physical activity per day at first, and increase your activity level from there.

For experienced fitness mamas: You may be able to stick to your usual workout routine, including running and racquet sports, but talk to your gynecologist first. Depending on your current regimen, your doctor might recommend modifying your exercise to make it lower impact or lower intensity, or to help you avoid standing still or lying flat.

Pro tip: A personal trainer can build a prenatal workout program that takes your fitness level and interests into account, and they can help with your fitness motivation when that first trimester fatigue kicks in.

3 Pregnancy Workouts You Can Do at Home

Pregnant woman working out GIF

Each of these pregnancy workout plans is a home workout — you can do the majority of them with no equipment, using your own bodyweight as resistance. If you’re interested in modifying the exercises to make them harder, add a pair of light weights. If you don’t have dumbbells, you can use a couple bottles of water or some books.

In addition to the workout plans below, you can do these compound exercises through your first trimester. Skip the push-ups during your second and third trimester since your baby bump will be in the way.

Try doing these pregnancy workouts 3-5 days per week. If that sounds like a lot, start with 1-2 days and build up from there. While 3-5 days is the ideal number, any amount of exercise you do in your week will make you and your baby healthier.

Pro tips: Remember to warm up and cool down before each exercise routine by doing some light stretching or five minutes of walking. Check your form by viewing video tutorials for each exercise. 

Now, put on your comfiest sweats, and let’s get started!

1. Pelvic Floor and Abdominal Workout

According to the National Childbirth Trust in the UK, the two most important muscles to target during your pregnancy strength training workouts are your pelvic floor muscles and your abdominal muscles. Pelvic floor exercises can help prevent incontinence and prolapse, while abdominal exercises can help reduce lower back pain and decrease your risk of diastasis recti, or abdominal separation.

In this workout, we’ll work both at once, and will tone those pelvic floor muscles without doing a single kegel. (Plenty of lower body exercises tone those pelvic muscles, too.) We’ll give a recommended number of reps for each exercise, but listen to your body to decide on the right number for you. After you’ve finished the entire sequence, repeat it 2-3 times. Here we go!

2. Yogalates

Prenatal yoga and prenatal pilates are both popular, low-impact pregnancy workouts, recommended by OBGYNs. But, not every yoga pose and pilates exercise is a good fit for pregnant women. So, if you do these workouts in a fitness studio, seek a class designed specifically for expecting moms, or talk to your instructor to make sure they have experience working with pregnant women and can offer pregnancy-safe modifications.

You can do our yoga workout (which has a couple pilates moves mixed in for added movement) at home on a yoga mat or another soft surface. We recommended keeping a sturdy chair nearby to help you keep your balance. If you want a longer workout, you can hold the poses for longer or repeat this entire sequence 2-3 times. 

Here are the moves you need:

3. Easy Pregnancy Cardio

Cardio is super important during pregnancy. While aquatic exercises, like swimming, is an excellent low-impact option for pregnant women, not everyone has access to a pool. So, we like walking exercises because they’re easily accessible.

Walking is an often overlooked exercise that provides plenty of aerobic benefits. You can increase those benefits by alternating between your standard walking pace and speed walking. This will allow you to raise and lower your heart rate throughout your exercise, incorporating active recovery time and providing the benefits of interval training.

Here is an easy, 30-minute walking interval routine to incorporate into your pregnancy workout plan. To make these exercises harder, carry a pair of light weights and add bicep presses and curls as you walk.

  • Walk at a comfortable pace: 5 minutes

  • Speed walk: 1 minute

  • Walk at a comfortable pace: 2 minutes

  • Speed walk: 1 minute

  • Walk at a comfortable pace: 2 minutes

  • Speed walk: 2 minutes

  • Walk at a comfortable pace: 1 minute

  • Speed walk: 2 minutes

  • Walk at a comfortable pace: 1 minute

  • Speed walk: 2 minutes

  • Walk at a comfortable pace: 1 minute

  • Speed walk: 2 minutes

  • Walk at a comfortable pace: 2 minute

  • Speed walk: 1 minute

  • Walk at a comfortable pace: 5 minutes

Get Your Glow On

Pregnant woman showing her belly GIF

During a normal workout, sweat is just sweat. But for expecting moms, it’s a pregnancy glow!

You can get your glow on safely by sticking to low-impact, moderate-intensity exercise. Be extra careful about balance because that bump can throw off your center of gravity, and remember hydration is happiness! (And is just one of the things you should do to avoid overheating during pregnancy — also stick to cool weather exercise or temperature-controlled rooms.)

Stay on track with your pregnancy workouts by using one of the three options we outlined above. And try to incorporate a pelvic floor workout once or twice a week to help with your delivery and speed your postpartum recovery.

Pregnancy is a great time to enlist a little extra help with your workout routine. Work with a personal trainer to get expert advice, a carefully constructed pre- and post-natal fitness plan, exercises tailored to your interests, and regular check-ins to make sure you and your growing baby are feeling good. When you sign up for Kickoff, you can work with a personal trainer online for as little as $3 per day. Get started now!