Use these at-home pregnancy exercises to stay fit while pregnant! These exercises are safe for all trimesters and help prepare the body for labor as well as reduce pregnancy-related aches and pains.
As a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist, if there’s one tip to give all expecting moms it’s the major benefits of staying active during pregnancy!
While pregnancy comes with a host of discomforts and varying symptoms (especially muscle weakness affecting balance), one way to alleviate many of them is to stay active while pregnant.
Staying active can:
- Reduce swelling, constipation, and bloating
- Help you sleep better
- Relieve some back pain
- Recover better postpartum
- Improve your mood
None of this means that you need to go all out a pregnancy exercise- of course not! Staying active will look different for everyone and “all-out” should never be the goal.
When Should I Start Exercising During Pregnancy?
Much of this question depends on how active you were prior to pregnancy, how you’re feeling, and where you are in your pregnancy.
In general, pregnant women can start exercising anytime during pregnancy.
However, if you weren’t very active prior to conceiving, it’s best to start very light in the first trimester: walking, gentle stretches etc.
What Exercises Are Safe During Pregnancy
Again, it depends.
However, so long as the exercise is not high impact or comes with a risk of falling then the exercise should be safe for all trimesters.
And yes, you can strengthen your abdominal muscles when pregnant, just strategically!
However, as the baby (and thus the belly) grows and pregnancy progresses, you will need to adapt either the exercise or the way it’s performed (these safe ab exercises for pregnancy are a good starting place!).
Likewise, weight loss or “belly only” ideals should be squashed. The purpose of staying active should be to prepare for postpartum and motherhood, alleviate pregnancy pains, and to feel good.
If an exercise doesn’t support that, it’s not a good choice.
What Exercises Can I Do While Pregnant?
Any that feels good! When it comes to pregnancy-safe exercises, pregnant women should focus on:
- The posterior chain (back of the body)
- Keeping exercises low impact and controlled
- Pelvic floor exercises (chat to a pelvic floor physio before just rocking kegals though!)
- These core workouts for pregnancy
Expecting mamas should place extra emphasis on the glutes during pregnancy as well.
The below exercises are pregnancy safe and have variations that can be done at home (or anywhere). They help prepare for the postpartum period and strengthen the upper back to help reduce discomfort from posture changes.
Exercise # 1 Rows
With pregnancy comes a shift in posture and your center of gravity. Shoulders slowly round forward and naturally, you have a bit more of a swayback. This can cause a lot of back pain.
Strengthening the back muscles helps keep your body in better alignment and prevents some of the pressure loading onto your back.
The stronger your back muscles are the more they will combat the increasing size of your chest and eventually, holding a baby in front of you for hours on end.
Standing, seated or almost any variation will benefit your muscles.
Pro tip: choose 3-4 of these exercises to strengthen the back muscles and make them in to a circuit!
Exercise #2 Face Pulls
Another exercise for the posterior chain. Face pulls target the upper body, specifically the back, shoulders, and arms. All of which you need to improve posture and remain strong to carry a baby.
Keeping up your strength while pregnant will make it easier once you have a baby to tote around all day. Plus, training the back of the body helps combat some of the pressure from the front of the body expanding.
Exercise #3 Squats
This is a common one said by midwives and it's true! Squats are great while pregnant.
Again, there are lots of different variations to choose from (weighted/bodyweight/assisted/banded etc) so find one that feels comfortable and is doable for your pregnancy.
Squats help open the hips and strengthen the lower torso. They're a functional movement which means we use them every day. Having a strong squat foundation will make day-to-day tasks easier. Plus, they prep your body for birth by helping to open the hips.
When concentrating, squats are also an amazing way to engage and train your pelvic floor muscles as well which will help your body post-labor. If you need to learn more about the pelvic floor, why it matters and why you should get it checked out, go read my interview with a Pelvic Floor Physio!
Exercise #4 Clamshells
An eighties workout video exercise if there ever was one. But the truth is, clams are an amazing exercise to perform while pregnant (as are these crucial hip exercises for pregnancy!).
Clamshells target the glutes and hips. They help strengthen the pelvic floor and stabilize the pelvis as it expands.
By targeting the glutes you're helping to alleviate back and hip pain from poor posture and as your pelvic girdle prepares for the baby (seeing an osteopath can also greatly help reduce pregnancy symptoms!)
Also, the glutes are one of the muscles in the "pelvic floor" so the more you activate them the better off you'll be after the baby arrives.
Don't forget to pin my favorite pregnancy-safe exercises you can do at home!
There’s No Perfect Prenatal Exercise
The title of the blog post is slightly misleading because while these exercises have a ton of benefits during pregnancy, there’s no perfect one.
Each pregnancy is different, each body is different and each DAY is different. This means, there’s no one size fits all approach or perfect fitness routine.
Obviously check with your doc before starting anything new but also know that some days these exercises might work for you and some days they may not.
Or depending on where the baby sits a certain variation might not work. Work WITH your body and not against it 🙂 Remember, goal number one is a healthy mama and baby and feeling good.
Learn more about pregnancy-safe exercises for each trimester and resources:
- staying fit in the first trimester
- exercising n the second-trimester
- pregnancy exercises for the third trimester
- 10 pregnancy-safe exercises to reduce discomfort
- Second trimester pregnancy workout
- Crucial postpartum exercises
Likewise, check out my Pregnancy PLaylist on YouTube to find the best, follow-along pregnancy exercises!