Keeping a strong core while pregnant can help reduce pregnancy-related pain, make daily tasks easier and ultimately help you out postpartum too! Use these core workouts for pregnancy throughout your trimesters, adjusting as necessary.
Working out while pregnant is finally becoming a bit more mainstream. And as a Certified Strength Coach and mom of three, I couldn’t be happier.
I was able to work out throughout all my pregnancies up until the day I gave birth, and without a doubt, it made a huge difference to my postpartum recovery.
Pregnancy ab exercises can be a safe, and effective way to stay strong while pregnant.
And though there may be some adjustments to the core exercises you need to make as you progress, know that having a strong core is going to help you immensely postpartum
Having a strong core while pregnant can help:
- Reduce upper and lower back pain
- Make daily tasks easier
- Make postpartum recovery easier
- Support your pelvic floor
- Minimize postural aches
- Create a strong pelvic floor
Thus, using these pregnancy core workouts is a no-brainer!
The Focus Of Prenatal Abdominal Exercises
Remember that in pregnancy, the goal is always growth, it's why these high protein pregnancy cookies are so great.
This means that your abdominal exercises don’t need to be high-intensity or geared towards fatigue, failure, and fat loss.
- How to stay fit in the first trimester
- How to stay fit in the second trimester
- Third trimester fitness
And for obvious reasons, classic exercises like sit ups and crunches are out of the question in a prenatal core workout after the first trimester.
Your goal is NOT to prevent diastasis recti either as that’s a natural occurrence from growth (though here’s a 10 minute diastsis recti workout you can save for later!).
Instead, opt for abdominal exercises (included in the workouts below) that:
Focus on core strength, not just outer abdominal muscles (the core is the entire trunk and the muscles around it so glutes too!)
- Are low-impact
- Can be modified
- Are slow, and controlled
- Can support the pelvic floor as needed
As your belly grows, some ab exercises will need to be modified in order to make room for the babe. That’s okay and completely normal.
Things To Consider When Using Ab Exercises While Pregnant
You’ll want the pregnancy ab workout to come up off the floor after your second or third trimester. Though some women are okay laying flat on their backs in these trimesters, it’s not recommended
As your belly grows and your abdominal muscles stretch, ab exercises like crunches and lying leg lifts no longer serve a great purpose.
Focus on engagement more than going through the motions. Especially when it comes to connecting your breath and pelvic floor (learn more about how to breathe for engagement).
If something is uncomfy, stop.
Likewise, each day (and each pregnancy!) is drastically different. This means that you should play it by ear in your activity levels based on how you’re feeling.
How To Use The Workouts
The workouts below are safe prenatal core exercises for all trimesters and take about 10 minutes to complete (you get tired while pregnant!).
However, they’re generalized. Typically, you can do a bit more in the first and second trimesters than you can in the third trimester due to fatigue. So, adjust rest times and sets as needed.
I’d recommend performing a prenatal core workout three times per week and then adjusting from there.
Make sure to leave rest days between workouts.
You can either do all three workouts each week or mix and match, it’s up to you!
Just remember that the goal is to use slow, controlled movement. Don’t rush, focus.
Pregnancy Core Workout 1
|Elevated Plank||40 seconds|
|Side Lying Hip Raise||8/side|
|Seated Leg Lifts||45 seconds|
|Rest||60 seconds x 3 sets|
To perform the workout: perform all the pregnancy safe ab exercises back to back for the repetitions listed. From there, rest for as long as you need to before repeating the workout for a total of three or four rounds.
Pregnancy Core Workout 2
|Half kneeling around the world||5/rotation|
|Elevated mountain climbers||30 seconds|
|Rest||60 seconds x 2 sets|
|Side plank||30 seconds|
|Bear crawl||35 seconds|
|Rest||60 seconds x2 sets|
|Belly breaths||45 seconds x 1 set|
To perform it: begin by performing the first two exercises back to back for the prescribed repetitions. Rest for 60 seconds and repeat the sequence for a total of two rounds.
Next, move on to the next two exercises and do the same thing.
Finally, finish with one set of belly breaths.
Pregnancy Core Workout 3
|Dumbbell March||30 seconds|
|Reverse plank||25 seconds|
|Clamshells||15 per side|
|Rest||60 seconds x 3 sets|
|Elevated plank with shoulder tap||30 seconds|
|Sliding in & outs||30 seconds|
|Rest||45 seconds x 2 sets|
To perform it: perform the first three exercises back to back without rest. After the clamshells, rest for 60 seconds (if you need longer take it) and repeat the sequence for a total of three rounds.
Move on to the next two exercises and perform them back to back for the repetitions listed taking 45-60 seconds rest between sets.
Other Pregnancy Resources To Help You Stay Fit
- Stretches to ease neck pain from breastfeeding
- The best hip exercises for pregnancy
- Must-do pregnancy exercises
- High protein pregnancy snacks
- 15 minute postpartum workout for strength
Frequently Asked Questions About Core Workouts In Pregnancy
Ab exercises can be done while pregnant so long as they’re low-impact and modified as needed. The focus should be more on core exercises and strength than direct abdominal wall strength and supporting the belly and organs as the baby grows. Using strategic core exercises is a great way to strengthen the "core and pelvic floor" together as well.
Ab workouts can be safe through all trimesters so long as the exercise change as the baby grows and you learn to keep the core engaged throughout each trimester. While core exercises on your back are generally safe in the first trimester, they shouldn’t be worked into a program in the second and third trimesters.
The best core exercises include things like: bird dog, parlof press, elevated planks, side planks, seated legs lifts and belly breathing to promote a strong core overall.