The Best Pregnancy Exercises for Every Trimester

Stay fit and healthy throughout your entire pregnancy!

These are the Best Pregnancy Exercises for Every Trimester!

Your health should be a priority at all times, but even more so when you’re expecting a little bundle of joy! That said, it is likely you will need to modify your current routine to accommodate your changing body and growing little one! For this reason, we’ve compiled a list of the best pregnancy exercises for every trimester. Not only will this allow you to maintain your current level of fitness, but it will also help to ensure the safety of you and your baby. 

A Few Things to Keep in Mind

Be sure to talk with your doctor before beginning a new pregnancy workout routine.

We’ll start off by saying that you should always check with your doctor or healthcare professional before beginning a new fitness routine, especially when you’re pregnant. High risk pregnancies are not always compatible with exercise, so it’s important to make sure exercise is right for you. 

If you are not considered a high risk pregnancy but were not exercising prior to getting pregnant, it’s still important to check with your doctor. We know it can be tempting to jump into a fitness routine after finding out you’re expecting because we all want our babies to be healthy, however, doing so can result in injury to you or your little one if you’re not careful.

If you’re not a high risk pregnancy, chances are good that your doctor will give you the go-ahead to continue with your current exercise routine. Of course it’s important to note that you should always listen to your body. When an exercise becomes too uncomfortable or challenging to perform, it may be time to stop or modify it to fit your changing body. 

Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy

Certain exercises and stretches are essential to a happier and healthier pregnancy and birth!

Why should you continue with an exercise routine during pregnancy? Excellent question! And the answer is because it offers quite a few health benefits to you and your little one. Exercise can:

  • Limit pregnancy side effects including backaches, constipation, and bloating.
  • Improve your mood.
  • Boost energy levels.
  • Improve sleep quality and duration.
  • Help prevent excessive weight gain.
  • Help to maintain healthy blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
  • Strengthen your muscles and increase endurance for a healthier pregnancy and perhaps easier delivery.
  • Speed up the rate of recovery postpartum.

Get Up and Moving

Cardiovascular exercise is so important for a healthy pregnancy.

Once you’ve been cleared by your doctor to begin an exercise routine, the question becomes, “Where do I begin?” As your body changes from trimester to trimester, your physical capabilities are likely to change too. Assuming you’re not struggling too badly with fatigue or morning sickness, cardiovascular exercise is an excellent place to start. But again, always listen to your body.

Exercises like walking, jogging, and swimming are highly encouraged throughout healthy pregnancies. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends getting 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise per week. This is often broken down into five 30-minute sessions. Working out on an elliptical machine or stationary bike is also acceptable.

If you are able, it is recommended that you incorporate full body resistance training two or three days per week, as well. Strong and conditioned muscles will make every step of this journey easier!

Best Pregnancy Exercises for Every Trimester

The Best Pregnancy Exercises for Every Trimester will ensure a healthy mom and baby!

When it comes to exercise other than basic cardio, the need for modifications becomes more likely. If you are weight training, chances are good you will need to lower the resistance and intensity over time. If you’re a yoga fanatic, certain poses may become more and more uncomfortable as your pregnancy progresses. For example, after the 20-week mark, any exercise or pose that requires you to lay on your stomach or back for extended periods of time is not advised. Note that hot yoga should also be avoided throughout your entire pregnancy. 

While there are exercises and poses that should be avoided, there are also exercises that should become a part of your routine. This includes moves that can not only make your pregnancy easier, but labor, delivery, and even recovery less challenging as well!

First Trimester Exercises

Kneeling push-ups will strengthen your upper body to get you ready to pick up and hold your little one!

In the first trimester, it is likely you can stick with many of the exercises and routines you are used to performing. Pregnancy side effects may make exercising difficult at this stage though. Listen to your body and do what you can. There are certain exercises that you should begin to incorporate into your routine if you have not already done so. These include:

Squats – This fundamental exercise is essential during pregnancy to help you maintain good posture, as well as build strength in your hips, glutes, core, and pelvic floor. 

Try performing 3 to 5 sets of 10 reps using light to moderately heavy dumbbells. You can also just use your own body weight!

Push-Ups – This exercise is one of the best ways to strengthen your upper body and core during pregnancy. During the first trimester, perform them from the kneeling or standard position.

Try performing 3 to 5 sets of 10 reps.

Bicep Curls – Prepare your arms for picking up baby (something you’ll be doing all the time in a few short months!)

Try performing 3 to 5 sets of 10 reps using light to moderately heavy dumbbells.

Dumbbell (or Kettlebell) Deadlifts – Speaking of picking up baby… training your lower back to properly bend and lift now will potentially save you from injury or sore muscles later on! 

Try performing 3 to 5 sets of 10 reps using a light to moderately heavy dumbbell or kettlebell. Note: If using a dumbbell, hold one head of the dumbbell in your hands (it should be vertical so the opposite head is closest to the floor).

Pelvic Tilts – In addition to strengthening the muscles of your core, this move will also increase hip mobility and may even help you avoid low back pain during pregnancy.

Try performing 3 to 5 sets of 10 reps.

Second Trimester Exercises

The bird dog exercise will strengthen your core and pelvic floor muscles during the second trimester.

Hopefully by the time you reach the second trimester, side effects like morning sickness and fatigue will have dissipated. If not, go easy on yourself. Chances are good that they will fade away soon! Once you reach this stage, you will want to cut out movements that require jumping and limit exercises that challenge your balance. You will also want to avoid twisting movements. 

During this trimester, you may continue with all of the exercises mentioned above. Additional exercises to incorporate into your routine during the second trimester include:

Bird Dog – This exercise is great for continuing to strengthen and stabilize your core, hips, and pelvic floor, all of which will improve posture, reduce low back pain, and potentially make the birthing process easier. 

Try performing 3 to 5 sets of 10 reps per side.

Side Lying Hip Abduction – This exercise will not only help you build stronger hips, but will also further stabilize your core and pelvic floor muscles. 

Try performing 3 to 5 sets of 10 reps per side. You can use your own body weight or place a loop band just above your knees for added resistance.

Back and Hip Stretches – It’s never too early to start stretching out your back and hips, but you’ll definitely want to start doing so by the time the second trimester rolls around. Your growing belly can wreak havoc on your posture, causing pain in your back and hips. Routinely stretching these areas can alleviate pain and may even make the birthing process less painful. 

Perform the video below a few times per week!

Third Trimester Exercises

Sumo squats are great for opening up your hips in the third trimester.

At this stage of pregnancy, it’s extremely common for energy levels to decline. This is why it’s so important to exercise whenever you get a burst of energy! But due to your growing belly, many exercises are getting rather difficult to perform. During the third trimester, walking and swimming will probably become your go-to forms of exercise. You will still want to aim for a total of at least 150 minutes per week. 

Furthermore, you may also continue with the second trimester exercises and stretching routine above, as long as you can do so comfortably (and your doctor approves). 

In addition to these things, you can continue with some of the exercises from the first trimester as well, with a few modifications:

Sumo Squats – This wider stance squat will be more comfortable at this stage, as it will better accommodate your growing belly. 

Try performing 3 to 5 sets of 10 reps using light dumbbells or just your own body weight.

Wall Push-Ups – Kneeling and standard push-ups will likely be too uncomfortable by the third trimester. In order to keep strengthening your upper body and core, you can perform this modified push-up. 

Try performing 3 to 5 sets of 10 reps.

Lighter Bicep Curls and Deadlifts – Performing bicep curls are still highly recommended to maintain the strength of your arms, but if you need to lower the resistance from the weight you were using in the first trimester, that is totally acceptable. The same goes for dumbbell deadlifts. You can lower the weight or perform the movement without using any added resistance. 

This wraps up our list of the best pregnancy exercises for every trimester. While there are a multitude of workouts and moves you can perform, the exercises included on this list are some of the best out there for a healthy and happy pregnancy. Once your doctor has cleared you, we highly recommend giving them a try!

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Erin Miller

Erin is an NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Corrective Exercise Specialist. She is also a Performance Nutrition Coach, certified through the Clean Health Fitness Institute. Some of Erin’s favorite hobbies include hiking, kayaking, and hanging out at the beach, although weight lifting is her greatest passion. She says, “Weight training is one of the most empowering things a person can do. Not just seeing, but feeling yourself transform… There’s just nothing else like it.”

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