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Prenatal Workouts: 6 Exercises To Stay Active

Enjoy movement and feel strong with these six pregnancy-friendly exercises from prenatal specialist Amy Schemper.

 

Should You Work Out While Pregnant?

Exercise is always good for you, but especially when pregnant. Staying active can change the game for how you feel during and after your pregnancy. However, the list of do’s and don’ts while pregnant can feel overwhelming, and a lot of women get nervous that the exercises they love doing might not be safe for the next nine months. We spoke with Amy Schemper, a prenatal exercise specialist and founder of BodyFit Moms to tell us about the best ways to work out while pregnant. “The important thing to remember is that movement is good for your growing body,” said Schemper. “During pregnancy, we want to both strengthen and stretch, not only to support our growing belly and the changes that our body is experiencing, but also to prepare us for labor and delivery and parenthood, which are both extremely athletic events.”
 

What Is The Best Workout While Pregnant?

The best workout during pregnancy is one that keeps you moving in a way that feels good for you and your growing body. Pregnancy-safe workouts exist in many areas, like strength training, moderate-intensity cardio, yoga, and more.
 
The Mayo Clinic cites benefits of prenatal exercise such as a boost to your energy and mood, better sleep, and increased strength and endurance which can translate to a shorter labor. “Exercise during pregnancy helps strengthen and prepare our bodies. Labor and delivery are very much like a high-intensity workout—higher intervals during contractions and pushing, lower intervals in between—and requires both cardiovascular endurance and strength,” said Schemper.
 

Exercises to Avoid While Pregnant

When trying to figure out what pregnancy workouts are safe in the first trimester and beyond, you want to avoid high-impact sports that could cause you to fall or put physical pressure on your stomach. Beyond that, you can continue to work out in a way that you’re comfortable with throughout pregnancy as long as you remain in a moderate heart rate range, often dubbed the talk test. “We can work hard during pregnancy, but we want to make sure that we can talk while doing it,” said Schemper. “If you start to get out of breath or feel like you're getting overheated, you want to take a step back and reduce your intensity. Bottom line is listen to your body and stop if something doesn't feel good for you.”
 
As your belly begins to grow in the second trimester, you will need to start adapting your exercises to accommodate. “Start modifying core work in your second trimester, and avoid exercises that put extra intra-abdominal pressure on your core (like traditional crunches, regular planks and pushups, etc.),” said Schemper. Modified core exercises like the bird dog and incline knee pushups are great ways to train core strength safely while pregnant.
 

Prenatal Workouts

 
These moves are safe for all trimesters of pregnancy, but as always, please speak with your doctor or midwife about what is right for you and your pregnancy before starting a new workout routine.
 
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360 Breathing

Target muscles: Core and pelvic floor
 
About this exercise: “This is the most important core exercise in pregnancy,” said Schemper. “It targets the entire core, but specifically engages the Transverse Abdominus, your deepest layer of core muscles, and connects you with your Pelvic Floor muscles.”
 
How to do it:
  1. Stand up straight and place your hands on your stomach to feel your breath.
  2. Take a deep inhale through your nose, expanding your belly and envisioning 360 degrees around your core.
  3. As you exhale through your mouth, draw your core in and up, feeling the engagement in your deep core and pelvic floor. It can help to exhale on a “shh” or “sss” sound. Continue breathing in this way.
 
Modification: You can do this exercise sitting on the ground or in a chair.
 
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Clamshell

Target muscles: Glutes and hips
 
About this exercise: “In pregnancy, the clamshell aids in opening the hips and strengthening the glutes to prepare for delivery. It’s also great for connecting to your pelvic floor,” said Schemper.
 
How to do it:
  1. Lie on your side with your knees at a 45-degree angle and your hips stacked on top of one another.
  2. Keeping your feet together, raise your top knee as far as you comfortably can, then lower back down. Continue this motion for 5 to 12 reps, then switch sides so you’re lying on your other side.
 
Modification: Stand and balance against a wall. Bend your knee and raise your leg out sideways and up as high as is comfortable.
 
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Bird Dog

Target muscles: Back and core
 
About this exercise: “In the bird dog, you’re getting a nice stretch while also strengthening the muscles along your spine. Remember that your center of gravity is a little different in pregnancy, so your hips may want to move. That’s okay, just readjust and keep that core connection,” said Schemper.
 
How to do it:
  1. Get into a quadruped position with your knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders. Start with 360 Core Breathing to stabilize your core.
  2. Lift and extend one leg and the opposite arm out. Keep your body in one long line, with your core engaged.
  3. Slowly lower your arm and leg down to quadruped, and lift your other leg and arm in the same way. Continue in this motion.
 
Modification: For less intensity, only lift your legs and then your arms separately.
 
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Staggered Row

Target muscles: Back and arms
 
About this exercise: “In pregnancy, everything pulls us forward—especially once that baby’s here. So, the more we can work those back and shoulder muscles—those good posture muscles—the better we’re going to feel,” said Schemper.
 
How to do it:
  1. Stand in a staggered stance with one foot back and one foot forward. Make sure both feet are flat and stable on the ground about hip-width apart, and your hips are squarely facing forward. Hold a pair of light to medium dumbbells.
  2. Hinge at your hips to lean your torso forward, and row your arms up so the weights meet your ribcage. Continue rowing up and down for 5 to 10 reps, then finish by hinging your torso to stand up straight.
 
Modification: Row from a quadruped position or with one knee on a bench.
 
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Incline Knee Pushup

Target muscles: Chest and core
 
About this exercise: “This is a great modification for pushups during pregnancy. It’s going to reduce that intra-abdominal pressure on your core,” said Schemper.
 
How to do it:
  1. Find a sturdy bench, chair or couch that won’t move when leaned against.
  2. Kneel with your hands about chest-width apart on the bench. Tuck your toes and lean your torso forward so your back is straight and your core is engaged.
  3. Bend your elbows to lower your chest toward the bench, then push through your hands to press back up. Continue in this motion.
 
Modification: If you don’t have a sturdy bench, you can also do this standing with your hands on a wall.
 
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Squat

Target muscles: Lower body
 
About this exercise: If you’re wondering, can I do squats while pregnant? The answer is yes! “The squat is such an amazing exercise for pregnancy because it generally feels good in all trimesters, is great for labor prep (some women even use the squat position to give birth!), and trains the lower body and core strength to support your growing belly,” said Schemper.
 
How to do it:
  1. Stand with feet a bit wider than hip-width apart. You may need to adjust the width of your stance to accommodate your baby bump.
  2. Bend your knees to lower down as far as you comfortably can into a squat. Push through your feet to stand up.
 
Modification: Place a bench or a chair behind you and squat above it. You can squat to sit all the way, or just hover or gently tap your glutes on the bench.
 
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Movement During Pregnancy

“Every person is different, so talk to your healthcare provider about what is specific to you and your pregnancy. Prioritize strength training and deep core connection (360 breathing). While you can work hard if it feels good for you, keep your intensity at a level you can still maintain a conversation (called "the talk test"). Listen to your body! As your pregnancy progresses, things will feel different, so you may need to take exercises with lower impact or lower weight, and that's okay! “
 
We know it’s beneficial to move, but just how much should you work out while pregnant? The CDC recommends aiming for 150 minutes of exercise per week during pregnancy. Schemper said, “That could be 30 minutes a day, five days out of the week, but you can break it up in a lot of different ways. Maybe that's just taking a walk outside. Maybe that's a prenatal yoga class. Maybe that's just chasing your toddlers around the house. Whatever it is, all movement should feel good for you.”
 
Explore adidas maternity workout clothes to feel supported throughout your pregnancy exercises. After labor and birth, learn about Schemper’s postpartum exercises to come back to movement when you’re ready.
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