Are you looking for a safe and effective first trimester core workout?
You are in the right place!
In this post you will learn:
- When to start training your core during pregnancy,
- 8 pregnancy safe ab exercises you can do in the first trimester, and
- Exercises to avoid in early pregnancy.
Let’s jump right in.
Can you do Ab workouts in the first trimester?
In general, ab exercises are safe to do in the first trimester as long as you have been cleared by your health care provider and don’t have any contraindications to exercise.
Also, if you were already active before your pregnancy, oftentimes, you can continue your routine with some modifications.
My 10 Minute First Trimester Core Workout
Here is my 10-minute first trimester ab workout designed to improve your core strength from the comfort of your own home.
However, before you get started, make sure you are cleared by your doctor before doing any sort of physical activity!
Below, are all of the safe abdominal exercises I show in the video.
|Side Plank Dips||2||20 sec each side|
|Standing Pelvic Tilts||2||20 sec|
|Bird Dogs||2||20 sec each side|
|Cat Cows||2||20 sec|
|Leg Lifts||2||20 sec|
|In and Outs||2||20 sec|
|Bear to Cow||2||20 sec|
|Incline Mountain Climber||2||20 sec|
Each exercise will be done for 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds of rest!
Below I will go over each exercise in more detail.
Side Plank Dips
The side plank dip is a great exercise to train the oblique muscles, which are on either side of your abdomen.
This muscle is important to help keep you upright and allows you to twist and bend sideways.
- Lie on your side, resting on your elbow and forearm while keeping your legs straight out and feet on the floor.
- Keep your back straight and your core tight.
- Next, elevate your hips off the floor by squeezing your butt muscles.
- Keep your body straight and hold this position for 2 seconds. Now lower your hips back down toward the floor.
- Repeat this motion, allowing your hips to go up and down while keeping the rest of your body motionless.
- Be sure to train both sides equally.
Standing Pelvic Tilts
Pelvic tilts strengthen the deep core muscles while helping to realign your pelvis during your pregnancy.
Unfortunately, your pelvis can become anteriorly tilted due to the weight of your gravid uterus creating postural changes in your lumbar spine.
The goal of the posterior pelvic tilt exercise is to flatten out your lower back onto the wall while engaging your core, pelvic floor, and glutes.
- Stand with your back against a wall with your feet approximately 6 inches away from it.
- Make three points of contact against the wall with your head, your upper back, and your butt.
- You will notice a natural arch in your low back.
- You want to flatten this curve so that your low back is flush against the wall.
- Do this by contracting your abs in, pushing your belly button toward the wall, and allowing your pelvis to rotate posteriorly.
- Hold this position for ~5 seconds and release.
The bird dog is a great abdominal exercise that is done from the quadruped position (on your hands and knees).
This movement activates the rectus abdominis and the transverse abdominis.
- Get into a quadruped position (resting on your hands and knees while keeping your back straight).
- Engage your core muscles.
- Next, lift one arm straight out in front of you while simultaneously lifting your opposite leg straight back behind you.
- Squeeze the glute muscle, while keeping your back straight, and be sure to engage your core the entire time.
- Hold this position for 2-3 seconds, and repeat on the opposite side.
The cat to cow is an amazing mobility exercise for the thoracic spine that also helps activate your entire core.
Here’s how to do this simple exercise.
- Get into a quadruped position (on your hands and knees) while keeping your back straight.
- Next, inhale as you arch your back and look up slightly.
- Hold this position for about 2 seconds.
- Next, reverse the movement by exhaling, rounding out your back, and tucking your head towards your chest.
- In this position, focus on drawing in your abdominal muscles.
- Hold this position for about 2 seconds and repeat.
Lying Straight Leg Lifts
Leg lifts are a great lower ab exercise that is done from a supine position.
You should only do this exercise in the 1st trimester.
In general, you want to avoid lying flat on your back in the second and third trimesters as your uterus can impede blood flow back to your heart.
- Lie flat on the ground with your hands by your chest and your legs straight out.
- From here, posteriorly tilt your pelvis to engage your core.
- Begin lifting your legs to really activate your core muscles.
- Continue lifting your legs until your feet are facing the ceiling.
- Keep your legs straight the entire time.
- As you bring them back down, try to not let them touch the floor.
- *If this exercise is too challenging, bend your knees and do knee lifts
In and Outs
Seated in and outs are a great way to train all of the core muscles from a safe position.
You can do this exercise with:
- both legs bending and extending simultaneously (harder),
- or only bending up one leg at a time (easier).
- Sit up tall on the floor with your hands flat by your sides.
- Next, extend your legs out in front of you while keeping your knees and feet in contact.
- From here, bring one knee up toward your chest while keeping the other one straight and elevated off the floor.
- Slowly reverse the movement and repeat with the other leg.
- Keep your back straight and your core engaged the entire time.
Bear To Cow
The bear to cow is another great way to train your abs from the quadruped position.
It is kind of like an easier version of the plank.
- Get into a quadruped position (hands and knees) with your back straight.
- Next, posteriorly tilt your pelvis to engage your core.
- Then, transition the exercise so that you are on your tippy-toes without changing your spinal alignment or shifting your hands.
- Hold the top position for 3 seconds, while really engaging your core muscles.
- Return to the starting position and repeat.
Incline Mountain Climber
Lastly, is the incline mountain climber.
This great exercise targets the lower abs and can improve your cardio health.
Before starting, posteriorly tilt your pelvis, engage your core, and keep a neutral spine throughout the exercise.
- Assume a tall plank position, while leaning against a tall but sturdy chair.
- Keep your back straight, your glutes turned on, and your core engaged.
- Then, pick up one leg and bring that knee toward your elbow.
- Only bring your knee as high as you comfortably can.
- Don’t change your spinal alignment. Feel your core muscles turn on.
- Lower that leg back down and repeat with the other leg.
- If you feel comfortable, you can do this exercise at a bit of a rapid pace. Just make sure the object is sturdy to minimize any risk of falling.
- If this exercise is too challenging, you can do it while standing against a wall.
When should you start doing ab workouts when pregnant?
You can start training your abs in the first trimester as soon as you find out you are pregnant. (Assuming that you have been cleared by your healthcare provider)!
If you have never exercised before pregnancy it is important that you start low and go slow.
Don’t jump into advanced ab workouts. Get a feel for the exercises and work your way up.
As with all things fitness-related, always listen to your body, and if any ab exercise causes pain or discomfort, stop.
Can you do ab workouts everyday?
You should not do ab workouts every single day.
Too much of a good thing is never good, especially when it comes to fitness.
Instead, you should aim to work out your core 3 times a week.
The one exercise that you can do every day is walking, which will help with postpartum recovery.
Other Related Questions
Is it safe to do crunches in first trimester?
Crunches are generally safe to perform in the first trimester but should be avoided in the second and third trimesters.
However, if crunches are uncomfortable there are plenty of other ab exercises you can do in the first trimester to strengthen the deep core muscles such as the transverse abdominis.
Here is an article on the 18 different exercises you can do to strengthen your transverse abs while pregnant.
What about bicycle crunches?
Bicycle crunches are generally safe to do in the first trimester, however, there are better core exercises you can do that won’t place as much pressure on your abdomen.
These include incline mountain climbers and seated in and outs.
Can you do sit-ups while pregnant in the first trimester?
I recommend that you avoid doing sit-ups in the first trimester as this exercise places a lot of pressure on the abdominal wall. There are many other safe ab exercises you can do in the first trimester.
Can you do planks while pregnant?
Planks are safe to do in pregnancy as long as you have been cleared by your provider to exercise.
The plank is a particularly good ab exercise because there are so many different variations you can do depending on the trimester you are in.
For more information check out my post on how to do modified planks in pregnancy.
Can I do squats while pregnant?
It is safe to do squats while pregnant and it is highly recommended.
Squats are one of the most fundamental exercises that you perform every single day of your life. Just think about- you squat down every single day to go to the bathroom right?
Not only do they strengthen your legs, but squats also strengthen your pelvic floor muscles when done correctly.
To learn more about squatting in pregnancy, click here.
What other exercises are safe during first trimester?
Many types of exercises are safe in the first trimester as your uterus is quite small.
Feel free to use walking, running, cycling, prenatal yoga, pilates, swimming, pelvic floor exercises, and resistance training.
Check out my first trimester pregnancy workouts to learn more.
What exercises should I avoid during first trimester?
In the first trimester, you should avoid any exercise where there is a risk of trauma or falling.
In addition, you should avoid exercises that elevate your body temperature significantly.
- Hot Yoga
- Hot Pilates, and
- Contact Sports
I go over more examples in my post on exercises to avoid in pregnancy.
Is it bad to flex your abs while pregnant?
Flexing your abs isometrically is okay while pregnant. This is what you do during exercises like side planks, modified planks, and leg raises.
It is best that you avoid flexing your abs by flexing your spine (aka sit-ups and crunches) as these exercises place too much outward pressure on your ab muscles.
Final Words On pregnancy Ab Exercises In The First Trimester
So there you have a quick and effective 10 minute core workout that you could perform throughout your first trimester.
It is super important to maintain a strong core throughout your pregnancy as your abdominal muscles get significantly stretched and weakened as the uterus grows.
Now I want to hear from you.
What core exercise are you most excited to try?
Comment below and let me know.
- A Safe & Effective Second Trimester Pregnancy Workout
- A Safe & Effective Third Trimester Pregnancy Workout
- A 20 Minute Resistance Band Pregnancy Workout
- 21 Core Exercises You Can Do Throughout Your Entire Pregnancy
Get Four Free Workouts To Help Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor & Heal Your Mommy Tummy!
Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT
Brittany Robles is a full-time OBGYN physician, a NASM certified trainer, and a prenatal and postnatal fitness specialist. She holds a Master of Public Health degree in maternal health with a special interest in exercise and nutrition. She is also the co-author of The White Coat Trainer. Learn more about her here.
Sharing is Caring – Send This To A Mom In Need!
- Benjamin, D. R., van de Water, A. T., & Peiris, C. L. (2014). Effects of exercise on diastasis of the rectus abdominis muscle in the antenatal and postnatal periods: a systematic review. Physiotherapy, 100(1), 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physio.2013.08.005
- Rise E, Bø K, Nystad W. Is there any association between abdominal strength training before and during pregnancy and delivery outcome? The Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study. Braz J Phys Ther. 2019;23(2):108-115. doi:10.1016/j.bjpt.2018.06.006
- Morino S, Ishihara M, Umezaki F, Hatanaka H, Yamashita M, Aoyama T. Pelvic alignment changes during the perinatal period. PLoS One. 2019;14(10):e0223776. Published 2019 Oct 10. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0223776
- Connolly CP, Conger SA, Montoye AHK, et al. Walking for health during pregnancy: A literature review and considerations for future research. J Sport Health Sci. 2019;8(5):401-411. doi:10.1016/j.jshs.2018.11.004
- Gilleard WL, Brown JM. Structure and function of the abdominal muscles in primigravid subjects during pregnancy and the immediate postbirth period. Phys Ther. 1996 Jul;76(7):750-62. doi: 10.1093/ptj/76.7.750. PMID: 8677279.