A Complete 2nd Trimester Strength Workout [How To Exercise Safely]

In this post, we are going to cover a 2nd-trimester strength workout.

This is a full-body workout that 

  • will increase your strength,
  • improve your mobility,
  • and is safe for your second trimester of pregnancy.

We will also cover a basic cardio workout you can do as well.

This is part 2 of 3 on the Getting In Shape During Pregnancy series.

If you’re in the first trimester, be sure to check out The first-trimester pregnancy workout.

Alright, let’s dive right in.

2nd-trimester-workout

Disclaimer

***READ FIRST***

Although I am a doctor, I am not your doctor. This information is for informational purposes only and should not substitute the advice from your healthcare professional. Please read my full Disclaimer for more information. Also, this post may contain affiliate links: meaning I may receive a commission if you use them.

Ok, moving on.

Second Trimester Exercise Guidelines

OK, so how should you go about exercising in the second trimester?

First and foremost, you need to make sure that you get your doctor’s approval before doing any kind of exercise activity. 

This is especially true in the second trimester as your baby is getting bigger, and the chance of doing harm increases.

The good news is:

If you have a normal pregnancy, and you are cleared to exercise, it is OK to 

  • work out 3-5 times a week,
  • exercise for up to 30 minutes a day,
  • and use a combination of different strength and cardiovascular exercise.

This is in line with The American College of OBGYN’s 2020 recommendations.

The most important thing is that you do not overdo it, and that you focus on exercises that are safe in this stage in your pregnancy.

What exercise can I do in the 2nd trimester?

So what exercises are safe to do the in the second trimester?

It is perfectly safe to do almost all types of low impact exercises. This includes:

  • Walking
  • Yoga (modified for pregnant woman)
  • Pilates (modified for pregnant woman)
  • Dancing
  • Swimming

And of course, it is OK to do resistance training. 

Can You Do Strength Training While Pregnant?

Yes, you can strength train while pregnant. With that said, it is important that you do not use heavy weights.

Always err on the side of using a lighter external load if you’re unsure. Since you are using a lighter weight, you can

  • increase the number of repetitions you do, and
  • you can also perform the repetitions at a slower tempo to increase the difficulty of the workout

I will show you how to do this below.

But I repeat:

Make sure that you have had a thorough evaluation by your healthcare provider before doing this strength workout.

The Second Trimester Workout Plan

All right, now we are ready to begin the workout. It is important that you start every single workout with a proper warm-up.

This is the same warm-up that we listed in our first trimester work out.

The Warm-Up

  • Quad Stretches,
  • Hip Flexions
  • Bodyweight Squats
  • Shoulder Circles
  • Shoulder Flexion
  • Shoulder Abduction
  • Side Bends
  • Bird Dogs

After the warm-up, you will then move onto the strength portion.

The Workouts:

The program is composed of three different workouts. Each workout will focus on 3-4 different exercises, targeting different important muscle groups.

In the first-trimester workout, we focused on a few exercises that involve balance. For the second trimester, we will decrease the number of exercises that require a lot of balance.

Either way, the movement patterns that we will target include:

  1. The Knee Flexion
  2. The Hip Extension
  3. The Push
  4. The Pull
  5. The Press
  6. Core Stabilization
  7. Pelvic Floor Strength
  8. Spine Mobility
  9. and Isolation Exercises

So here are the basic templates for each workout.

Workout 1:

  • KNEE FLEXION EXERCISE
  • PUSH EXERCISE
  • HIP EXTENSION EXERCISE
  • PELVIC FLOOR EXERCISE

Workout 2:

  • HIP EXTENSION EXERCISE
  • PRESS EXERCISE
  • KNEE FLEXION EXERCISE
  • PELVIC FLOOR EXERCISE

Workout 3:

  • PULL EXERCISE
  • ISOLATION EXERCISE
  • SPINE MOBILITY EXERCISE
  • CORE EXERCISE

And here are the actual workouts themselves.

Workout 1Repetitions
Sumo Squat8-12 repetitions
Alternating Shoulder Press8-12 repetitions per side
Pull Throughs8-12 repetitions
Kegel Exercise15-20 repetitions
Workout 2Repetitions
Single Leg Deadlifts8-12 repetitions per side
Incline Pushups8-12 repetitions
Step Ups8-12 repetitions per side
Kegel Exercise15-20 repetitions
Workout 3Repetitions
Single Arm Bent-Over Row12-15 repetitions per side
Band Pull Aparts15 repetitions
Cat Cow15 repetitions
Modified Side Plank15-30 seconds per side

Now let’s go over each exercise in more detail.

Workout 1:

Sumo Squats:

The first exercise in your second-trimester workout is the Sumo Squat. The Sumo squat will strengthen your quadriceps (front thigh), adductors (inner thigh), hamstrings (back of thigh) and glutes!

To do it:

  • Grab a moderately heavy dumbbell (which can be purchased on Amazon) and hold it between both of your hands.
  • Assume a wider than a shoulder-width stance, and turn your feet out 30-45 degrees.
  • Keeping the dumbbell in your outstretched hands by your pelvis, begin squatting down.
  • Keep your back straight and your feet flat on the floor.
  • Only go as low as you can comfortably maintain proper form.
  • I also want you to go down slowly, using a 3-second tempo.

Do 8-12 repetitions.

alternating-shoulder-press-in-pregnancy

Alternating Shoulder Press:

The second exercise in workout 1 is the alternating shoulder press. This exercise will strengthen your shoulders, triceps, and core muscles.

To do it:

  • You will need two moderately heavy dumbbells for this exercise.
  • Bring the dumbbells up to your shoulders with either your palms facing forward or inward (neutral grip).
  • Assume a shoulder-width stance and brace your core.
  • Next, you are going to press only one dumbbell up overhead until your elbow is locked out.
  • Slowly lower the dumbbell back down to your shoulder over 3-seconds.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.

You can also do this exercise with a resistance band.

Do 8-12 repetitions per side.

sumo-squats-in-pregnancy

Pull-Throughs:

The third exercise is the pull-through. In order to do this exercise, you will either need a resistance band (that can be purchased on Amazon) or a cable machine. The pull-through will strengthen your hamstrings, low back, and glute muscles.

To do it:

  • Grab either the handle of the cable machine or a resistance band that is attached to a sturdy pole or beam, in between your legs.
  • Face away from the band or cable and begin to walk away to put the band or the machine on resistance.
  • From here, set your stance wider than shoulder-width.
  • Begin bending at the hips (and not your spine), by pushing your butt back and keeping your knees just slightly bent.
  • Make sure that your back stays straight throughout the entire exercise.
  • Do this in a slow controlled tempo (3-second descent).
  • Once you feel a nice stretch in your hamstrings, reverse the movement by extending at the hips and squeezing your glutes.

Do 8-12 repetitions.

pull-throughs-pregnancy-workout

Kegel Exercise:

The fourth and final exercise in this workout is the Kegel exercise. It is very important that you begin strengthening the pelvic floor as early as the first and second trimester.

These muscles often get stretched and become weak as your pregnancy progresses. Start doing these as early as possible.

To do it:

  • Squeeze in all of your pelvic muscles as if you are trying to hold in your pee and poop.
  • Hold the contraction for 3-5 seconds and release.
  • Do this exercise while lying on your side.

Go for 15-20 repetitions per set.

Kegel-pregnancy-exercise

Workout 2:

Single-Leg Deadlifts:

The second exercise starts with the single-leg deadlift. Don’t worry, both feet will remain on the ground as you are performing this exercise, decreasing the balance component.

This exercise will train your posterior chain which includes the hamstrings, glutes, and low back. The single-leg component will also train your core muscles.

To do it:

  • Grab two dumbbells and hold them directly at your sides.
  • Stand with your feet together, with your spine tall and your core braced.
  • Begin stepping back with one foot as far as you comfortably can.
  • As you step back, begin bending at the hips as if you are trying to place the dumbbells down on the floor.
  • Keep your back flat, and bend the front knee slightly.
  • Do this motion slowly, taking 3 seconds to descend.
  • Once you feel a nice stretch along your hamstring, reverse the movement and bring your feet back together while squeezing your glutes.

If you do not have access to dumbbells, feel free to use anything for external resistance such as books or a gallon of water.

You can alternate sides, or complete all of the repetitions on one side.

Do 8-12 repetitions per side.

single-leg-deadlift

Incline Pushup Shoulder Taps:

The second exercise in Workout 2 is the Incline Push-up. For this variation, we are avoiding the modified bent-knee push-up just to minimize any chance that you fall on your belly. The incline pushup will strengthen your shoulders, triceps, and muscles of the anterior torso like the chest.

To do it:

  • Find a table, ledge, or chair that you can lean against.
  • Place your outstretched hands on the ledge and step away from it to assume a push-up position.
  • Place your feet at shoulder width.
  • Keep your core tight and your back straight in an anterior pelvic tilt as shown in the picture.
  • Start by picking up one hand and touching your opposite shoulder while keeping your core engaged.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.
  • To finish the exercise, bend your elbows and slowly lowering your chest down to the ledge until it makes contact.
  • Lower yourself using a 3-second tempo and tuck your elbows to a 45-degree angle from your body.

Reverse the movement by pushing off the ledge until your elbows are locked out.

Do 8-12 repetitions.

incline-push-up-shoulder-taps

Step Up:

The third exercise in workout 2 is the step-up. This exercise will improve your single-leg strength while strengthening your quads, abductors, glutes, and core.

Find a stable platform that can support your full body weight and isn’t too high off the ground. Start with an object that is about the same height as the midway point in your shin.

To do it:

  • Grab two dumbbells and place one foot on the platform.
  • Begin the exercise by leaning forward and placing all of your weight on that one foot.
  • Naturally, your back foot will begin to come off the floor.
  • Continue extending your front knee until you are fully standing on the platform.
  • Slowly lower yourself using a 3-second count back to the starting position.
  • Finish all of the repetitions on one side before moving on to the opposite leg.

Do 8-12 repetitions per leg.

step-ups-2nd-trimester

Kegel Exercise:

The fourth and final exercise of workout 2 is the Kegel. We are really dialing up the frequency in which you do this exercise because it is so important.

Do not skip this movement.

See above for instructions.

Kegel-pregnancy-exercise

Workout 3:

Single Arm Bent-Over Row:

We will start workout 3 with the pull exercise. You should be familiar with the bent-over row. This time, we will be doing a single-arm variation to increase the amount of weight we can do per side.

I suggest you do this exercise with a moderately heavy dumbbell, and a bench (I have a bench press similar to this one that I bought here on Amazon) to lean against.

To do it:

  • Place one knee and one outstretched arm up on a bench to lean against for support.
  • Place the foot of the other leg flat on the ground next to the bench and position the dumbbell underneath your free arm.
  • From here, grab the dumbbell and begin pulling it up toward your pelvis.
  • Focus on driving your elbow up toward the ceiling and retracting your shoulder blade.
  • Feel free to hold the dumbbell wider than normal to avoid hitting your pregnant belly.
  • Slowly lower the dumbbell back down using a 3-second tempo.

This exercise can also be done with a resistance band if you do not have access to dumbbells. You do not need a bench in this case.

Do 8-12 repetitions per side.

single-arm-row-pregnancy-workout

Band Pull Aparts:

The second exercise is the band pull-apart. This exercise will serve as our isolation exercise, targeting the posterior shoulder and rotator cuff muscles.

You will need a closed-loop resistance band to do it.

To do it:

  • Grab the band on both ends with an underhand grip at shoulder-width.
  • Raise your arms directly out in front you with your elbows straight.
  • Next, begin pulling the band apart without bending at the elbow.
  • The band will ultimately come in contact with your chest.
  • Slowly return the band back to the starting position.

You should feel this exercise along the upper back and the back of your shoulders.

Do 15 repetitions.

band-pull-aparts-in-pregnancy

Cat-Cow:

In the second trimester, it is common to begin developing low back discomfort as your pregnancy continues to grow. The cat-cow will help restore some mobility to your spine and provide much-needed blood flow to the low back.

To do it:

  • Get into a quadruped position (hands and knees directly underneath your shoulders and hips).
  • From here, inhale and arch your back as you look up slightly.
  • Hold this for a 2 count, then as you exhale, completely round your back while tucking your chin.

Repeat for 15 repetitions, taking your time through the sequence.

cat-to-cow

Modified Side Plank:

The final exercise in workout 3 is the modified side plank. This exercise will strengthen all of the muscles in your core, specifically the oblique muscles.

These are the core muscles on the sides of your abdomen.

To do it:

  • Lie on your side with your elbow and forearm resting on the ground.
  • Prop yourself up onto your forearm while keeping the bottom knee bent and on the floor.
  • Extend your top leg so that it is in line with the rest of your body.
  • Try to make sure that your body is in as straight a line as possible.

Brace your core, squeeze your butt muscles and hold this position for time.

2nd-trimester-plank

So that wraps up the strength workouts. Do these workouts on alternating days.

For example,

  • Workout 1 on Monday
  • Workout 2 on Wednesday
  • Workout 3 on Friday

If you are just starting out, perform just 1 set of each exercise, per day. As you get stronger, do 2 sets of each exercise.

If you are already experienced, feel free to do 2-3 sets of each exercise per day.

Now let’s move on to the aerobic part of the workout.

Second Trimester Cardio Workout

So how can you do cardio or aerobic work in pregnancy?

The safest and easiest way to do cardio in the second trimester is brisk incline walks.

I like to do these on a treadmill.

All you have to do is grab a timer, set the treadmill to an incline of 2.5 or more and begin a brisk walk.

Alternate between 1 minute of brisk walking, followed by 1 minute of a slower-paced walk.

Do this for 15 total minutes.

That’s it!

I recommend you do this 2 times per week, ideally on the days where you aren’t lifting.

Alternatively, feel free to do a 20-minute yoga session on these days.

___

Now let’s finish off with a few other considerations.

Is it safe to exercise in the second trimester?

Yes, it is perfectly safe to exercise in the 2nd trimester, assuming you do not have any medical contraindications during your pregnancy.

However, now that you are further along in the pregnancy, it is important that you modify your workouts to be pregnancy-friendly.

As you are working out in the second trimester, it is important that you

  • Do not overexert yourself,
  • Do not let your heart rate exceed >140 beats per minute
  • Do not do any exercises that cause you pain

Additionally, there are a few types of exercises you should avoid at this stage in the pregnancy.

What exercises should you avoid in the second trimester?

During the second trimester, it is important that you avoid

  • High impact exercises
  • High-intensity interval training
  • Jumping/Plyometrics
  • Contact sports
  • Hot Yoga
  • Any exercises where you are lying flat on your back
exercises-to-avoid-2nd-trimester

Any potential trauma to the abdomen can lead to placental disruption (aka placental abruption), fetal distress, and preterm labor.

Also, lying on your back can potentially compromise blood flow to the rest of your body. That’s because a pregnant uterus can compress the inferior vena cava, one of the major blood vessels that circulate blood back your heart.

Always use good judgment and ask your doctor first if you are unsure.

Final Thoughts On Strength Training In The Second Trimester

So here you have a safe and effective workout plan that can help you maintain and/or improve your fitness in pregnancy.

Always take your time, and make sure that you are cleared for exercise.

Be sure to check out my other posts on:

Don’t forget to check out our Workout Plan For The Third Trimester.

Stay safe,


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brittany-robles

Brittany N Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

Brittany N Robles is a full-time OBGYN, a NASM certified personal trainer, and health & fitness expert. She holds a Masters 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.

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