A Complete 2nd Trimester Strength Workout (How To Exercise Safely)

Are you looking for a safe 2nd-trimester strength workout?

You are in the right place!

This full-body pregnancy workout will:

  • increase your strength,
  • improve your mobility,
  • and teach you safe exercises you can do in the 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.

Alright, let’s dive right in.

2nd trimester workout cover image

Second Trimester Exercise Guidelines- How Much Is Safe?

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

First and foremost, 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 in the second trimester.

This is in line with The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists 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.

Avoid strenuous activity and listen to your body!

You must stop if you experience:

  • Pain
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Fatigue
  • etc

What exercise can I do in the 2nd trimester?

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

It is perfectly safe to do almost all types of low-impact exercises in the second trimester. 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 very heavy resistance if you are weight training.

Always err on the side of using a lighter external load if you are 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 health care provider before doing this exercise routine.

The Second Trimester Workout Plan

All right, now we are ready to begin the workout.

The good news is, you can do this pregnancy workout at home or at the gym!

But before you start, 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 pregnancy workout.

The Warm-Up

  • Banded Shoulder Dislocations
  • Bodyweight Squats
  • Standing Hip Flexor Stretch
  • Standing Hamstring and Calf Stretch
  • Standing Quad Stretch
  • Standing Forward Arm Raises
  • Standing Shoulder Circles
Brittany performing banded shoulder dislocations by brining a band over her head and around her back with her arms straight
brittany doing a pregnancy squat
Brittany doing a hip flexor stretch with one leg on a chair
Brittany stretching her hamstring
brittany stretching her quad by brining heel to butt
Brittany performing shoulder flexions by raising her arms in front of her body
Brittany performing standing arm circles with arms out at her sides

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

The 2nd Trimester Pregnancy Workouts:

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


Workout 2:


Workout 3:


And here are the actual workouts themselves.

Workout 1
Sumo Squat
Alternating Shoulder Press
Pull Throughs
Kegel Exercises
Workout 2
Skater Deadlifts
Incline Pushups
Kegel Exercise
Workout 3
Single Arm Bent-Over Row
Band Pull Aparts
Cat Cow
Modified Side Plank

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

The Second Trimester Exercises

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!

brittany doing a sumo squat with a dumbbell in her hands while pregnant

To do it:

  • Grab a moderately heavy dumbbell (this is my favorite set on Amazon) and hold it between both of your legs.
  • 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.

Alternating Shoulder Press:

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

If this exercise is uncomfortable or causes coning of your belly, you can do it while seated.

brittany doing an alternating-shoulder-press-in-pregnancy

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.


The third exercise is the pull-through. You can do this exercise with a resistance band (that can be purchased on Amazon), a cable machine, or a dumbbell.

The pull-through will strengthen your hamstrings, low back, and glute muscles.

brittany doing a pull-throughs in a pregnancy workout

To do it (with a band or cable)

  • 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.
  • If you are using a dumbbell, you can just hold it between your legs.
  • 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.

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 muscles as early as the first and second trimesters.

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

brittany doing a kegel exercise in pregnancy

To do it:

  • Inhale and hold your breath for 1-2 seconds.
  • Then as you exhale, 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.

Workout 2:

Skater Deadlifts:

The second workout starts with the skater 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 lower back. The single-leg component will also train your core muscles.

brittany doing a skater deadlift in pregnancy

To do it:

  • Grab a dumbbell and hold it out in front of your thighs
  • 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.

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.

brittany doing incline-push-up-shoulder-taps while pregnant

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.

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:

brittany doing step-ups while pregnant
  • 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.

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.

brittany doing a kegel exercise in pregnancy

See above for instructions.

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:

brittany doing a bent-over-row in pregnancy
  • Place an outstretched arm up on a bench or a chair to lean against for support.
  • Bend over with a neutral back and set a wide stance with 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.

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.

brittany doing band-pull-aparts in pregnancy

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.


In the second trimester, it is common to begin developing lower back discomfort as your pregnancy continues to grow.

The cat-cow will help strengthen the abdominal muscles, restore some mobility to your spine, and provide much-needed blood flow to the low back.

To do it:

brittany doing a cat-to-cow in pregnancy
  • 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.

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:

brittany doing a modified side plank in the 2nd-trimester of pregnancy
  • 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. Don’t forget to switch sides.

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.

The 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 routine 2 times per week, ideally on the days where you aren’t lifting.

You could learn more by checking out my article: The Best Prenatal Cardio Workout.

Alternatively, you can do other forms of low-impact aerobics such as:

  • 15 minutes on a stationary bike
  • 30-minute walk
  • 15 minutes of swimming


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

Is it safe to exercise in the second trimester?

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 for any prolonged period of time
  • Do not do any exercises that cause you pain or discomfort
  • Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water

If you would like to do a quick at-home pregnancy workout, check out this follow-along video I created.

Additionally, there are a few types of exercises you should avoid at this stage in the pregnancy which I will cover below.

Is It Safe to do Squats in the Second Trimester?

It is safe to perform squats in the second trimester as long as they don’t cause you any discomfort, and you don’t have any medical contraindications to exercise.

If you are using external weights, is important that you not use excessively heavy resistance when doing any exercise while pregnant.

I have written entire articles on Squatting While Pregnant and Safe Push-Ups Variations for Each Trimester if you’d like to learn more safe bodyweight exercises for pregnancy.

Can You Do Planks While Pregnant?

You can do planks while pregnant if you do them correctly, and they don’t cause you any discomfort.

In the second trimester, you may have to modify your planks to make them less challenging.

I cover 20 safe plank variations you can do divided by trimester in this post.

What exercises should you avoid in the second trimester?

Below is a list of second trimester exercises to avoid:

  • High impact exercises
  • High-intensity interval training
  • Jumping/Plyometrics
  • Contact sports
  • Hot Yoga
  • Any exercises where you are lying flat on your back for long periods

High impact exercises can place a lot of stress on your joints, and 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 to your heart.

Always use good judgment and ask your doctor first if you are unsure. I go over exercises to avoid during pregnancy in more detail in this post.

Final Words 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 before you engage in any physical activity or exercise program.

If you found this helpful, share it with other pregnant women and…

Be sure to check out my other pregnancy workouts by trimester!

Stay safe,

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.

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4 thoughts on “A Complete 2nd Trimester Strength Workout (How To Exercise Safely)”

  1. Thank you!!! I’m already a heavy set woman and was barely beginning to include exercise into my daily routine when I found out I was pregnant. With an incompetent cervix, I didn’t think I’d be able to continue working out. Then my doctor directed me here and it’s perfect! Clear and concise instructions on how to perform the exercises correctly so that even a novice can follow along, sound advice and explanations for certain restrictions, and it all comes from a practical, scientific background! Thank you, Dr. Robles!

    1. Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

      Hi Jasmyn!

      Thank you so much for your comment!

      This is so amazing and I am so glad you are finding Postpartum Trainer helpful 🙂

      Good luck throughout your pregnancy and feel free to send me an email if you have any questions!

  2. I would love to utilize this workout plan now that I’m in my second trimester! Do you have a video course showing these workouts? Or a pdf? Thanks!

    1. Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

      Hi Melinda!

      Thank you so much for your comment!

      I have been asked this several times and it is something I am working on :)!

Comments are closed.