9 Easy Leg Exercises For Pregnant Women (Beginner Friendly)

So, you’re pregnant and you want to exercise your legs.

You’re in the right place.

Today you’re going to learn 9 easy leg exercises you can do in pregnancy and in the postpartum period.

Let’s get started.

leg-exercise-postpartum-women

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.

Can you work out your legs while pregnant?

Yes, you can definitely exercise your legs during pregnancy.  In fact, some organizations recommend that you exercise regularly throughout your pregnancy.

This is of course if you don’t have any contraindications to exercise.

Always, always, always, make sure that your doctor says it’s ok.

With that said, it’s important that you avoid certain leg exercises just to be safe. 

Let’s go over them now.

What Leg Exercises Should Be Avoided In Pregnancy?

There are a handful of exercises you should avoid in pregnancy.

The most common exercises to avoid are: 

Exercises where you lay flat on your back

Your pregnant uterus can compress the major blood vessels that circulate to and from your heart. Lying on your back increases this compression more.

A common example is the glute bridge.

glute-bridge

Exercises that require a lot of balance

These exercises increase the risk of you falling or hitting your belly. Please avoid this!

Common examples are single leg exercises such as lunges and step ups.

But…

… that’s not to say you can’t do them. 

I’ll show you how to modify these exercises below.

Exercises that include jumping:

This one should be obvious. You shouldn’t do any exercises that make you jump up and down, like box jumps or burpees.

These can place a lot of stress on your uterus and placenta and can lead to unwanted complications.

Ok, now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about leg exercises you can do.

Can you do squats while pregnant?

Yes, you can do squats while pregnant. I have written an entire article on squatting in pregnancy.

Squats are a great way to help maintain strength and muscle tone in your legs as well as improving the mobility of your hips and ankles.

Don’t worry if you can’t squat all the way down. Squat as low as you comfortably can and use a supporting chair if you need to.

squat-in-pregnancy

See more below. 

How Do I Slim or Reduce My Thighs During Pregnancy?

Many women feel that they gain all of their weight in their thighs.

This is actually pretty common. Research has shown that women have more fat cells in their hips and thighs compared to men.

Why?

Because we carry pregnancies!

The more fat cells we have in any given area, the more likely we are to gain weight there.

That’s why we gain weight in our hips and thighs.

So is there any way to reduce or slim your thighs during pregnancy?

Well, first things first. It is normal and expected for you to gain weight in pregnancy.

How much you gain, however, depends on your starting weight.

Here are the pregnancy weight gain guidelines for your reference.

But let’s say you’ve gained too much weight. Or maybe you don’t need to gain much weight at all.

There are two things you can do, to try and slim down your thighs.

Improve Your Diet 

Your diet will always be the most important factor in losing fat.

Some experts say that fat loss is 80% diet and 20% exercise.

So that’s where you have to focus your energy first.

I have written an entire article on the best diet during pregnancy and how to lose your baby fat postpartum.

With that said, you won’t be able to specifically target your thighs. Where you lose fat first will be determined by your genetics. 

**Don’t forget unless you were obese before getting pregnant, it is expected and recommended for you to gain weight during pregnancy**

Don’t feel that you must lose fat to slim your legs. You can do it postpartum.

Ok so what about the second thing you can do? 

Can you guess what it is?

Of course, you can. Exercise!

Leg Exercises For Pregnant Women

In this next section, I’ll go over the best leg exercises you can do in pregnancy.

To increase the difficulty of any of the leg exercises, feel free to use one of the Postpartum Trainer’s Hip Resistance Bands.

Let’s start.

The Squat

The number one leg exercise for pregnant women is the squat. You know the kind…

Here is what it looks like. 

squat

Do your best to keep your heels flat on the ground and your back flat.

The squat will exercise the muscles in the front of your legs (the quads), your inner thighs (the adductors) and your booty (the glutes).

Don’t be afraid to use the back of a chair for support.

This will help you to only go as low as you can comfortably go.

You can do 10-12 repetitions per set.

Modified Step Ups

The modified step up is the first single-leg exercise we will go over.

Remember when I said that you should avoid exercises that require a lot of balance? One simple way to modify the step-up is to just use a shorter platform.

Here’s what the exercise looks like.

step-up

Make sure to keep your hips level, and your knees pointing forward throughout the exercise. (Don’t let your knees track inward).

In the beginning, feel free to use the back of a chair for balance.

The step-up will workout the muscles in the front of your thighs, your inner thighs, and your glutes.

Do 12 repetitions on each leg.

Reverse Lunges

Reverse lunges are another great single-leg exercise that you can do safely in pregnancy.

Here is what the exercise looks like:

reverse-lunge

I like to keep my hands at my hips to help me keep a neutral pelvis as I step back.

Use a chair in the beginning, to help keep your balance.

The reverse lunge will workout the muscles in the front of your thighs, your inner thighs, and your glutes.

Do 12 repetitions on each leg.

Modified Lateral Lunges

The lateral lunge is the last single-leg exercise we will do. 

I recommend you always use a chair for this exercise to help you keep your balance.

Here is what the exercise looks like:

lateral-lunge-leg-workout-pregnancy

Keep your heels flat on the floor and the non-working leg straight.

Only go as low as you comfortably can.

This exercise will work out the muscles in the front of your thighs, your inner thighs, and your hamstrings on the back of your thighs.

Do 10-12 repetitions on each leg.

Side-Lying Abductor Raise

The side-lying abductor raise is a simple leg exercise you can do at any time.

Here’s what the exercise looks like:

leg-lifts-leg-workout-pregnancy

This exercise will train the abductors of your legs, which is on the outer side of your thighs and glutes.

Do 12-15 repetitions per leg.

Side-Lying Clams

Right after the side-lying leg raise, you can go straight to the side-lying clams.

Here is what the exercise looks like:

clam-shell

This exercise will work out the external rotators of your hips- such as the medial glutes.

Keep your heels together and rotate one knee upward.

Do 12-15 repetitions per side.

Sumo Squats

Sumo squats are another squat variation that emphasizes the muscles of your hips and inner thighs.

Here is what the exercise looks like:

pregnancy-sumo-squat-leg-workout

Start with your feet as far apart as comfortably possible.

Turn your toes out to the side.

Squat down using a chair for support until you feel a stretch in your groin.

Come back up by squeezing your booty muscles.

This exercise will work out your quadriceps, your adductors which are the muscles of your inner thigh, and your hip flexors.

Do 12 repetitions per set.

Hip Hinges

The hip hinge is a great exercise you can do in pregnancy to work out your hamstrings (the back of your thighs) and your glutes (the booty).

Here is what the exercise looks like:

pregnancy-hip-hinge

It is important that you start the exercise by pushing your butt back first while keeping your spine neutral.

You can have a slight bend at the knee.

Feel free to use the back of a chair for support.

If this exercise places too much pressure on your belly, then don’t do it.

As mentioned above, this exercise will work out your hamstrings and glutes.

Do 12 repetitions per set.

Donkey Kick Backs

The donkey kickback is another popular butt and hamstring exercise that is safe in pregnancy.

Here is what the exercise looks like:

donkey-kick-exercise

Kneel down and get on all fours. Keep your back flat and kick one leg up toward the sky.

Do your best to keep your back flat. Don’t arch your low back, as this can worsen low back pain. I have written an entire post on back pain after pregnancy.

Another variation is to simply kick your leg back straight, while squeezing your glute muscle.

This exercise will also work out your hamstring and glutes.

Do 12 repetitions per leg.

Bonus Exercise #1: Calf Raises

The calf raise is a bonus exercise that can safely be performed in pregnancy.

Here is what the exercise looks like:

calf-raise

The calf raise is simple.

Use the back of a chair to help keep your balance.

The exercise is even better if you do it on a platform where your heels can go lower than the front of your toes. 

Hold the top position for at least 1 second before coming back down.

Be sure to come down as slowly as you can.

This exercise will work out the muscles of your lower leg- gastrocnemius, tibialis posterior, and soleus.

Do 20 repetitions per set.

Bonus Exercise #2: Side-Lying Adductor Raise

The next bonus exercise is the side-lying adductor raise.

It’s similar to the leg lift you did earlier but instead of lifting the top leg, you will lift the bottom leg.

Here is what the exercise looks like:

postpartum-leg-exercise-adductor

To do this, place your top leg in front of the bottom leg with your knee bent.

This exercise will work out the muscles of your inner thigh- the adductors.

Do 8-10 repetitions per leg.

____

Okay, so there you have it.

To make it easy for you, I will also list the exercises based on which leg muscles they work.

Exercises For The Front Of Your Thigh (Quadriceps)

Squats 

Step-Ups

Reverse Lunges

Exercises For Your Inner Thighs (Adductors)

Side Lunge

Sumo Squats

Side-Lying Adductor Raises

Exercises For Your Booty and The Back of Your Thighs

Hip Hinges

Donkey Kickbacks

Reverse Lunge

Any Other Leg Exercises You Can Do In Pregnancy?

These aren’t the only leg exercises you can do while pregnant. You can also do strength training exercises with external weights.

These include dumbbell or barbell variations of the exercises mentioned above.

Many women who lifted weights before pregnancy continue to do it in a modified form during pregnancy.

Just make sure that you do it with the supervision of a trained professional.

If you haven’t lifted weights before your pregnancy, it’s probably best to keep this to a minimum. 

Should I Do Leg Exercises During Pregnancy?

If you don’t have any contraindication to exercise in pregnancy, you can and should do leg exercises.

Leg exercises will help improve your circulation, which can decrease your risk of blood clots.

This is especially true in the prenatal and postpartum period.

During pregnancy, your growing uterus can compress the blood vessels in your pelvis. These vessels go to and from your legs, leading to pooling of blood in your lower body.

This is one of the reasons why pregnancy is considered a risk factor for DVTs, aka blood clots.

Leg exercises can help squeeze blood out of your legs and back into normal circulation.

What other kinds of exercises are safe during pregnancy?

I’m glad you asked. Besides leg exercises, here are a few other exercises that are considered safe in pregnancy.

Here is a short list of other safe exercises.

This isn’t a comprehensive list, but it should give you enough to work with!

What About Pregnancy Arm Workouts?

Obviously, you’re not limiting to just training your legs. You can also do arm exercises in pregnancy as well.

Here is an entire post on arm workouts for pregnant women!

Final Thoughts

Leg exercises are a great way to stay in shape during and after pregnancy.

You can and should be active in pregnancy, provided you don’t have a medical reason to avoid exercise.

Which of these exercises do you want to try first?

Do you want to add any exercises to this list?

Comment below and let me know!

Other Related Posts on Ways to Strengthen Your Legs and Glutes


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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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