9 Easy Leg Exercises For Pregnancy [Workout Included]

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.

I’ll also show you a simple leg workout you can do in 20 minutes a day!

Let’s get started.

leg exercises for pregnancy cover image

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. All kinds of exercise and dietary changes are potentially dangerous, and those who do not seek counsel from the appropriate health care authority assume the liability of any injury which may occur. 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?

It is safe to work out your legs during pregnancy, as long as you don’t have any contraindications to exercise.

In fact, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant women exercise regularly throughout their pregnancy.

But before you do, always make sure that your doctor says it’s okay for you to exercise.

Also, 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: 

Avoid exercises where you lie flat on your back

You should avoid exercises where you are lying flat on your back for any prolonged periods of time in the late second trimester and third trimester.

That’s because your uterus can compress the major blood vessels located in the pelvis.

This compression will compromise blood flow to you and your baby.

A common movement to be careful with is the glute bridge.

glute bridge exercise

Avoid exercises that require a lot of balance

You should also avoid leg exercises that require a lot of balance as these can 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.

That’s not to say you can’t do them. 

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

Avoid exercises that include jumping

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

These exercises can place a lot of stress on your uterus and placenta and also increase your risk of falling.

Avoid these at all costs.

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

The Best Leg Exercises For Pregnancy

Below are the top 9 pregnancy exercises you can do for your legs.

Also, you can increase the difficulty of any of the leg exercises by adding resistance bands.

You can get a pair of The Postpartum Trainer’s Hip Resistance Bands here.

Let’s start.



The Squat

The number one leg exercise for pregnant women is the squat. This movement trains a lot of muscles in the legs, the abdominal muscles, and the pelvic floor muscles.

Here is what it looks like. 

brittany performing a squat

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes pointing out.

Bend at the hips and knees and go as low as you comfortably can.

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

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

Don’t be afraid to use the back of a sturdy 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.


Is It OK To 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 improve 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.

yes- you can squat while pregnant

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.

brittany perfroming a step up exercise on a short stool

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

Also, when training your left foot, try not to push too much with the right foot and vice versa.

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

The step-up will work out 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:

brittany performing a reverse lunge

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

Your back knee does not have to touch the floor.

Feel free to use a chair in the beginning, to help keep your balance.

The reverse lunge will work out 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. 

The starting position requires a wide stance with your feet pointing out.

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

Here is what the exercise looks like:

brittany performing a lateral lunge while holding onto a chair

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 which are on the back of your thighs.

Do 10-12 repetitions on each leg.


Side-Lying Abductor Raise

The side-lying abductor raise (aka leg lifts) is a simple leg exercise you can do when sitting on the couch or lying in bed.

Here’s what the exercise looks like:

brittany performing a side lying leg-lift with her knees straight

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

Make sure to train the left leg and right leg evenly.

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:

brittany performing the clam-shell, rotating her upper thigh away from her bottom thigh with her knees bent

Lie on your left side with your knees together and feet together.

From here, rotate your right knee away from your left knee while keeping your heels together.

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

Do 12-15 repetitions per side.


Sumo Squats

The sumo squat is another squat variation that emphasizes the muscles of your hips and inner thighs.

Here is what the exercise looks like:

brittany performing the sumo-squat while holding onto a chair for support

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 stretching in your groin.

Come back up by squeezing your booty muscles.

Make sure to keep your heels flat on the ground at all times.

This exercise will work out your quads, 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:

brittany performing a hip hinge, bending at the hips while keeping her back flat knees straight and holding onto a chair

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

At the end range, you should feel your hamstrings stretching.

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:

brittany performing a donkey-kick-back exercise while on her hands and knees

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.

(Related Post: 7 Awesome Butt Exercises You Can Do In Pregnancy)

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:

brittany performing a calf-raise while holding onto a chair

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:

brittany performing an adductor raise while lying on her side

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

Inner Thigh Exercises (Adductors)

  • Side Lunge
  • Sumo Squats
  • Side-Lying Adductor Raises

Glute Exercises (& Hamstrings)

  • Hip Hinges
  • Donkey Kickbacks
  • Reverse Lunge

A Simple Pregnancy Leg Workout

So here’s how to take these movements to create an effective leg workout.

Workout A

ExerciseSetsReps
Squats (Chair Support)38-10
Hip Hinge38-10
Side Lying Adductor Raise312 per side
Calf Raise312-15

Workout B

ExerciseSetsReps
Squats (Chair Support)36-8 per side
Side Lunge (Chair Support)38 per side
Donkey Kickbacks312 per side

As you get stronger, you can use a harder progression or do more repetitions!

Things to look out for:

  • Pelvic Pain or Hip Pain (can be a sign of pubic symphysis dysfunction or SI joint pain)
  • Leg Cramps (especially in just one calf muscle, be sure to inform your doctor as soon as you can!)
  • Lightheadedness, Dizziness
  • Basically, if anything feels strange or causes you pain or discomfort then STOP!

Other Related Questions

How Do I Get Thicker Thighs While Pregnant?

You can get thicker thigh muscles during pregnancy by maintaining a regular exercise routine that includes resistance training of the lower body.

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

With that said, make sure to get clearance from your provider before lifting weights.

If you lifted weights before pregnancy, you can generally continue to do so in some capacity.

Avoid lifting heavy and overexerting yourself. Try not to elevate your heart rate too high.

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

How Do I Slim or Reduce Thigh Fat During Pregnancy?

What if you want to reduce thigh fat while pregnant?

I do not recommend that you actively try to lose fat while pregnant. I explain why fat loss in pregnancy is risky here.

It is perfectly normal for you to gain weight in your thighs and hips during pregnancy.

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.

But there are two things you can try to do to keep fat gain at bay.

Improve Your Nutrition 

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

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 dietary guidelines during pregnancy.

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, I don’t recommend that you try to lose fat in pregnancy**

Instead, I highly recommend that you do it postpartum.

This is why I designed The Postpartum Trainer’s Nutrition Guide.

nutrition-guide-postpartum-fat-loss

It’s a step-by-step guide to help you get rid of that excess pregnancy fat without feeling hungry all the time or affecting your milk supply.

Ok so what about the second thing you can do? 

Can you guess what it is?

Of course, you can.

Exercise!

What Other Kinds Of Exercises Are Safe During Pregnancy?

Besides leg exercises, there are several other exercises that are considered safe in pregnancy.

Here is a shortlist of other safe exercises.

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

What About Losing Arm Fat While Pregnant?

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

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

Final Words On Toning Your Legs While Pregnant

So those are the best exercises to train your legs in pregnancy.

They will help tone and tighten your muscles, improve your circulation, and help boost your mood.

But as always, get clearance from your healthcare provider before doing any type of physical activity!

Now I want to hear from you.

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!

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brittany-robles

Brittany N Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

Brittany 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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