Pregnancy Push-ups [5 Effective Variations For Each Trimester]

Do you want to do push-ups during your pregnancy?

If so, this post covers 15 different push-up variations you can do while pregnant.

You’ll also learn which ones are safest for each trimester.

Are you ready?

Let’s get started!

pregnancy-push-upa

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.

benefits of push-ups during pregnancy

Push-ups are one of the most fundamental exercises for the upper body.

It trains the horizontal push pattern which is important for pressing strength.

Here are the muscle groups that are trained during push-ups:

  • The chest muscles,
  • The tricep muscles,
  • The shoulder muscles, and
  • The core

Interestingly, the last bullet point is most important during pregnancy.

The push-up is an easy and effective way to train your core throughout the pregnancy, while also strengthening your upper body!

The good news is, there are many different angles that you can take when training the push up which makes it a great pregnancy-friendly exercise.

So now let’s go over how to do them.

How To Do Push-ups Properly

Regardless of the push-up variation you are doing, it is important that you do a few things.

  • Keep your hands shoulder-width apart

When starting out, don’t set your hand placement too wide or too narrow. Keep your hands at shoulder-width so that your joints are aligned right on top of each other.

There are, however, exceptions which I’ll discuss below.

  • Tuck your elbows to a 45 degree angle toward your body
pregnancy-push-up

The next thing you need to focus on is your elbow placement. When bending your elbows, do not flare them out directly to your sides.

pregnancy-push-ups-incorrect-form

I.e., don’t make a 90 degree angle between your elbows and your shoulders.

This can place too much pressure on your shoulder.

Instead, focus on keeping your elbows closer to your body.

  • Keep your core engaged

Last but not least, make sure to keep your core muscles turned on throughout the push-up exercise.

This is important for keeping your hips in proper alignment.

Don’t let your hips sag or your low back arch!

Okay with that, let’s get to the push-up variations.

First Trimester Push-Ups

Before doing any type of exercise in pregnancy, it is important that you get clearance from your doctor first!

Okay?

Good.

In the first trimester, your baby will be very small. This means that you can do a lot of push-up variations that wont be possible later in the pregnancy.

Here are push-ups you can do in the first trimester. In general, these are the tougher variations.

If any of these exercises are too challenging for you, check out the second trimester variations.

Standard Push-ups

The standard push-up is the exercise that starts it all.

pushups-in-pregnancy

Here’s how to do it:

  • Assume a push-up position with your hands set at shoulder-width.
  • Make sure that your hands are directly underneath your shoulders.
  • Keep your feet together, squeeze your glutes and engage your core.
  • Next, bend at the elbows by tucking them to a 45 degree angle to your body.
  • As you are descending, retract your shoulder blades together while keeping your core tight.
  • Once your chest touches the ground, press back up until your elbows are locked out.

Do 8-12 repetitions per set.

If this variation is too challenging, you can do it from your knees, or with your hands up on an incline.


Close Grip Push-ups

The next exercise is the close grip push-up.

This variation is pretty much the same as the standard push-up, except you will bring your hands closer than shoulder-width.

close-grip-pushup-in-pregnancy

This variation will emphasize the arms and the triceps a lot more than the standard push-up.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Assume a push-up position with your feet together, glutes engaged, and core tight.
  • Next, set your hand placement narrower than shoulder-width.
  • Begin descending by tucking your elbows in really close to your body.
  • Once your chest touches the ground, press back up without flaring the elbows.
  • Make sure that your hips don’t sag throughout the movement.

Do 8-12 repetitions per set.

If this variation is too challenging, you can do it from your knees, or with your hands up on an incline.


Single Leg Push-ups

The single leg push-up will work your core muscles even further by forcing you to balance on just three points of contact.

single-leg-pushup-in-pregnancy

Here’s how it looks:

  • Assume a push-up position with your hands set at shoulder-width, your feet together, your glutes squeezed, and your core engaged.
  • Next, lift one foot off the ground, and balance yourself.
  • From here, you will begin performing push-ups as you normally would, by tucking your elbows to a 45-degree angle toward your body.
  • Once your chest touches the ground, press back up until your elbows are locked out.

Do 6-12 repetitions per side.


Pike Pushups on An Incline

The next push-up variation is actually a scaled back version of the shoulder-dominant pike push-up.

This is a great exercise to strengthen your shoulders and triceps from a secure position.

incline-pike-pushups

Here’s how they look.

  • Find a box, chair, or bench that can support your full bodyweight. (The taller the box, the easier the exercise).
  • Place your outstretched hands on the chair, and begin walking your feet as close to your hands as possible.
  • This will create a semi upside-down “V” shape in your hips.
  • From here, begin bending your elbows while bringing your forehead towards the chair.
  • As always, tuck your elbows to about 45 degrees.
  • Do not let your body alignment change from the “V” during the entire set.

Do 8-12 repetitions per set.

If this variation is too challenging, you can do it from your knees.


Push-up Mountain Climbers

The last variation of the first trimester push-ups is the push-up mountain climber.

This is a combination exercise that really strengthens the core from a functional position.

push-up-mountain-climbers

Here’s how to do it:

  • Assume a standard push-up position with your hands set at shoulder-width.
  • From here, perform a standard push-up while keeping your glutes activated and your core tight.
  • Next, bend one knee up toward your elbow while keeping your core tight and your elbows straight.
  • Slowly return your leg back to the starting position, and repeat with your other leg.
  • That’s one repetition. Repeat.

Do 8-12 repetitions per set.


Second Trimester Push-Ups

So that wraps up the 5 push-up variations you can do in the first trimester.

Now that your baby bump is showing a bit more, it’s time to modify your push-ups a bit. That way, you wont have to worry about exerting too much pressure on your abdomen.

Let’s get started.

Incline Push-ups

The first second trimester push-up is the incline push-up.

This movement is the same as the traditional push-up, except you will place your hands onto an elevated surface.

incline-push-up
  • Assume a push-up position with your hands against an elevated surface.
  • The taller the surface, the easier the exercise.
  • The rest of the exercise is the same.

Do 10-12 repetitions per set.


Incline Push-up Rows

For this next variation, we will increase the demands on your core. The incline push-up row will strengthen your pressing muscles while improving your core balance and stability.

incline-pushup-plank-row

Here’s how it looks:

  • Assume a push-up position with your hands against an elevated surface.
  • Keeping your core tight and your glutes engaged, begin descending by tucking your elbows to a 45 degree angle.
  • After your chest touches the surface, press back up to the starting position.
  • From here, lift one elbow up toward the sky as you bring your hand toward your chest. Pretend as if you were rowing a dumbbell up toward your rib cage.
  • Slowly lower your hand back to the surface and repeat on the other side.
  • You will notice that you have to really engage your core throughout the movement.

Do 10-12 repetitions per set.


Incline Push-Up With Reaches

The next variation is the incline push-up with reaches.

This movement further challenges the core by making you balance yourself on just two extremities for a quick second.

incline-push-up-with-reach

Here’s how to do it:

  • Assume a push-up position with your hands against an elevated surface.
  • Perform a standard push-up the same way as you’ve been.
  • Once you reach the top of the movement, lift your left arm off the surface and reach forward.
  • At the same time, lift your right leg and reach it behind you.
  • Hold this position for a second, and repeat on the other side.

Do 8-10 repetitions per set.

If this variation is too challenging, you can just lift one limb at a time.


Incline Push Up To Side Plank

The last second trimester pregnancy push-up is the incline push-up to side plank.

This movement will help strengthen the oblique muscles, which run alongside your abdominal muscles.

incline-pushup-plank-row

Here’s how to do it:

  • Assume a push-up position with your hands against an elevated surface.
  • From here, do a standard push-up as before.
  • Once you reach the top of the exercise, lift one arm off the ground and begin rotating it up toward the ceiling.
  • Now, rotate the rest of your body until you are stacked up into a full side plank position.
  • Repeat the side plank on the other side.
  • That is one repetition. Continue for the desired amount of reps.

Do 8-10 repetitions per set.


Kneeling Push-ups

The final push-up exercise for the second trimester is the kneeling push-up.

This variation resembles the standard push-up, except you will perform it from your knees.

When doing this variation, it is important to lean forward, and keep your back neutral.

kneeling-push-up

Here’s how it looks:

  • Get into a quadruped position, with your hands and knees flat on the floor, and back straight.
  • From here, brace your core and walk your hands out in front of you slightly.
  • Next, begin bending at the elbows by tucking them to a 45 degree angle toward your body.
  • Press back up slowly, without letting your low back arch.

Do 8-12 repetitions per set.


Third Trimester Push-Ups

Okay, you made it to the third trimester. At this point, your baby is about the size of a cauliflower.

We will continue to modify the push-up so that you could perform this exercise safely.

Let’s get started.

Wall Push-ups

The first exercise is the wall push-up variation. This is the simplest push-up you can do in a low-risk position.

Wall-push-ups

Here’s how to do it:

  • Stand 12 inches away from a wall and place your hands at shoulder-width apart against the wall.
  • Brace your core and squeeze your glutes.
  • From here, begin bending at the elbows, keeping them tucked and close to your body.
  • When your forehead approaches the wall, pause, then press back out.

Do 10-12 repetitions per set.


Wall Push-Up Shoulder Taps

The next exercise is the wall push-up shoulder tap. This movement adds a little bit more balance and core work to the traditional wall push-up.

wall-push-up-shoulder-taps

Here’s how it looks:

  • Assume a push-up position against a wall.
  • Perform a standard push-up as above.
  • Next, lift one hand off the wall and touch your opposite shoulder.
  • Place that hand back down against the wall and repeat with your other hand.
  • This is one repetition.

Do 8-12 repetitions per set.


Wall In and Out Push-ups

The next exercise is the wall in and out push-up. This exercise will further strengthen the shoulders, chest, and tricep muscles.

wall-in-and-out-push-ups

Here’s how to do it:

  • Simply alternate push-up repetitions by doing one rep with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width and then a rep with hands closer than shoulder-width.
  • All of the same technical cues apply.

Do 8-12 repetitions per set.


Wall Archer Push-ups

The next third trimester exercise is wall archer push-ups.

In this variation, you will place a lot more emphasis on one hand. This will challenge your pushing strength even further.

archer-pushups-in-pregnancy

Here’s how it looks:

  • Get into the standard wall push-up position with your hands at shoulder-width.
  • Next, slide your left arm directly out toward your side as much as you can.
  • From here, begin descending into your wall push-up by bending your right elbow while keeping your left elbow straight the entire time.
  • Finish all the repetitions on one side and then repeat with your other arm.
  • All of the same principles apply.

Do 8 repetitions per side.


Wall Sphinx Push-ups

The last third trimester variation is the wall sphinx push-up.

This focuses on strengthening the triceps more than traditional push-ups do.

wall-sphinx-push-ups

Here’s what it looks like:

  • Assume a standard wall push-up position with your hands at shoulder-width.
  • From here, begin bending at the elbows while simultaneously bringing your forearms towards the wall as well.
  • At the bottom position, your forearms should be vertical and flat against the wall.
  • Slowly reverse the exercise back to the starting position.

Do 8-12 repetitions per set.

__

Okay so there you have 15 push-up exercises you can do in pregnancy!

As always, listen to your body and make sure that your doctor says you can exercise!

Related Questions

What exercises should be avoided during pregnancy?

In general, exercising during pregnancy is safe, as long as you do it responsibly.

Exercises that you want to avoid in pregnancy include:

  • Situps
  • Crunches
  • Exercises that have you lying on your back
  • Exercises that have you lying on your stomach
  • Twists
  • High impact exercises
  • Jumping exercises

Check out this post to learn which exercises are safe during pregnancy.

Can I do squats while pregnant?

Yes, you can do squats while pregnant. Squatting during pregnancy is one of the best ways to keep your legs and pelvic muscles strong.

Can I do pull-ups while pregnant?

Pull-ups are more of a risky exercise to perform during pregnancy – especially if you don’t maintain good form.

It is probably safer to perform the lat pulldown exercise as a pull-up alternative, during your pregnancy.

Final Words On Pregnant Women Doing Push-Ups

So there you have it!

Push-ups during pregnancy are a great way to strengthen your upper body and your core.

There are dozens of variations you can choose from, suitable to your skill level and weeks of gestation.

So, which one of these are you going to try first?

Comment below and let me know!

Related Posts On Pregnancy Workouts


Sign up to get FREE exclusive tips on how to get fit after pregnancy that I only share with e-mail subscribers!

.


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.

Sharing is Caring – Send This To A Mom In Need!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *