A Safe Prenatal Workout Routine [The Complete Guide]

Are you looking for a safe and effective prenatal workout routine that you could perform throughout your pregnancy?

Look no further.

In this post you are going to learn:

  • The benefits of exercising during pregnancy
  • An effective prenatal fitness routine that is safe for you and your baby, and
  • How to modify your workouts as your pregnancy progresses.
safe-prenatal-workout-routine

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.

When should a pregnant woman start exercising?

If have received clearance from your OBGYN health care provider, you can begin working out right away.

If you have never exercised prior to pregnancy, I recommend that you start low and go slow.

You can start with a basic walking routine.

Once you feel comfortable with walking, you could add in some bodyweight exercises such as bodyweight squats, bodyweight pull ups, bodyweight wall pulls, etc.

Afterwards you can add in resistance training using resistance bands, dumbbells, kettlebells, and even barbells if you are up for it!

If you have exercised prior to pregnancy, feel free to continue your exercise regimen with modifications as needed.

Can I continue my workout routine while pregnant?

If you were already exercising prior to getting pregnant, you can continue your workout regimen provided you:

  • have spoken to your doctor and ensured you don’t have a contraindication to continue exercising,
  • the exercise you are doing is safe and
  • you maintain adequate hydration

How Will Pregnancy Affect My Workouts?

The further along you are in pregnancy, the more you will have to reduce the intensity of your workout regimen.

In the first trimester, you may not need to adjust your workout too much as your uterus is still very small.

In the second trimester, you may notice that you fatigue a bit more quickly, and you won’t have as much mobility as you are used to.

Reduce the intensity of whatever you are doing based on how you are feeling, and how large your uterus is.

In the third trimester, you will need to reduce the intensity even further. Always listen to your body and avoid:

  • exhaustion,
  • a persistently elevated heart rate,
  • overheating, and
  • dehydration

How can I modify exercises as my pregnancy progresses?

Beginning in the second trimester, you can modify your exercises by

  • decreasing the amount of weight you are using,
  • performing the repetitions using a slower, more controlled tempo, and
  • increasing the number of repetitions you are doing while using a lighter weight.

Never exercise to the point of exhaustion – aim for a 6-7/10 in intensity.

Don’t you worry, you will still get in a great workout and feel the burn!

Finally, you should always avoid any exercise in the 2nd and 3rd trimester that requires you to lay flat on your back or on your stomach.

How to Follow the Prenatal Workout Plan

This pregnancy workout routine is divided into three phases. Each phase corresponds to the 3 trimesters.

In addition, each workout will be composed of 3 workouts per week.

If you cannot maintain this schedule, that is okay!

Do what you can and keep moving.

The PPTs Pregnancy Workout Plan For Beginners

Okay, here is your pregnancy workout plan.

The best part is, you can do all of these pregnancy exercises at home!

You will need some type of resistance such as dumbbells or a resistance band.

Let’s get started.

Phase 1: The First Trimester

Workout 1SetsRepetitions
Uneven Squats28-12 repetitions
Modified Push-up Shoulder Taps28-12 repetitions
Bent Over Rows212-15 repetitions
Bicep Curls212-15 repetitions

Here’s what the exercises look like:

The Uneven Squat

uneven-squat-pregnancy-workout
  • Hold onto a weight and rest it up by your shoulder.
  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Brace your core and squat down by bending at the hips and the knees at the same time.
  • Keep your heels flat on the ground and don’t let your knees collapse inward.
  • Go down slowly using a 3-second tempo.

The Modified Push-up Shoulder Tap

modified-push-up-shoulder-tap
  • Get on your hands and knees with your hands pointing forward, shoulder-width apart.
  • Keep your back straight and begin bending at the elbows.
  • Do not let your elbows flare out. Keep them tucked in close to your body.
  • Go down slowly, using a 3-second tempo.
  • Press back up and then tap each shoulder.
  • Keep your core engaged the entire time.

Bent Over Rows

dumbbell-row
  • Grab a pair of dumbbells or a long resistance band.
  • Bend at the hips by pushing your butt back while keeping your back straight.
  • Keep a slight bend at the knees.
  • Pull both dumbbells up toward your abdomen and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  • Hold the top position for a 1-second count, and lower back down for 3 seconds.

Bicep Curls

Banded-bicep-curls
  • Grab two dumbbells or a long resistance bands with your palms facing forward.
  • Keeping your elbows close by your side, bend your elbows up and bring the dumbbells up toward your shoulder.
  • Pause at the top and really squeeze your biceps,
  • Slowly lower back down using a 3-second tempo.

Workout 2SetsRepetitions
Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift28-12 repetitions
Shoulder Press28-12 repetitions
Side Plank215-30 seconds
Side-Lying Tricep Extensions212-15 repetitions

Single-Leg RDL

single-leg-deadlift
  • Grab two weights in your outstretched hands.
  • Standing with your feet together, bend at the hips and bring one leg straight behind you.
  • Keep your back straight and go down until you feel a stretch on the hamstring muscle of the bottom leg.
  • Only go as low as you can while keeping your back straight.
  • Do this slow (3-second tempo).
  • Reverse the exercise by contracting your glutes at the top.

Shoulder Press

shoulder-press-pregnancy-workout
  • Grab two weights (or a long resistance band) and position them up on your shoulders,
  • Squeeze your glutes and brace your core.
  • Next, press the weights straight up overhead until you extend your elbows.
  • If it feels more comfortable, you can keep your palms facing each other.
  • Slowly lower the weight back down using a 3 second tempo.

Side Plank

side-plank-pregnancy
  • Position yourself on your side, resting on your elbow and forearm.
  • Next straighten your legs and lift your hips up so that your body is perfectly aligned.
  • Keep your abdomen engaged and hold this position for time.
  • Repeat on both sides.

Tricep Extensions

tricep-extension
  • Grab a weight or a resistance band and position it behind your head with your elbows bent and palms facing the ceiling.
  • Keeping your core engaged, extend your elbows up and bring the weight directly over your head.
  • Slowly lower the weight back down using a 3-second tempo.

Those are the first two workouts of Phase 1.

To see the other two workouts head over to

The First Trimester Pregnancy Workout

Now let’s move on.


Phase 2: The Second Trimester

In the second trimester, we will begin scaling back some of the exercises to accommodate your growing baby.

We will also begin to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles!

Let’s get started.

Workout 1SetsRepetitions
Sumo Squat28-12 repetitions
Alternating Shoulder Press28-12 repetitions per side
Pull Throughs28-12 repetitions
Kegel Exercise215-20 repetitions

Here’s what the exercises look like.

Sumo Squat

sumo-squat
  • Grab a weight and hold it between your legs with both hands.
  • Set your stance wider than shoulder-width and turn your feet out.
  • Begin squatting down by bending at the hips and knees simultaneously.
  • Keep your feet flat on the floor and your back straight.
  • Go down slowly- using a 3 second tempo.

Alternating Shoulder Press

single-arm-shoulder-press
  • Grab two weights (or two long resistance band) and position them up on your shoulders.
  • Squeeze your glutes and brace your core.
  • Next, press one dumbbell up while keeping the other one on your shoulder.
  • Lower it back down slowly and repeat with the other shoulder.

Pull Throughs

pull-through
  • You can do this exercise with a dumbbell or a resistance band (I’m showing the band version).
  • Anchor the band on a sturdy pole and position it between your legs.
  • Turn away from the pole and set your stance slightly wider than shoulder width.
  • To start, bend at the hips by pushing your butt back while keeping your back straight.
  • Do this slowly (3-second tempo).
  • You will feel a nice stretch in your hamstrings.
  • Reverse the movement by contracting your glutes hard at the top.
  • If you are using a dumbbell, simply place the dumbbell back behind your legs, and perform the exact same movement as above.

Kegel Exercises

Kegel-pregnancy-exercise
  • The kegel exercise is one of the best pelvic floor exercises you can do throughout your gestation.
  • To do it, simply squeeze all your pelvic muscles as if you are trying to prevent yourself from pooping.
  • Hold the contraction for at least 3-5 seconds.
  • You can do this on your side or on your back.

Workout 2SetsRepetitions
Single-Leg Deadlifts28-12 repetitions per side
Incline Pushup Shoulder Taps28-12 repetitions
Step-Ups28-12 repetitions per side
Kegel Exercise215-20 repetitions

Single-Leg Deadlifts

single-leg-deadlift
  • Grab two dumbbells and stand with your feet together.
  • Step back with one foot as far as you comfortably can as you begin bending at the hips.
  • Allow your front knee to bend and bring the dumbbells down to the floor.
  • Do this slowly, using a 3 second tempo.
  • Do this motion slowly, taking 3 seconds to descend.
  • Keep your back flat and reverse the movement by squeezing your glutes.

Incline Push-up Shoulder Taps

incline-push-up-shoulder-taps
  • Find a tall ledge or chair that you can safely lean against .
  • Place your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands shoulder-width apart on the ledge.
  • Just as you did before, bend your elbows by keeping them close to your body.
  • Once your chest touches the ledge press back up and then tap each shoulder.
  • Lower yourself slowly using a 3-second tempo.

Step-Ups

short-step-ups
  • Grab two dumbbells (or you can do it with just your body weight) and place one foot on a small, sturdy platform.
  • Begin leaning forward and place all of your weight on the elevated foot.
  • Your back foot should begin to lift up off the floor.
  • Press through the front foot until you extend your knee.
  • From the top, slowly lower yourself using a 3-second tempo.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Kegel Exercise

The kegel exercise is the same as workout 1. We are really strengthening all the pelvic floor muscles that you will use to deliver your baby!


Those are the first two workouts of Phase 2.

To see the other two workouts, head over to

The 2nd Trimester Pregnancy Workout

Next, is the the third trimester.


Phase 3: The Third Trimester

Now that you are in the third trimester, you will find that you have to modify your exercises even more.

If any of the exercises below cause pain, discomfort, or feel funny in any way – then please STOP!

Workout 1SetsRepetitions
Thruster28-12 repetitions
Band Pull Aparts220 repetitions
Wall Mountain Climbers28-12 reps per side
Kegel Exercise (Slow)215-20 repetitions

Here’s what the exercises look like.

Thruster

dumbbell-thrusters
  • Grab two weights and hold them up resting on your shoulders.
  • Set your stance as wide as you need to be comfortable with your feet pointing out a bit.
  • Squat down as low as you comfortably can, using a 3-second tempo.
  • Reverse the movement and begin to press the dumbbells up overhead once your reach the top.
  • Lower the dumbbells back to your shoulders and repeat.

Band Pull-Aparts

band-pull-aparts
  • Grab a closed-loop resistance band and hold it up at your chest level with your palms facing up.
  • Begin pulling the band apart and squeezing your shoulder blades together until it makes contact with your chest.
  • Keep your elbows straight at all times.
  • Hold the end position for a second, and slowly reverse using a 3-second tempo.

Wall Mountain Climber

wall-mountain-climbers
  • Stand 12-16 inches away from a wall and place your hands against it.
  • Keep your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width, brace your core and squeeze your glutes.
  • Next, begin lifting one knee up toward your chest as high as you comfortably can.
  • Slowly lower that leg and repeat with your other leg.

Kegel Exercise (Slow)

Kegel-pregnancy-exercise
  • We are doing kegels again, because this is such an important exercise for pregnant and postpartum women.
  • We are doing slow repetitions for this workout.
  • Squeeze all of your pelvic muscles together as if you are trying to hold in poop.
  • Hold this contraction for 5 secondsand release it as slowly as you can.

Workout 2SetsRepetitions
Romanian Deadlifts28-12 reps per side
Curl to Lateral Raise28-12 repetitions
Modified Side Planks215-20 sec per side
Kegel Exercise (Quick)225-30 repetitions

Romanian Deadlifts

romanian-deadlift
  • Grab two weights and hold them at your side.
  • Set your stance slightly wider than shoulder-width.
  • Begin the movement by bending at the hips and pushing your buttocks back.
  • Keep your back straight the entire time.
  • Go slowly, using a 3 second tempo.
  • Widen your stance as needed.
  • Go as low as you comfortably can while keeping your back straight.
  • Reverse the movement by squeezing your glutes.

Curl to Lateral Raise

curl-to-lateral-raise-3rd-trimester
  • Grab two dumbbells and hold them with your palms facing forward.
  • Curl the weights up toward your shoulders, and slowly lower them back to the starting position.
  • Next, raise the dumbbells out toward your sides while keeping your elbows relatively straight.
  • Slowly lower the weights back down and repeat the sequence.

Modified Side Planks

modified-side-plank-in-pregnancy
  • Position yourself on your side, resting on your elbow and forearm.
  • Next, straighten the top leg so that it is straight and keep the bottom knee on the floor.
  • Lift your hips up and keep your body as straight as possible.
  • Keep your abdominal muscles engaged at all times and squeeze your glutes.
  • Hold this position for time and repeat on the other side.
  • Repeat on both sides.

Kegel Exercise (Quick)

The kegel exercise is the same as workout 1 but instead of doing slow contractions, I want you to squeeze your pelvic muscles strong and hard, and only hold it for 1 second.

Release and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.


Those are the first two workouts of Phase 3.

To see the other two workouts, head over to

The Third Trimester Pregnancy Workout


What are the benefits of exercising during pregnancy?

There’s no denying that exercise is beneficial in pregnancy.

In fact, The American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology (ACOG) recommends that any woman with an uncomplicated pregnancy should engage in aerobic and strength training exercises during pregnancy.

Here are some of the major benefits.

1. Decreased risk of excessive weight gain in pregnancy

Exercise helps to decrease your risk of excessive weight gain by burning calories and maintaining your lean muscle tissue.

The nice thing about muscle tissue is that it increases your basal metabolic rate.

This means that you will burn more calories at rest, and during exercise than if you had less muscle tissue.

As a result, exercise can be a helpful way to keep your weight gain within the recommended range.

Just for reference, here is a chart showing normal weight gain based on your pre pregnancy BMI.

weight-gain-in-pregnancy

2. Potential decreased risk in diastasis recti

Diastasis recti is when your abdominal muscles separate in the midline.

There is some data that exercising in pregnancy can help prevent the development or decrease the severity of this condition.

Check out How to Prevent Diastasis Recti to learn more.

2. Better mental health & mood

This is an exciting and stressful time!

The good news is, there is plenty of data showing that exercise can significantly improve several aspects of mental health, including depression and anxiety.

In addition, exercise during pregnancy helps to improve your energy levels by:

  • increasing blood flow to the major organs of your body including the brain and heart,
  • improving your sleep quality and quantity, and
  • reducing your stress levels by the release of endorphins.

3. Decreased levels of fatigue

You may think exercise during pregnancy would cause you to become more fatigued but working out during pregnancy actually decreases the amount of fatigue you experience.

This is due in part to the increase in blood flow and release of endorphins.

Furthermore, exercise during pregnancy helps you to get better quality sleep, decreasing the amount of fatigue you experience during the day.

4. Decreased postpartum recovery time

Your post-pregnancy recovery can be improved and even shortened with regular exercise during pregnancy.

Delivery is a huge stress to your body.

Most women will feel like they just ran a marathon.

But when your body has been exposed to regular exercise, you will build a level of strength, fitness, and metabolism, which can help you quickly bounce back.

If you would like to learn more about exercises and stretches you can do to prepare for your actual delivery, click here.

5. Improvement in Posture

Exercise can help improve your posture by strengthening the muscles that get weak during your gestation.

These include:

  • your core muscles,
  • your glutes and
  • your back.

Pregnancy will change your center of gravity.

As a result, your pelvis tilts anteriorly (or forward) due to the weight of your growing uterus.

This causes your abdominal muscles to become stretched and weakened, your hip flexors become short and contracted, and low back muscles to get tight and shortened.

This can lead to low back pain, which leads me to my next point.

causes-of-low-back-pain-in-pregnancy

6. Decreased risk of low back pain

Low back pain can develop for several reasons during pregnancy.

First, your body releases a hormone known as relaxin to loosen your joints and ligaments for delivery. Exercise can combat this by strengthening these joints and ligaments.

Secondly, as I mentioned above, the shifting of your pelvis causes the abdominal muscles to become weakened and the low back muscles to tighten. This causes your back to work harder to try and keep your spine in a neutral position.

Exercise can help mitigate these effects.

7. Possible decreased risk of Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a pregnancy-related condition where your body cannot process carbohydrates properly, resulting in elevated blood sugar levels, so your blood sugars remain elevated.

Unfortunately, this high sugar in your blood can travel to your baby causing high sugar levels in your baby leading to a lot of fetal and pregnancy complications.

All women are screened for gestational diabetes in the late second to third trimester.

Exercise can potentially help reduce your risk of developing gestational diabetes by increasing the need for glucose uptake by your muscles, which can limit the amount of glucose in your bloodstream.


Okay, so those are some of the best benefits of exercising while pregnant.

Are you convinced?

Now let’s embark on your fit pregnancy journey!

How much exercise should I get during pregnancy?

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise during pregnancy.

These 150 minutes can be divided any which way you please.

acog-and-exercise

You can do several 10 minute workouts while your baby is sleeping or you can do five, 30 minute workouts.

If you can’t do this amount – that’s okay!

Any amount of physical activity is always better than nothing.

Just do your best to get as close to this target number as you can.

Other Related Questions

What are the best cardio exercises I can do while I’m pregnant?

During pregnancy, there are several cardio exercises you can do including:

Running

Running is a great aerobic exercise you can do during pregnancy and studies have confirmed there are no negative impacts on you or your baby.

If you were a runner prior to pregnancy and have received clearance from your OBGYN to continue running, go right ahead.

If you have never ran prior to pregnancy I would start with walking.

Here is an article I created on what you need to know about walking in pregnancy so that you could eventually build up to a running routine.

walking-in-pregnancy

Swimming

Swimming is another great cardio exercise you could do safely during pregnancy.

This exercise will provide you with a full body workout specifically for your arms, core, glutes, and leg muscles.

You may notice you will need to slow down in the third trimester as you may not be able to hold your breath for as long due to your gravid uterus pushing up on your diaphragm.

Resistance training

Resistance weight training using an external form of resistance such as resistance bands, kettlebells, dumbbells, and barbells is an excellent way to get in a cardio workout while pregnant and one I strongly encourage.

benefits-of-squatting

Yoga

Prenatal yoga is another great exercise you can do to stay active in the prenatal period.

It helps to relax your muscles, improve your mood, improve your posture and even improve your endurance.

Just make sure you avoid any yoga poses that require you to be flat on your back or stomach as these poses can compromise blood flow to your baby.

You should also avoid hot yoga especially in the first and third trimester as very high temperatures during pregnancy have the ability to cause severe dehydration, and low blood pressure which could affect the blood supply to your baby and cause preterm contractions.

Pilates

Pilates is also a great form of cardio you can do while pregnant.

This type of exercise helps to strengthen your entire body as well as improve your mobility.

Again just be sure to avoid any movement that requires you to be flat on your back or flat on your stomach.

What are the best strength exercises I can do while I’m pregnant?

The best strength exercises you can do while pregnancy include

Can I tone up my body while pregnant?

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as “toning”.

If you think about it, you cannot tone a muscle.

Muscles have the ability to grow or stay the same size.

That is all!

To get a “toned” look you will need to build muscle tissue and reduce your body fat.

You can build strength during pregnancy by using external resistance in the form of resistance bands, kettlebells, dumbbells and even barbells.

high-knees

Can you lose fat while pregnant?

It is possible to lose fat while pregnant (only if you are very overweight/obese), but it is HIGHLY DISCOURAGED.

Weight loss can lead to several complications and jeopardize your pregnancy.

If you are planning on losing fat during pregnancy, you must be under the guidance of an OBGYN physician as well as a nutritionist that specializes in prenatal nutrition.

How many times should a pregnant woman workout?

If you can, you should try to workout 3-4 times per week in pregnancy.

If you cannot maintain this workout schedule, then find a routine that you can actually stick to.

The most important part of exercising in pregnancy is consistency.

The best workout plan for a healthy pregnancy is the one you will follow!

Can exercising cause miscarriage?

There is no data that exercise contributes to miscarriages.

The majority of 1st-trimester miscarriages (<14 weeks gestation) are due to chromosomal abnormalities in the fetus, making the fetus incompatible with life.

It is very rare for a miscarriage to occur because of something you did!

With that said, always make sure you receive clearance from your medical doctor/OBGYN prior to starting any sort of pregnancy exercise program.

Final Words on Prenatal Exercise

So there you have a complete prenatal workout routine that will keep you busy throughout your pregnancy!

Now I want to hear from you.

Would you like this Prenatal workout plan as a PDF?

Comment below and let me know!


Get Started With A Free Postpartum Workout Plan To Rebuild Your Pelvic Floor, Heal Your Mommy Tummy, & Tone Your Arms & Legs!

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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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