The Third Trimester Strength Workout [Safe & Effective Routine]

Alright so you made it past 26 weeks of pregnancy! Are you looking for a third trimester strength workout you can do?

I’ve got you covered.

After reading this post you’ll know

  • The safest exercises you can do in the third trimester
  • How to create a strength workout
  • How to do cardio the right way

This is part three of our series on getting in shape during pregnancy.

Are you ready? Let’s dive right in.

3rd-trimester-pregnancy-workout

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.

Is exercise safe in third trimester?

Yes, it is safe to exercise in the third trimester. 

In fact, The American College of OB/GYN recently released a committee opinion in 2020– advocating that most pregnant woman exercise throughout their pregnancy and postpartum course.

This is all dependent on the health of your pregnancy.

If you have any medical complications or certain features of a high-risk pregnancy, you need to make sure it is safe.

Always consult with your doctor before doing any kind of exercise activity.

Can you lift weights in your third trimester?

Yes, you can lift weights in the third trimester. But it is important that you do not lift heavy.

You can continue to do strength-based exercises but it is important to use a lighter load.

There are several ways to modify your workout and still see great results.

I will show you how a little later.

Can I do squats while pregnant in The third trimester?

Not only is it okay to squat in the third trimester, it’s actually recommended. Squatting will help strengthen the muscles of your legs and pelvis and actually prepare you for giving birth naturally.

By doing squats in the way that I will show you, you’ll be able to open up your hips more which is crucial for vaginal deliveries. Here is a list of other 3rd trimester squat variations you could perform.

With that said there are some exercises that you want to avoid in the third trimester.

What should I avoid during third trimester?

What should you not do in your third trimester? 

So, if it’s not obvious – you should avoid traditional ab exercises this late in the pregnancy.

This includes exercises like 

  • sit ups, 
  • crunches, 
  • and leg raises while lying on your back 
exercises-to-avoid-in-3rd-trimester

In fact, it is really important that you avoid any exercise that has you lying on your back.

You also want to avoid any exercise that requires a high degree of balancing such as certain advanced yoga poses.

What Other Exercises Are Safe During The Third Trimester?

A lot of the same exercises that are safe in your first and second trimester are also safe in the third trimester.

These include:

  • Walking
  • Swimming 
  • Modified yoga
  • Modified resistance training 
  • Gentle cardio exercises 

The remainder of this post will focus on strength and cardio training.

Third Trimester Workout Plan (With Pictures)

Okay, so now let’s go over the workout plan.

To get the most benefit out of this workout, you should have a pair of dumbbells or a resistance band. Both of which could be purchased on Amazon.

We will aim to target every one of the major muscle movement patterns.

At this stage of the game, we will really focus on strengthening the muscles of the pelvic floor as well as your core.

This is to try and prevent some postpartum complications that can occur due to a week pelvic floor and a stretched out core.

So, by this point you should know that all workouts begin with…

The Warm-Up

A warm-up is important to do before any type of exercise activity.

This is especially helpful in the third trimester, as your mobility will likely be decreased.

Here’s a simple warm-up you can do before the workout.

  • Quad Stretch
  • Elevated Hip Flexor Pulses
  • Bodyweight Squats
  • Shoulder Circles
  • Side Bend Reaches
  • Shoulder Dislocations

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

The Workouts:

This third trimester strength program will consist of three different workouts.

Each workout contains 4 exercises, targeting key muscle groups that need to be strengthened in the third trimester.

These include:

  • Knee flexion exercises
  • Hip extension exercises
  • Pulling exercises
  • Core strengthening exercises
  • Pelvic floor exercises
  • Spine mobility and stability exercises
  • Pressing exercises*
  • Pulling exercises*

*We are minimizing the pressing and pushing exercises so that we can spend more time strengthening the core, the glutes, and the pelvic floor.

Here are the basic templates for each workout.

Workout 1:

  • KNEE FLEXION EXERCISE
  • PULLING EXERCISE
  • CORE EXERCISE
  • PELVIC FLOOR EXERCISE

Workout 2:

  • HIP EXTENSION EXERCISE
  • PRESSING EXERCISE
  • CORE EXERCISE
  • PELVIC FLOOR EXERCISE

Workout 3:

  • KNEE FLEXION EXERCISE
  • SPINE MOBILITY EXERCISE
  • CORE EXERCISE
  • PELVIC FLOOR EXERCISE

And here are the actual workouts themselves.

Workout 1Repetitions
Thruster8-12 repetitions
Band Pull Aparts20 repetitions
Wall Mountain Climbers8-12 reps per side
Kegel Exercise (Slow)15-20 repetitions
Workout 2Repetitions
Romanian Deadlifts8-12 reps per side
Curl to Lateral Raise8-12 repetitions
Modified Side Planks15-20 sec per side
Kegel Exercise (Quick)25-30 repetitions
Workout 3Repetitions
Goblet Squats12-15 repetitions
Cat Cow15 repetitions
Bird Dogs15 repetitions
Kegel Ball Squeezes15-20 repetitions

Now let’s go over each individual exercise.

Workout 1:

Thruster:

The first exercise is the thruster. This is an awesome compound exercise that trains knee flexion and pressing at the same time. This exercise will strengthen your quads, abductors, glutes, cow, and shoulders.

To do it:

  • Grab two dumbbells and hold them up on your shoulders.
  • Set a slightly wider than shoulder-width stance with your feet pointing out no more than 30 degrees.
  • Brace your core, and begin squatting down by bending at the hips and knees simultaneously.
  • Keep your back as straight as possible, and your heels flat on the floor at all times.
  • Squat down as low as you comfortably can, using a 3-second tempo.
  • Reverse the movement by squatting back up and squeezing your glute muscles at the top.
  • Using the momentum of the squat, begin pressing the dumbbells up overhead until your elbows are locked out.
  • Slowly bring the dumbbells back down to your shoulders and repeat.

Do 8-12 repetitions.

thrusters-in-3rd-trimester

Band Pull Aparts (Supinated Grip):

The second exercise is the band pull apart with a supinated grip. The reason why we are adding this exercise is to help fix bad posture that results from pregnancy.

A lot of women develop a kyphotic curve in their upper back as well as rounded shoulders.

The supinated grip band pull-apart will strengthen the posterior shoulder, the external rotators in the rotator cuff, and the upper back muscles.

To do it:

  • Grab a closed loop resistance band and hold it with your hands supinated (palms facing up).
  • Raise your arms out in front of you with your elbows locked out.
  • From here, slowly begin pulling the band apart until it makes contact with your chest.
  • Keep your elbows locked the entire time.
  • Hold the end contraction for 1 second, and slowly reverse the movement using a 3-second tempo.

Do 20 repetitions.

band-pull-apart-3rd-trimester

Wall Mountain Climber:

The third exercise is the wall mountain climber. This exercise will help strengthen and activate your core muscles.

To do it:

  • Stand at least 12 inches away from a wall so that you can place your outstretched hands against it.
  • Keep your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Brace your core and lift one knee up towards your chest as high as you can.
  • Keep your back straight and do not let your hips rotate excessively.
  • Slowly lower that leg and repeat on the opposite side.

Do 8-12 repetitions per side.

wall-mountain-climbers

The Kegel Exercise (Slow):

The fourth exercise in workout 1 is the kegel exercise. This is the most famous pelvic floor exercise because it works. This exercise can help decrease the risk of you developing the complications associated with a weakened pelvic floor.

To do it:

  • Lay on your side with your knees bent.
  • Next, focus on squeezing all of your pelvic muscles together.
  • Pretend like you are trying to hold in pee or poop.
  • Hold this contraction for 5 seconds, and release slowly for 5 seconds.
  • Try to avoid squeezing any other muscles around your pelvis like your butt or quad muscles.
  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Do 15-20 repetitions.

Kegel-pregnancy-exercise

Workout 2:

Romanian Deadlifts:

We kick off the second workout with the hip extension exercise. The Romanian deadlift is one of the best. It strengthens the muscles in the low back, hamstrings, and glutes.

To do it:

  • Grab two dumbbells and hold them down at your side.
  • Stand with a slighty wider than shoulder-width stance.
  • Begin the movement by bending at the waist (and NOT the spine) by pushing your butt backward.
  • This will naturally bring your upper body down towards your legs.
  • Go down slowly, taking at least 3-seconds to reach the bottom.
  • If you find that your belly gets in the way, widen your stance as needed.
  • Go as low as you comfortably can or until you feel a nice stretch in the hamstrings.
  • Reverse the movement by extending your hips and squeezing your glutes.

Do 8-12 repetitions per side.

romanian-deadlift-3rd-trimester

Curl To Lateral Raises:

The second exercise is the curl to lateral raise. This exercise is a mix of two different isolation exercises – the biceps curl and the dumbbell lateral raise.

This exercise will serve to strengthen your arm muscles, namely the shoulders and biceps.

To do it:

  • Grab two dumbbells and hold them at your side.
  • Begin the exercise by curling the weights up to your shoulders.
  • Focus on bending at the elbow only while keeping the rest of your arm stationary.
  • Slowly return the weights back to the starting position
  • Next, raise the dumbbells straight out to your sides until your arms are parallel to the floor.
  • It is okay to have a slight bend at the elbow.
  • Slowly lower the weights back down to your side.

Do 8-12 repetitions.

curl-to-lateral-raise-3rd-trimester

Modified Side-Planks:

The third exercise in workout 2 is the modified side plank. This exercise will strengthen the obliques and the transverse abdominis.

Two muscles that are super important in the treatment of diastasis recti.

To do it:

  • Lie on your side with your body straight and knees bent.
  • Prop yourself up on your elbow/forearm, and keep the bottom knee on the floor and bent.
  • Extend the top leg so that it is straight and in line with your body
  • Brace your core, squeeze your glutes, and hold this position.

Hold the modified side plank for 15-20 seconds each side.

2nd-trimester-plank

The Kegel Exercise (Quick):

For the next exercise, we will go back to the Kegel. This time, we will perform quick release repetitions.

Before, you were building up and holding the contraction for 5 seconds.

This time, you will squeeze strong and hard, and only hold it for 1 second. Rest for 1 second, and repeat for the desired amount of reps.

Do 25-30 repetitions.

Kegel-pregnancy-exercise

Workout 3:

Goblet Squats:

We will start workout 3 with the goblet squat. This is another great way to help open your hips to prepare you for child birth.

Holding the dumbbell in the goblet position will also increase your upper back strength to further improve your posture.

To do it:

  • Grab a dumbbell and hold it up close to your chest in a goblet position (palms up, supporting only one side of the dumbbell).
  • Set your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width and your toes pointing out 30 degrees.
  • Begin squatting down by simultaneously bending at the hips and knees.
  • Go down slowly, using a 3-second tempo.
  • Keep your back straight, and your heels flat on the floor at all times.
  • Only go as low as you feel comfortable, and then reverse the movement by squeezing your glutes at the top.

Do 12-15 repetitions.

postpartum-goblet-squat

Cat Cows:

The second exercise is the cat-cow. You should be familiar with this exercise, as it is one of the best ways to promote mobility of the spine. It can also help relieve some pressure in your low back.

To do it:

  • Get in a quadruped position (on hands and knees) with your back flat.
  • Next, inhale and arch your back as you look slightly up.
  • Hold this position for 2-3 seconds.
  • Then, as you exhale, reverse the movement by completely rounding your back and tucking your chin
  • Hold this position for 2-3 seconds.
  • Repeat this sequence for the desired amount of repetitions.

Do 15 repetitions.

cat-to-cow

Bird Dogs:

The third exercise is the bird-dog. This exercise will strengthen your core and your glutes – promoting a healthy balance for your low back.

To do it:

  • Get in a quadruped position (on hands and knees) with your back flat.
  • Begin by inhaling and lifting one knee and the opposite arm slightly off the floor.
  • As you exhale, extend your arm straight out in front of you while simultaneously extending your leg straight out behind you.
  • Keep you your back flat and squeeze your glute muscle
  • Hold this position for 3-5 seconds.
  • Slowly return to the starting position and repeat

Do 12-15 repetitions per side.

bird-dog

The Kegel Exercise Ball Squeezes:

The final exercise in workout 3 is the kegel exercise ball squeeze. This exercise adds an additional layer of muscular contraction to the awesome kegel exercise.

To do it:

  • Lie on your side with a ball, pillow, or cushion between your legs (this image is me lying on my back, however you should lie on your side in the 3rd trimester)
  • Begin by gently squeezing the ball between your legs.
  • Next, perform a pelvic floor squeeze and hold both contractions for 3-seconds.
  • Release the kegel, then release the ball squeeze.
  • Repeat for the desired amount of repetitions.

Do 15-20 repetitions.

ball-squeezes-pregnancy-exercise

___

How To Use This Workout

Okay so that wraps up the strength portion of the workout. Do these workouts once a week every week.

To keep things easy do

  • Workout 1 on Monday
  • Workout 2 on Wednesday
  • Workout 3 on Friday

If you are short on time, just go through 1 set of each exercise. This should take you no more than 10-15 minutes to complete.

As you get stronger, work your way up to 3 sets of each exercise. These workouts should take no more than 30 minutes.

On Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, you can do the cardio workout below!


Third Trimester Cardio Workout

So what kind of cardio can you do in the third trimsester?

The best kind of cardio – walking.

At this gestational age, it’s best to avoid traditional cardio like running.

Instead, all I want you to do is go outside and take a walk.

So many women underestimate the power of walking on their overall health, fitness, and pregnancy. For more information on walking check out my post on walking during pregnancy.

Don’t worry about reaching any specific heart rate, or keeping up with any cadence.

I’ll go over how to do it in just a second.

But if you really want a safe cardio workout you can do in the third trimester, here it is.

  • Step-Ups: 1 minute
  • Marching: 1 minute
  • High Box Squat: 1 minute
  • Rest: 1 minute

Step-Ups

Find a short stepping stool in your house that you can use for this exercise. If it has two steps, it’s even better.

Take your time, and hold onto the back of a chair for support if you need to. Follow this step sequence, up, up, down, down.

  • I.e, right foot up, left foot up, right foot down, left foot down. Then left foot up, right foot up, etc.

Do this for 1 minute.

step-ups-3rd-trimester

Marching

This one is simple, you will simply march in place, bringing one knee up toward your chest as high as you can, and then repeating on the opposite side.

Do this for 1 minute.

marching-3rd-trimester

High Box Squats

The third exercise in the cardio sequence is the high box squat. Find a chair or a box that you can squat down to. Make sure that the box isn’t too low.

Once you graze the chair, stand back up.

Do this for 1 minute.

high-box-squats-3rd-trimester

__

Rest for 1 minute, and repeat this sequence for 2-3 rounds.

How much should a pregnant woman walk in her third trimester?

There is no strict guidelines. If you use walking as your major source of exercise, then look to the American Heart Association recommendations.

They recommend that you get 150 minutes of exercise per week, spread out over the course of several days.

This averages out to about 30 minutes per day.

Keep in mind that you are walking for your health, and not because you are trying to induce labor.

I have an entire article on Does Walking Help Induce Labor?

It’s also important that you don’t just blindly follow the advice of walking 30 minutes a day.

If you aren’t used to exercise, here are a few guidelines:

  • Start slow
  • Listen to your body 
  • Avoid overexertion
  • Stop if you feel pain or discomfort anywhere  

If you follow the workout program laid out here, feel free to do your walking session on every day that you aren’t exercising.

Other Important Considerations

Just a few final words on other things you should pay attention to in the third trimester.

Take care of your posture

Always pay attention to your posture throughout the day. It’s easier said than done, but this is one of the best ways to prevent a lot of back pain that can develop during this time.

good-posture-postpartum

That is why we included certain exercises in the workout above to help you.

To help alleviate some back pain, you need to incorporate exercises that

  1. improve mobility of the spine,
  2. strengthen your posterior chain muscles (glutes) and
  3. strengthen your core.

(See above for descriptions of these exercises)

Back Exercises For The Third Trimester 

  • Cat-Cow
  • Bird Dogs

Exercises For The Posterior Chain

  • Romanian Deadlifts
  • Bird Dogs

Third Trimester Core Exercises

  • Wall Mountain Climbers
  • Modified Side Planks

What To Look Out For While Exercising In The 3rd Trimester

Finally, there are some important things you should look out for when exercising in the 3rd trimester.

If you experience any of these symptoms, you should stop immediately and seek help from a medical provider.

1. Vaginal bleeding: Vaginal bleeding at this point can indicate labor, abnormal placental location, or premature placental separation

2. Regular Painful Contractions: Regular painful contractions in the third trimester can be considered labor until proven otherwise.

3. Persistent Leakage of Fluid: This can indicate that you broke your water.

4. Muscle or Joint Pain: Your ligaments and joints are loose in the third trimester. This puts you at increased risk of strains or sprains.

5. Headache or Chest Pain: These could be signs that your blood pressure is elevated. Go get your pressure checked immediately.

6. Calf pain or swelling (especially if its only on one side): This could be a sign that your blood isn’t circulating appropriately. If one calf is swollen and painful, see a provider right away to rule out a blood clot.

Final Thoughts On Exercising In The Third Trimester

Alright, so I hope this workout plan helps you get stronger and fitter in your last weeks of pregnancy.

But don’t forget: Always ask your doctor for clearance before doing any type of activity.

Which of these workouts are you most excited to try?

Comment below and let me know!

If you enjoyed this workout, share it with a friend, and be sure to check out my other workouts to stay fit in pregnancy:


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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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