Because each woman and each of her pregnancies will be unique, it can be difficult to cut through all the noise out there. You want to find exercises that strengthen you for this nine month journey, that are safe for you to do, and that prepare you to deliver your baby.
The answer to the question, “What exercises can a pregnant woman do?” is two-part. A pregnant woman can actually do ANY exercise...so long as she’s got the correct muscles doing that exercise, and the proper function to allow it. So maybe a better question is, “How can I ensure that my body has the strongest possible foundation, so that I can feel safe and powerful when I exercise during my pregnancy?”
Exercises for an Active Pregnancy
Here is a list of safe and powerful foundational exercises you can do while pregnant. Incorporate these simple moves into your workouts for the strongest and healthiest first trimester, second trimester, third trimester, and beyond.
The two most important aspects of a safe and powerful prenatal workout are to create a foundation of (1) deep diaphragmatic breathing and (2) pelvic floor activation. And this doesn’t only mean practicing them in isolation. It means actively practicing proper activation during all of your other exercises
Why? Not only are these muscles probably underactive due to our modern lifestyles, but they are essential muscles needed for proper human function as well as for your upcoming birth. For each of the moves below, we strongly emphasize the use of deep diaphragm and pelvic floor activation throughout each exercise.
Core exercises for Pregnant Women
Most pregnant moms have a core that is very underactive during her activities of daily life. This is often the case even for “fitness” moms who train every day. There is usually a big difference between doing ab exercises at the gym and how your core works during the rest of the day. So how do we solve this conundrum?
A great series of exercises to keep your core doing its job in activities of daily life is using the Core Breathing Belly Pump™ style of exercise. This enables you to stay connected to your deep inner core by using your breathing as the conduit for core activation. It’s often easiest to do these exercises first while lying down. Once you have practiced lying down, you can try on your hands and knees, as well as other positions. For most, performing breathing exercises in any upright position is most difficult and will simply require additional practice:
Glute Exercises during Pregnancy
Assuming you have successfully activated your Core Breathing Belly Pump™ you can move to the next most important topic: hip loading that gets your glutes active.
It’s not uncommon to feel pain and discomfort in pregnancy and many of these issues come from having underactive glutes. There are a variety of exercises that should naturally feel like glutes are working, including squats and lunges. However, many of us do not literally feel our glutes during these lower body movements, and that’s a major problem. So tip #1 is “Feel your glutes when you’re doing squats and lunges!”
Tip #2 is get comfortable in a deep squat position, something we often call the Eastern Squat at Fit For Birth because many Eastern cultures still “sit” like this when eating, greeting, and using the bathroom. Not only is this the position of the shortest and widest birth canal for your baby - and therefore absolutely worth practicing during these nine months - but it is also a position where you can practice “holding” yourself with your glutes. To be clear, you should not feel your hip flexors or quads or lower back or shins burning in this position. Your job is to figure out a way to be in this position holding with your glutes.
- Stand with your feet comfortable in any manner of your choosing.
- Push your hips back as if you were going to sit in a chair, while lowering your butt to the floor.
- Try to keep your heels on the floor and your knees in line with your second toe.
- While in this position, lift your chest and aim toward keeping your shoulder blades together to some extent.
- Hold this position, starting at 20 seconds and working your way up to 2 minutes.
Remember, the most important thing to work towards here is to feel like you are holding yourself with your glutes, or simply feeling no tension at all. You should not practice this position if you are feeling your hip flexors, quads, back or shins work excessively to hold you here.
As this exercise becomes more comfortable, find ways to “relax” in this position. Whether it is watching T.V. or having a snack, being relaxed in the deep squat can have positive implications for your upcoming birth.
Back Exercises for Pregnancy
Now that you have some practice learning how to activate your core and glutes, the third foundational exercise you can do while pregnant involves your back.
The bent row is a necessary exercise for a soon-to-be-mom. Moms have to pick up
EVERYTHING from babies to toys. Learning to do this exercise properly could save you lots of back pain.
Remember: maintaining proper core and glute activation while moving your arms will save you from lots of back pain, especially as you hold, carry, and play with your new baby.
Place your feet however is comfortable for you, shift your hips back, and aim to feel your glutes hold you here.
Allow the weights in your hands to dangle, still feeling your glutes hold you here.
Pull your shoulder blades together as you lift the weight, allowing your elbows to bend however is needed to feel your shoulder blade muscles at work.
Use your Core Breathing as you repeat this movement:
The exercises included in these three areas (Inner Core, Glutes, and Shoulder Blades) are, for most women, the most important foundational pieces to get right during pregnancy. Mastering these three concepts will begin to build your foundation that can (1) ensure that you can do many other exercises “safely” while pregnant, (2) help you feel truly powerful as your pregnancy unfolds, and set you up for a labor where you feel connected and in tune with your beautiful body.