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Being pregnant

Pregnancy workout: 13 easy moves

Exercising throughout pregnancy is one of the best gifts you can give yourself—and your baby. Here are some easy workouts you can do while pregnant.

Pregnancy workout: 13 easy moves

BICEP CURL

Whether you're new to lifting or an experienced weightlifter, bicep curls are an easy and effective exercise to include in your pregnancy routine. They're especially useful since you'll be carrying your baby around quite often. Plus, you can keep doing them after your baby is born to make sure your arms stay strong.

All you need are some light weights, like two or three-pound dumbbells, and you're all set to do this workout right in your living room. Just make sure to have a stability ball close by to help you stay balanced and supported.

How to: Standing tall with knees slightly bent, hold two hand weights at your sides with palms facing forward. Inhale with your core breath and, as you exhale, bend at the elbows and bring your hands towards your chest. Be sure to keep your wrists in neutral position at all times. Inhale and slowly lower to the starting position. Beginner: Sit on a stability ball and use light weights. Advanced: Do bicep curls standing on one leg.

Pregnancy workout: 13 easy moves

STANDING HIP ABDUCTION

You know what's great about standing hip abductions? You can do them no matter which trimester you're in. They're great for firming up the muscles that hold your pelvic girdle in place and make sure you walk smoothly.

However, it’s important to prioritize support and balance during this exercise, so make sure you have a stability ball or supportive pair of sneakers on hand. Pro tip: using a chair also can make the exercise safer and easier, plus it reduces the strain on other parts of your body.

How to: Standing tall, place a stability ball against a wall at thigh level. Place one hand on the wall for balance only. Stand as close to the wall as you can, holding the ball in place with your inside leg; bend that leg, keeping your knee back and legs parallel. Inhale using your core breath and, as you exhale, press the ball into the wall with your inside leg. Try not to lean into the wall. Repeat with the other leg.

Pregnancy workout: 13 easy moves

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TRICEP KICKBACKS

Tricep kickbacks are a great upper-body exercise that tones and strengthens the posterior part of your arms without putting strain on other parts of your body. Similar to all other weight exercises on your list, this exercise can be performed at home with just some dumbbells. One little hack though: using a chair can really help you maintain proper form and balance throughout the movement.

Remember, though, if you’re pregnant, always be mindful when exercising and consult your doctor before starting any new routine. If you experience pain, dizziness, or shortness of breath, discontinue exercising, and make sure you talk to your doctor.

How to: Standing tall, step back with your right leg and place your left hand on your left knee or a chair. Holding a hand weight in your right hand, bend your right arm and keep it close to your side while bringing your elbow back towards the ceiling. Leading with your core breath (see below), exhale, extend the arm back and squeeze your tricep. Inhale and bend. Keep your elbow up and back. Repeat with the other side.

Pregnancy workout: 13 easy moves

CORE BREATH

Breathing right is crucial during pregnancy, and this one exercise that's worth taking the time to learn properly. It might feel a bit awkward initially, but stick with it because it'll tone up your core muscles, help control internal pressure, and give you more breathing capacity.

You'll want to do it either lying on your side or seated upright on a ball or chair. Whichever position you choose, the main thing is keeping your spine neutral and your posture aligned. Once you nail the proper form, it'll become second nature.

How to: Sitting tall, place both hands around your side ribs. Imagine that your ribs are like a fan, your torso is an empty canister and there is a blueberry sitting between the front of your pelvis and your tailbone. As you inhale, open “the fan” out to the sides and fill up your ribs and “canister” with air, adjusting your posture (forward and back) until you find the most expansion. As you exhale, close the fan and “pick up the blueberry” with your pelvic floor, keeping your glutes relaxed. Repeat.

TIP: This can be a tricky exercise to master. Start step-by-step, maybe even sticking with the expansive breath before you add the next step.

Pregnancy workout: 13 easy moves

BACK ROW WITH TUBING

Since your center of gravity shifts quite a bit when you're pregnant, it's smart to mix in exercises focusing on the backside. Giving those rear muscles some extra TLC will assist in balancing out the added weight you're rocking up front.

To do this exercise safely, grab some resistance tubes, hook them up securely at chest level or slightly higher, and then pull them towards you to work those back muscles and improve your posture. And if you need a workout buddy to keep you motivated, rope in a friend to do the exercise together.

How to: With resistance tubing at about waist height, stand tall with your knees slightly bent. Holding both handles with palms facing in, step back and extend your arms out in front of you. Inhale with your core breath and, as you exhale, pull the handles to your sides, bringing your elbows behind you; squeeze your shoulder blades. Inhale and return to the starting position.

TIP: Wrap tubing around a bannister, or exercise with a friend and take turns holding it while you encourage each other!

Pregnancy workout: 13 easy moves

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SEATED BALL STABILITY HOLD

During these nine months, it’s super important to work on strengthening your core. These are the muscles that will come in handy when it’s time to bring your little one into the world. Remember, it’s not just about your abs – your pelvic floor muscles play a key role too. By keeping both your core and pelvic floor strong, you’ll bounce back quicker after delivery.

That’s why incorporating a stability ball into your routine is a game-changer. It not only helps you get a good workout but also supports your balance and posture. You can mix things up by using the stability ball for lower body exercises and preparing for labor as well.

How to: Sitting tall on a stability ball, place both hands on either side for balance. Leading with your core breath, exhale and lift one foot off the floor and follow with the opposite arm over your head. Hold and breathe for 2 to 3 seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.

Pregnancy workout: 13 easy moves

SIDE PLANK

Side planks are another great pregnancy workout because they help strengthen the external oblique muscles that support your growing uterus. But they’re not just about strength – side planks also boost your core muscles, balance, and stability, all of which can make labor and delivery a bit smoother.

To ensure a safe and comfortable experience while doing side planks at home, you’ll want to perform the exercise on an exercise mat or padded surface. This setup not only makes the workout more comfortable for your body but also provides added protection to your joints.

How to: Lying on your side, place one elbow directly under your shoulder for support. Bend both knees, stacking one on top of the other. Keeping the natural curve of your spine, begin with your core breath. Gently squeeze your butt and slowly bring your hips forward until your underside comes off the floor. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, breathing normally. Don’t hold your breath! Repeat on the other side.

TIP: Later in pregnancy, your centre of gravity shifts up and forward, so balance and stability are key.

Pregnancy workout: 13 easy moves

SQUAT

Squats are a fantastic workout whether you’re expecting or not, as they help strengthen your quads, hamstrings, and glutes. Plus, if you throw in a pelvic floor contraction, it’s like an added bonus for your body.

Just remember to adjust your squat routine as your pregnancy progresses. In the first trimester, you can pretty much stick to your usual squats, but as you move into the second and third trimesters and start getting bigger, you’ll need to tweak your squat technique.

How to: Stand tall with a stability ball between your back and the wall. Extend your arms out in front of you for balance. Leading with your tailbone, sit your bum back as if to lower into a chair; bend your knees, ensuring that they stay behind your toes. Inhale with your core breath on the way down; exhale while engaging your glute muscles and your pelvic floor to return to the starting position. Repeat.

TIP: Check your form! Work out across from a mirror if you can, or ask a friend to troubleshoot.

Pregnancy workout: 13 easy moves

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LUNGE

Lunges are like the cool cousin of squats – they work wonders on your quads, hamstrings, and glutes, which are total lifesavers when you’re lugging around that baby bump. However, you’ll want to tweak your lunge routine as you move long in your pregnancy journey.

While it’s a breeze to do all kinds of lunges in the first trimester, it gets trickier as your belly grows bigger in the second and third trimesters. And don’t forget to grab some support from a wall or chair, especially when those pregnancy workouts start feeling tougher.

How to: Stand tall and extend one leg behind you, keeping the heel up (place one hand on a chair for balance if you’d like). Leading with the back leg, inhale and bend the knee until both legs are at approximately 90-degree angles. Be sure to extend the back leg far enough behind you so the front knee stays behind your toes at the deepest point of the lunge. Exhale and return to the starting position. Repeat on the other side. Advanced:Hold a weight in each hand while performing lunges.

Pregnancy workout: 13 easy moves

UPRIGHT ROW

If you're looking to keep your shoulders back and your posture in check during pregnancy, upright rows are the way to go. They also help you stay strong and stable, which is crucial as your body changes.

Just be mindful that while you can use weights for this move, it's safer for pregnant women to stick with resistance bands or tubes. They put less pressure on your shoulders and provide a more consistent, manageable resistance compared to weights, which can be hard to control when you've got a bun in the oven.

How to: Standing tall with shoulders down and back, place one foot at the centre of exercise tubing, holding both handles. With the palms of your hands resting on the fronts of your thighs, begin with your core breath; bend your elbows and exhale while you lift both hands up towards your nipple line. Be sure to lead with your elbows first and keep your forearms angled towards the floor. Inhale and return your arms to the starting position.

TIP: Resist the tendency to lift your hands to your shoulders, which puts a lot of strain on your shoulder joints.

Pregnancy workout: 13 easy moves

BALL SQUEEZE

Here’s another great exercise you can do with a stability ball that helps with your posture, balance, and core strength without straining your body too much. Regularly exercising and practicing this technique comes with its own set of advantages. It not only benefits your health but can also aid in the birthing process.

A study from 2018 in the European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology revealed that pregnant women who engaged in exercise experienced labor that was on average 53-57 minutes shorter.

How to: Standing tall with knees slightly bent and shoulders down, hold the stability ball in front of you with hands on either side. Arms should be bent with your elbows out, parallel to the floor. Inhale with your core breath and exhale as you squeeze the ball. Be sure to keep your shoulders relaxed and do not allow the ball to rest on your chest.

Pregnancy workout: 13 easy moves

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SEATED KNEE EXTENSIONS

Give your stability ball a try with this quadriceps-targeting exercise. It’s perfect for pregnant women since it strengthens without straining their knees.

As your pregnancy advances, you can tweak this exercise easily. While you can do seated knee extensions normally in the first trimester, consider lying on your back in the second and third trimesters to change up the position.

How to: Sitting tall on a stability ball, place both hands on the sides of the ball for balance. Inhale with your core breath; slowly lift one foot off the floor and try to raise your knee while keeping the ball still. Exhale and extend the leg. Inhale and bend the knee to return to the start. Repeat with the other leg. Beginner: Place the ball against a wall and put your foot down after each repetition. Advanced: Move the ball away from the wall and keep your knee up until you’ve completed all your repetitions.

Pregnancy workout: 13 easy moves

STANDING HAMSTRING CURLS

Squats and lunges are awesome for working out your legs overall, but when you really want to target those back-of-the-thigh muscles, a hamstring curl is the way to go. And when you throw a stability ball into the mix, not only are you working those leg muscles but also giving your core a nice little workout.

An easy hack: modify standing hamstring curls according to each trimester – single-leg variations on all fours are perfect for the first trimester to tackle balance concerns.

How to: Standing tall with your back against a wall, place your hands against the wall at your sides for support. Place one foot on top of the stability ball and find your balance. Starting with your core breath (see p. 33), inhale. As you exhale, dig your heel into the ball while slowly rolling the ball away from you. Keeping control of the ball, inhale and roll the ball back toward you, to the starting position. Repeat with the other leg.

Pregnancy workout: 13 easy moves
This article was originally published on Jun 09, 2015

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