Welcome to my Prenatal Workout Guide.
Congrats! You’re pregnant. Welcome to my pregnancy workout plan. Whether you’ve been trying for years or were pleasantly surprised, you’re about to embark on a journey that will change your life. Pregnant women were told in the past to take it easy but this guide is here to help you navigate what you can do safely in the gym or at home. I’m sharing the fitness routine I followed during each of my pregnancies. These pregnancy exercises are meant to keep you feeling good throughout the next 9 months. We will focus on the lower body, intensity that’s OK, posture and pelvic floor exercises. If you have a diastasis recti from a previous pregnancy or Symphysis pubis dysfunction, you’ll want to take additional modifications.
The First Trimester
While technically most people do not know they are pregnant the first 4 weeks, many experience quicker breathlessness as a first sign of pregnancy right around 3-4 weeks even before a test can confirm.
When it comes to workouts, you can continue doing what you have been doing. From crossfit to marathon training, as long as you are not a high risk pregnancy, you can keep on doing your favorite classes or programs with a similar intensity.
For my first, I had just finished the Boston Marathon when I found out I was pregnant. My endurance was at it’s peak! I continued to run and actually ran a half marathon at 29 weeks pregnant (and 16 weeks postpartum, yeesh!). With my second, I first noticed I was pregnant because my typical 30 minute spin classes became exponentially harder. Looking back, I don’t know how I finished the marathon in 2015. I had convinced myself that it was more difficult than I expected because of the weather but I definitely now realize it was the early hormones from pregnancy.
A few prenatal fitness precautions:
Avoid deep twists. You can probably do these until the 2nd trimester but this is a big modification for making exercises prenatal friendly in most classes.
You likely don’t want to tell anyone you are expecting so if you are taking a class, just modify by twisting a little less at first and by 2nd trimester, avoid twisting all together.
Keep your heart rate below your maximum capacity. This might come as a no sh*t, but many prenatal fitness suggestions say to keep your heart rate below 140 which is super low for people like me (and probably you) who are used to HIIT, spin class, bootcamp, etc… A friend of mine was told to keep her heart rate below 170 bpm.
If you like hard workout classes, I recommend getting a watch with a built in heart rate monitor for safety’s sake. I like the ones that measure through the wrist.
Personally, when I got around 160/165 bpm with my first pregnancy, I couldn’t push past that point of exhaustion or intensity. I generally tried to max out at 160 bpm in spin class which was the most intense exercise I did. I still felt totally spent at that rate but it was much lower than the 178 I used to get taking class at Barry’s.
Above was a combination of personal experience and expert advice but in the end, you have to go with your gut. If you are used to pushing yourself, then push yourself just be aware of when you need to tap out.
To find your maximum heart rate, an easy equation is 220 minus your age.
Multiply that number by .85 and that should roughly be your maximum heart rate while exercising if you were in shape before getting pregnant.
Like I said above, I never wanted to go past 160 with my first pregnancy. It was uncomfortable. My body naturally told me to stop. Everyone is different as is every pregnancy. If something feels uncomfortable, stop!
If you are a high risk pregnancy, please do not listen to my advice but seek the help of your gynecologist or doctor! If you have no reason otherwise to believe you have a normal pregnancy then continue.
First Trimester Fitness Plan:
In addition to running and spinning, I also did Pilates at local body studio BTone which uses a megaformer with the Lagree Method.
I also was doing yoga pretty regularly and would take Barry’s Bootcamp on occasion since I was teaching.
The good old days of not having any children!
With my second, I’m spinning for 30 minutes using Peloton, taking BTone still and doing my own HIIT workouts that you’ll find below.
Again, the spinning feels way more difficult than it did before I got pregnant so I’m not turning up the resistance as high and taking breaks when I need them.
I’m also more concerned with diastasis recti the second time around and trying to really engage my core no matter what exercise I am doing.
During my 6th week, I did develop morning sickness. I like to sign up for my classes in advance so that meant skipping a few early spin classes or taking Pilates feeling like I was going to hurl because I didn’t want to get charged with a late cancel. Honestly, I felt better after taking class when I was nauseas.
Not everyone is like this! For many people, they are so sick they cannot workout during their first trimester. If this is you, do my 3rd Trimester program during your 2nd Trimester for a few weeks to make sure that you have enough strength to complete a workout comfortably.
My plan assumes that you were in shape before getting pregnant. If you were not, shoot me a message and I’ll work on creating one to start with but at first, I just want to create a program that I used personally.
The Pregnancy Workout Plan
Aim to get 4 days of exercise in a week of at least 30 minutes. This is our goal!
I also recommend getting an additional day of light exercise if you can fit it in like a long stroller walk with the older sibling, a walk/hike with your partner or yoga class just to move your body because I really do feel that exercise, even light, helps you feel more energized, regulates mood swings and hormones, which helps you feel better in the long run.
- Monday: Prenatal Cardio aka PNC
- Tuesday: Prenatal Strength
- Wednesday: REST
- Thursday: Prenatal HIIT aka PNH
- Friday: Prenatal Strength
- Saturday: REST
- Sunday: YOGA/WALK/YOUR CHOICE
If you hate cardio, then feel free to do 2 days a week of Prenatal HIIT and 2 days of Prenatal Strength.
First Trimester Strength Workouts
Welcome to my first trimester workouts. Again, these workouts assume you have been working out before getting pregnant with challenging classes or apps. If a move feels uncomfortable or your energy levels are low, choose the suggested modification or pick a favorite move and do it for the specified number of reps.
As I mentioned, we really are only modifying our pre pregnancy workouts to keep our heart rates low and minimize twisting. I never do crunches pregnant or not, so those are out too as I don’t think they are an efficient way to work the abdominal muscles. In one of the moves, I have you lying down on the ground. If you are having twins, you may need to omit this before entering the second trimester. At 14 weeks second pregnancy, I am beginning to modify laying flat on my stomach but first time around, I went until 16 or 18 weeks just fine.
I know moms are busy, so that’s why each workout is only 30 minutes long!
Prenatal Strength Workout #1
Do 2 rounds total of each set. Keep rest in between moves to 10-15 seconds. Rest 1 minute in between rounds. Workout should only take 30 minutes or less.
- 12 reps Body Weight Sumo Squat (dumbbells optional 5-15 lbs)
- 24 reps Walking Lunges (12 on each side, dumbbells optional 5-15 lbs) SUB DEADLIFT if you have Symphysis pubis dysfunction
- 12 Lie Down Push Ups
- 24 Side Plank Hip Dips (12 on each side)
- 24 Heel Taps (12 on each side)
- 12 Squat Jumps or Side to Side Squats
- 12 Squat Bicep Curl to Shoulder Press (5-12.5 lbs dumbbells) Omit Press if you have a previous Diastasis Recti
- 15 Tricep Dips (or Overhead Extension)
- 12 Bent Over Rows (8-15 lb dumbbells)
- 12 Low to High Plank (modify on elevated surface if you have a previous DR)
Body Weight Sumo Squat – Stand with feet shoulder width distance apart and squat down with knees tracking over your toes, weight in your heels. Engage your glutes as you stand up and thrust hips an inch forward creating fists with your booty before lowering back down. Feel free to add a kegel while standing back up, lifting your pelvic floor at the lowest point
Walking Lunges – With or without a pair dumbbells, take a step forward with your right foot and lower left knee towards the ground, creating 90 degree angles with your front and back knee. Keep weight in your front foot as you push off of your back foot coming back to a standing position. Alternate by stepping forward now with your left foot, repeat. Weights here are optional.
Lie Down Push Ups – Start by lying down on the ground, arms out stretched. Bring hands by sides and press up into a high plank position. Slowly lower back down until body is lying on the floor once again. Extend arms so that biceps graze ears before beginning rep number 2.
Side Plank Hip Dips – In side plank position, on forearm or wrist (I prefer forearm), lower hips about 6 inches and then lift back up so that your body forms a straight line from ankles to shoulders. If this feels uncomfortable, just hold a side plank for 12 breaths.
Heels Taps – Lie down on your back with knees bent 90 degrees, shins parallel to the ground, knees directly over your hips. Lower the right heel towards the ground keeping the 90 degree angle in your knee. Ezhale as your knee comes back up to meet the left knee. Place a hand on your upper abdominals and try to keep your abs from moving up and down by exhaling and engaging your abs. if you already are experiencing this coning effect, avoid this move and look for more exercises to heel a diastasis recti.
Jump Squats – With feet a little wider than hip width distance apart, gently lower down into a squat. Jump up as high as you can and land back down gently into another squat. If this feel uncomfortable already, Try side to side squats. Start in the same position but instead of jumping up, take your right foot and step to the right as you lower into a squat. Step the right foot back to starting position as you stand up. Repeat on the left.
Squat Bicep Curl to Shoulder Press – Stand in a squat position with feet hip width apart holding a pair of dumbbells, 5-12.5 lbs each. Lower down into a squat. As you stand back up, curl the weights up towards your shoulders, keep elbows close by sides and then press dumbbells up overhead. Slowly lower dumbbells back to starting position and lower back down into another sweat for rep #2.
Tricep Dips – Have a bench or stair handy. Place the heel of your hand on the edge of a bench, fingers pointing towards your booty. Feet can be straight or bent. Lower down until elbows are a 90 degree angle and then press back up engaging the triceps. If this bothers your wrist, grab a pair of dumbbells and hold them straight over your head. Lower the dumbbells behind your head , and then extend the back up to starting position keeping elbows close by your ears.
Bent Over Rows – Grab a pair of heavy dumbbells and bent forward at the hips about 45 degrees. Let weights hand down under shoulders. Keeping elbows close by sides, row weights up to meet rib cage, pressing shoulders down and away from ears while pinches shoulder blades together. Lower weights back down to starting position.
Low to High Plank – One of my favorite moves! Start in a plank position on your hands. One at a time, lower down into a forearm plank. Then march right back up into a high plank. Engage your core and trying to keep your hips from rocking side to side. This move can also be done on your knees.
Prenatal HIIT Workout #2 – First Trimester
Do each move in set #1 a total of 2 times through. Take a 2 minute break and then do set #2. Similarly, do 2 rounds total of each move. Take a 2 minute break and then if you’re feeling good, do a third set which is made up of all 10 moves for 1 more round. If you have a DR from a previous pregnancy, skip this workout and go to second trimester HIIT.
24 Slow Mountain Climbers (12 on each side)
12 Modified or Full Burpee
24 reps Traveling Lunge (12 forward and reverse lunges on each leg)
20 Army Crawls (10 on each side)
15 Reverse Fly (2-5 lb dumbbells)
12 Squat Pulse
24 Step Ups (12 each leg, dumbbells optional 5-12.5 lbs)
24 Shoulder Taps
24 HoverJacks or Plank with alternating feet stepping out to side
15 Upright Row (5-12.5 lbs dumbbells)
Wanna try this workout in your second trimester? Try these modifications…
For mountain climbers, shoulder taps and hover jacks, place hands on an exercise bench so that your heart is elevated above baby. Similar for the burpee, put hands on an exercise bench.
Omit the army crawls and instead try 40 jumping jacks.
Strength Training Pregnancy Workout #1 – Second Trimester
As with all my prenatal workout for the prenatal workout guide, this one is broken up into 2 sets. Do 2 rounds of the first 4 moves. Take a short break and then do 2 rounds of the next 4 moves. If you have time and/or energy, do one last giant set of all 8 exercises back to back for a 3 final set of each move.
- 24 Single Leg Lunge (12 on each side, dumbbells optional – do a squat instead if you have SPD)
- 12 Crab Walk Squats
- 12 Serve The Platter (I used 8 lb dumbbells but you can use 3-8 lb dumbbells)
- 40 Upright Row Squat (I used an 8 lb dumbbell in video but you can use a kettlebell up to 20 lbs!)
- 12 Tricep Extensions (I used 2 8 lb dumbbells)
- 12 Curl and Press with Squat (I used 8 lb dumbbells)
- 24 Reverse Lunge to Balance (12 each leg)
- 24 Candle Stick Crunches (12 on each leg)
HIIT Pregnancy Workout #2 – Second Trimester Workout
- 24 Band Walks (12 reps in each direction)
- 12 Squat to Shoulder Press (Use between 7.5-15 lbs dumbbells)
- 24 Hip Lifts (12 on each leg)
- 15 Kettlebell Swings or Dumbbell Swings if at home (Use between 10-20 lb KB or Dumbbell).
- Do this 2 times though.
- 12 Single Arm Bent Over Rows
- 12 Single Arm Chest Press (Shoulders on Bench or Ball)
- 12 Skull Crushers (Shoulders on Bench or Ball)
- 12 Modified Burpees
- Do this 2 times through.
Do the first 4 moves back to back for 2 consecutive sets. Take a short break and then two two consecutive sets of the next 4 moves. Take a short break and then if you have the energy and time, do one giant set of every exercise so you end up doing each move 3 times total!
This workout will take you about 30 minutes or at least it did for me!
Circuit #1 (weight optional except for front raise, you can use filled water bottles/cans if you don’t have any!)
- Reverse Lunge 12-15 repseach leg
- Make it harder by adding a hop on the front leg
- Sub squat if you have pain in hips
- Squat with Bicep Curl 12-15 reps
- Front Raise 15-20 reps (2-8 lb dumbbells)
- Side Lunge 12-15 repseach leg
- Sub deadlift if you have pain in pelvic area
- Bird Dog 20 reps
- Side Plank 45 seconds each side
- Leg Lift 20 reps each leg
- Reverse Plank 45 seconds hold
As always if something doesn’t feel comfortable, stop! Talk to your doctor before you start a new workout routine.
So this workout is great to do pregnant or not. The reason why I label it a 3rd trimester workout is because there are zero planks or plyometrics. We also never lie down on our backs which can cause dizziness and light headedness as well as shortage of breath! I didn’t experience this much with Tommy but I can barely lie on my back this time around without needing to roll onto my side asap. I share this because it’s important to listen to your body!
If something feels off, stop doing it. Every body and every pregnancy is different. What felt good for number 1 might not feel good for number 2 so switch things up.
Like all my prenatal workouts, this one consists of 8 moves. Do two sets of the first 4 moves without resting in between moves. Take a 1-2 minute break before moving on to the next 4 moves. Again, do 2 sets of the next 4 moves without resting in between moves or sets. Take another 1-2 minute break and then do 1 more giant set of all 8 moves if you have time and energy!
- 24 reps Speedy Single Leg Lunge (12 on each side)
- 24 reps “Woodchop” Side Lunge (12 on each side) ** do not twist at midsection but from hips with entire torso **
- 24 reps Bird Dog with Side Reach
- 200 Arms Cirlces (100 forward, 100 backward)
- 24 reps Squat with Front Kick
- 10 TVA Core & Belly Breathing Exercise
- 24 Lat Pull Downs
- 12 Tricep Dips
I created this Pregnancy Workout Plan in 2018 and am planning to create an updated workout program! Stay tuned…