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Best Exercises for Women During Pregnancy

By Darisse Kennedy on Sep 9, 2020 12:00:00 PM
4 Minutes Reading Time


Exercising can provide you with a long list of benefits while you are pregnant. Strength training can help you maintain the muscle you’ve worked hard to build pre-pregnancy. Other benefits of exercise such as increased energy, better mood, improved cognitive function, and increased mobility are all still important during pregnancy. Pregnancy brings with it a lot of changes to your body and will require you to make some adjustments to your workout routine. The good news is that women who are healthy and have a normal pregnancy can typically remain very active throughout pregnancy. Keep reading to learn more about exercising during pregnancy and always discuss the options with your doctor before taking action.

How to decide what exercises to include while you are pregnant

As mentioned above, you and your doctor need to talk about your options for working out during pregnancy. There are some general recommendations for working out while pregnant but you need to assess your specific situation with your doctor before any type of strenuous activity. The general rule when it comes to working out while you’re pregnant is that you should only include exercises that you were doing pre-pregnancy. This means that if you were weight lifting before pregnancy then you can continue doing many of the same exercises throughout pregnancy. The overarching idea is that your body is already equipped during pregnancy to do the movements you have been doing consistently before pregnancy. Starting a new type of workout program can increase your chances of injury as you try an learn how to do the movements properly. During pregnancy, when your body is changing quickly and continuously, is not the right time to learn a whole new style of working out.

Exercises to avoid while you are pregnant

You will have to make modifications to your workout at some point in your pregnancy and may need to avoid certain moves altogether. For example, if you continue strength training throughout your pregnancy there may come a time when you need to reduce the weight and/or reps on some of the moves. Talk through this possibility with your doctor and listen to your body. There are also a few positions you need to avoid while working out. Any moves that require you to lay on your stomach will be off the table once your stomach really starts to grow. In your second and third trimester you also need to avoid moves that require you to be on your back. When you lay on your back during the latter part of your pregnancy it puts the full weight of your uterus and baby on your back and can press down on the vena cava vein. Being in this position can negatively impact your circulation and blood pressure and lead to side effects like feeling dizzy and having back pain. Moves that require you to lay on your back such as bench press, skull crushers, leg lifts, and crunches should be avoided to minimize your risk of exacerbating some of the issues outlined above. 

Examples of exercises to include during pregnancy

If you were doing a strength training routine before pregnancy talk to your doctor about continuing the same routine. You can continue to build muscle and maintain your fitness level throughout pregnancy with consistent weight training. The key to choosing the best exercises while you’re pregnant is to go with options you can do safely. One modification you may need to make during pregnancy – especially if you struggle to maintain your balance more than usual - is to add in more work on machines to naturally limit your range of motion.

Seated row

Overhead pulldown

Shoulder press

Lateral shoulder raises

Dumbbell or barbell bicep curls

Triceps press down

Calf raises

Walking lunges

Seated leg extensions/curls

Hack squat

Above are just a few examples of exercises you may be able to do throughout your pregnancy. Form is always important and even more so during pregnancy because you risk worse injury if you are not careful with your form as your body changes. Take your time and adjust your weight so you can maintain proper form for each move. If you need a refresher on how to do certain moves, check out the video collection on the Mind Pump Media YouTube channel. It is possible to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle throughout pregnancy. Staying committed to your fitness during pregnancy will also help you get back to normal after baby.

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Darisse Kennedy

Darisse is a writer and educator who received her formal education in psychology and mental health counseling. Growing up, she was more of a bookworm than a gym rat, but she discovered strength training in adulthood. She learned the true value of strength training as she fought to lose the extra forty pounds that remained after having three kids. In the process, she discovered the significant impact that working out regularly had on her mood, mindset, and energy levels. Experiencing the benefits of exercise firsthand sparked her interest in the connection between movement and mental well-being – particularly in relation to women.

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