12 Safe Exercises to Stay Fit During Pregnancy
Last Updated: Sep 15, 2015
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Exercising during pregnancy has enormous benefits for both mom and baby, such as having a healthier pregnancy, quicker delivery, easier recovery after baby, increased brain stimulation for baby and much more. However, there are some considerations all pregnant women should make before working out. Always discuss your workouts with your doctor and get approval to exercise. Listen to your body, and if an exercise doesn’t feel right for you that day, skip it and move on to the next. You can also use the “talk test” to determine how hard you are working out. Strive to work out at a level where you could carry on a light conversation if you were talking to someone. If you find you are winded, you need to decrease your intensity. Additionally, it's important to use proper form with each exercise, focusing on your breathing, lightly doing a kegel and “hugging your baby” to activate your deep core muscles with each exercise and moving your body regularly. Aim for a minimum of three hours total each week, exercising a little each day. Keep up the hard work and include theses exercises regularly in your workout sessions to keep your posture looking fabulous, core strong and booty lifted.
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Squats are a great exercise for all stages of pregnancy. Plus, squats help strengthen your pelvic floor and transverse abdominal (deep core) muscles, too, which you'll use to help push your baby out during delivery. HOW TO DO THEM: Begin in a wide squat position with your weight in your heels while hanging onto a lightweight dumbbell (about five pounds) and avoid tucking your hips. Sink your hips back and down behind you. Then, exhale to stand, doing a light kegel and “hugging your baby” while raising your arms to shoulder height. Do 20 to 30 reps.
Related: Sumo Squat Vs. Regular Squat
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Forward rolls safely stretch your back while strengthening your core muscles throughout pregnancy. Listen to your body, only moving through a range of motion that feels good for your body. NOTE: This is NOT a planking exercise. Be sure to keep your hips lined up over your knees or behind for the entire exercise. HOW TO DO THEM: Start kneeling with the ball positioned close to your body. Exhale to initiate movement by tucking your chin then slowly articulate your spine as you roll the ball out. Inhale to hold this position, breathing deep into your belly while gently drawing your shoulders away from your ears and allowing your lower back to arch slightly into a comfortable position (do not arch too far and put strain on your lower back). Exhale to initiate movement back to the starting position by gently doing a kegel and “hugging your baby,” rounding your spine and pressing your hands into the ball. Roll back up to the starting position. Do in sets of three to six reps daily.
Related: 10 Popular Exercises That Can Hurt Your Back
Hamstring pulses can help keep your booty lifted throughout pregnancy. HOW TO DO THEM: On all fours, place a small weight (two- to three-pound dumbbell) behind your knee on one leg (or use no weight at all). Finding a comfortable starting position, hold your leg bent back behind you with your thigh parallel to the floor. Avoid over-arching your lower back, remembering to gently “hug your baby.” Do 20 to 30 small, slow pulses, pressing your heel upward. Release and switch legs. Do two to three sets, alternating sides.
Related: 17 Exercises to Shape and Tone Your Booty
PLIE SQUAT PULSES
These have basically the same benefits as squats but also help you build up lower body endurance by not giving your quads and calves much rest between reps. HOW TO DO THEM: Begin in a wide squat position with your weight in your heels. Lift your heels, keeping your weight back. Hang onto a sturdy support such as a chair or couch for added balance. Exhale to pulse up a couple of inches, keeping your hips back and heels lifted. Inhale to lower back down a couple of inches (avoid tucking your butt). Do 20 slow pulses or until you feel the burn in your legs. If it’s too challenging to keep your heels lifted, keep them grounded and complete your pulses.
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FULL FORWARD LUNGES
If you are experiencing any round ligament pulling (pain at the front of your hips), skip lunges and replace with more squat exercises or hamstring pulses for now. HOW TO DO THEM: Starting in a forward lunge position, keeping the weight in the heel of your front leg, reach your arms up into a “V” position. Exhale to bring your back leg through to standing, using your deep core muscles to bring your leg through and lift. You can modify by bringing your back leg to tap next to your standing leg. Inhale as you return to the starting position back. Do 10 to 15 reps, then switch sides. If you'd like, you can add light, two- to five-pound dumbbells to increase the challenge.
Related: 22 New Lunges to Supercharge Leg Day
SQUAT + LAT PULL + ROTATION
This combo exercise strengthens your deep core, improves your posture and keeps your booty lifted and strong. Plus, it feels great on those hips. As your pregnancy progresses, you may need to decrease your range of rotation. HOW TO DO IT: Standing in a wide squat, feet slightly rotated out, weight in your heels, hold an exercise band about shoulder-width apart overhead. Exhale to stand while pulling the band to your chest and rotating toward your right, allowing your hips to turn with your torso and back heel to lift and pivot. It's very important that your hips turn with your torso during pregnancy. Inhale to return to center, lowering into a squat while reaching your arms back up. Exhale to stand and rotate to the opposite side, pulling the band toward your chest and allowing your hips and back heel to pivot with your torso. Do 20 reps, alternating sides.
Related: The Only 5 Exercises Women Need to Get Lean
BENT-OVER REVERSE FLYS
Reverse flys keep your back strong throughout your pregnancy. If you start to feel tension going to your neck, decrease your dumbbell weight and be sure your elbows are slightly bent. HOW TO DO THEM: Stand with your knees slightly bent and hinge forward at the hips while gently “hugging your baby” to avoid rounding your back. Hold your arms out in front, hanging onto a pair of dumbbells (about five pounds). Exhale as you draw your elbows up and back until your arms are in line with your chest. Keep your elbows soft and open up your chest. Inhale to return to start. Do 10 to 15 reps.
Related: 10 Upper-Body Exercise Swaps to Amp Up Results
While you can't spot reduce those troublesome “bat wings,” as many women call the extra flab on their triceps, this exercise will help tone and strengthen that area. HOW TO DO THEM: Stand with your knees slightly bent and hinge forward from your hips while gently “hugging your baby” to avoid rounding your back. Hold your arms to your side and slightly behind your back, hanging onto a pair of light dumbbells (three to five pounds). Inhale to slightly bend your elbows then exhale to extend your arms straight back, squeezing your triceps. Do 20 reps.
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OUTER THIGH BURNERS
One of the keys to doing this exercise safely is keeping your spine in a neutral alignment without letting your back arch or round. HOW TO DO THEM: On all fours, exhale to reach your left leg up and back, away from your body, allowing your hips and torso to rotate just slightly but still pressing through your heel. Inhale to bend your leg back towards your body. Do 20 slow reps before switching sides.
Related: The Top 15 Moves to Tone Your Glutes
SIDE LYING LATERAL LEG ROTATIONS
Strengthen and open your hip flexors with this exercise. HOW TO DO THEM: Lying on one side, hips stacked, knees slightly bent, exhale to laterally rotate your top leg. Inhale to rotate your leg back down, tapping your top knee to your bottom knee. Do 20 reps then switch sides.
Related: How to Exercise and Stay Healthy During Pregnancy
This is a favorite prenatal exercise for many women to help stretch those tight hips and belly. If it’s challenging to sit directly on the ground, grab a pillow and place it under your hips. HOW TO DO IT: Sit with your right leg bent in front of your body, your left leg tucked behind you and your right hand on the ground behind your body. Exhale as you reach your left hand overhead, pressing your hips up and bringing you up onto your knees. Inhale to lower down, placing your hips back on the ground. Do three to five reps then switch sides.
Related: 11 Stretches Almost Everyone Can Do
This is the perfect exercise to finish with at the end of your workout, as it allows your body to rest, relax and recharge. HOW TO DO IT: Start seated on your feet with knees open wide, making room for your belly. Reach your hands out in front of your body. Then, allow your hips, upper body and neck to relax. Take time to focus on your deep breathing for three to five slow deep breaths (or as long as you'd like).
Related: 11 Essential Yoga Poses Everyone Should Practice
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Have you ever been pregnant? Did you work out during your pregnancy? What ways did you keep in shape? Share your advice and favorite exercises in the comments below! Or are you pregnant now? Do you plan on working out during your pregnancy? How do you plan on staying active and healthy? Leave your suggestions, stories or questions in the comments below.
Related: The Perfect Post-Pregnancy Workout to Get Back in Shape
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