How To Exercise In Your 1st, 2nd & 3rd Trimester Of Pregnancy

All the do's and don'ts.

There are so many benefits that come with exercising when pregnant. From increasing your energy levels, to reducing back and pelvic pain and simply knowing you’re doing something good for you and your bub—there are so many reasons as to why you should keep moving when you’re expecting.
It all comes down to knowing which exercises you should do and which ones are not safe at this time. To get some great advice on this topic, I sat down with the incredible Chloe Lorback (pregnancy specialist physio from my 28 program) to talk through the best and worse exercises to do when you’re expecting.

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1st Trimester

Pelvic floor exercises
Your pelvic floor is part of your core muscle group and is something you need to focus on pre, during and post-pregnancy. Focus on perform pelvic floor exercises in the early stages of pregnancy and continue to do so throughout—this will also help you once your baby is born.
Modified push-ups
Let’s be real, babies might look small but when you’re carrying them around all day they’re much heavier than you think! Work on your arm strength by doing push-ups in your first trimester and this will make it much easier to carry your baby when it arrives.
Plank on elbows
A strong core is essential for supporting and taking the pressure off your lower back. It’ll also help when your carrying your baby and the thousands of other things you’ll be lugging around with you!
Walking or cycling
Walking or cycling is an awesome low-impact option to get moving without putting unnecessary pressure on your joints. For Snez and I, going for a walk together when she was pregnant with Willow was one of her favourite ways to keep fit and tone her muscles, and was also a great excuse for us to spend more quality time together.

sam wood fitness expert
Image: Sam Wood

2nd Trimester 

Side plank
Side planks are awesome for strengthening your core and abdominals. Don’t be afraid to do supported side planks on your knees if a full side plank is too much.
Boxing arms
Boxing movements are a great way to get your heart rate up and prepare your arms for when your bub has arrived. Try these ones with or without resistance.
They might be a universally hated exercise, but squats are amazing at strengthening the largest muscle group in your body (your quads). They’re also great for your glutes and hammies and having strong legs and glutes will do wonders at helping take the pressure off your back.
I can’t stress enough the benefits of walking throughout your pregnancy. While I mentioned the psychical benefits of walking, never underestimate the benefits of getting out and hitting the pavement for your mental health. Fresh air, catching up with friends and moving your body can reduce stress and release endorphins while keeping your muscles strong.

fit and healthy pregnancy
Image: iStock

3rd Trimester

Clams are designed to strengthen your hips, glutes and pelvis and help stabilise the sacroiliac joint (the joint between your lower spine and pelvis).
Calf raises
They’re often overlooked as an exercise but calf raises play an important role in the prevention of ankle and foot swelling (something lots of pregnant women experience especially in the warmer weather). They can also help with balance, stability in your ankles and help build calf muscle strength.
Wall push ups
I’ve mentioned it before and I’ll mention it again, building strong arms is essential when you’re pregnant. Wall push-ups will help strengthen your arms, chest and shoulders and are a great option as your belly grows and when traditional push ups become next to impossible.
Swimming and walking in water
Hydrostatic pressure that is created by being in the water is amazing for managing any swelling, and it’s so relaxing to feel weightless while floating. The support from the water allows your lower back and pelvic joints to alleviate the usual pregnancy load and moving through the water challenges your core muscles.

tone your arms
Image: @samjameswood

What not to do:

Lots of exercises can be safely modified during pregnancy, but there are still a few that we recommend you avoid. This is usually because they result in too much pressure on your pelvic floor or tummy muscles. Take a look at the exercises that are best to avoid or swap for safer options.

  • Crunches/sit ups: These put too much pressure on your rectus abdominis.
  • Jump squats: These are a high impact movement that tend to put too much pressure on your pelvic floor.
  • Long plank holds: These are difficult to maintain without straining your rectus abdominis.
  • Heavy weight lifting: This can put lots of strain through your pelvic floor muscles. On the flipside, lifting moderate weights is recommending during pregnancy and is awesome for building muscle mass and bone density.
  • Star jumps: I think these one speak for themselves! From what I’ve been told, these ones feel like you’re shaking your baby out and put too much unnecessary pressure on your pelvic floor when you jump.

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