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5 Best Pregnancy Exercises for Every Trimester

Studies show that pregnancy workouts have health benefits for both mom and baby; but modifying your exercise routine is a natural part of pregnancy. I’m sharing my top 5 pregnancy exercises for every trimester. I intentionally do these 5 prenatal exercises during the first, second and third trimester to maintain strength and prepare for labor.

The 5 Best Pregnancy Exercises for Every Trimester

As I mentioned above, studies show that being active during pregnancy has health benefits for both mom and baby.

From improving heart health and stamina, to decreasing fatigue and constipation, and boosting mood and energy levels, enhancing sleep, and improving muscle strength (Medical News Today). 

But maintaining a regular fitness routine during pregnancy can be challenging, especially if you’re uncertain how to adapt and modify pregnancy workouts to accommodate your growing bump.

Which is why I’m excited to share my top 5 pregnancy exercises for every trimester!

best pregnancy exercises

1. Transverse Abdominal Breathing (TA Breathing)

Transverse Abdominal Breathing (or TA breathing) is hands down the number one core strengthening exercise I recommend to ALL women. But TA breathing is especially important for women who are pregnant and/or postpartum.

Your transverse abdominal muscles are your deep abdominal muscles — not your six-pack muscles, but the layer underneath that. Your six-pack ab muscles, or your rectus abdominus are the muscles that can seperate during pregnancy, causing diastasis recti.

By strengthening the deep transverse abdominal muscles, you can prevent diastasis recti (or lessen the separation) during pregnancy.  

I came into my second pregnancy with a 1.5-2-finger ab separation. So TA breathing has been part of my exercise routine since my first pregnancy, but something I focused on even more during my second pregnancy. 

TA breathing is difficult to explain in text, so I recommend you watch the video at the top of this post (approximately from 0:15 to 1:50) for a full demonstration of TA breathing.

In the video above, I show you: 

  1. How to find your transverse abdominal muscles so that you can properly engage them.
  2. How to effectively do TA breathing.
  3. And how long to perform TA breathing for. 
transverse abdominal breathing

Additionally, I filmed a Facebook Live video included in this post where I go into greater detail on:

  • Pregnancy Safe Ab Exercises and Prenatal Ab Exercises
  • Ab Exercises to Avoid During Pregnancy
  • Transverse Abdominal Breathing and How to Strengthen Your Transverse Abdominals
  • Ab Exercises You Can Do While Sitting At Your Desk
  • Pelvic Floor Exercises for Women and How to Connect Your Pelvic Floor to Your Transverse Abdominals
  • What is Diastatic Recti and What Ab Exercises Are Safe for Diastatic Recti

2. Strength Training and Weight Training

I’m often asked what are the best workouts for pregnancy? My response, strength training!

I recommend pregnant women focus on strength training rather than high intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts during pregnancy; especially throughout the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.

HIIT workouts stopped feeling good for my body much sooner in my second pregnancy than with my first. You can find more about how to know when it’s time to cut back on your workout intensity in this post — 5 Exercises I Avoid During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, it’s a good rule of thumb to focus on maintaining muscle mass and strength.

Striving to maintain the weights you were using pre-pregnancy and slowly decrease weights as your pregnancy progresses and your body puts on additional weight. 

My favorite strength training pregnancy exercises are: 

  1. Squat + Curl + Press — a great total body exercise. 
  2. Sumo Squatsgreat for pregnancy because they allow a more room for your growing baby bump.
pregnancy workouts | strength training during pregnancy

You can see these two pregnancy exercises to maintain strength demonstrated in the video at the top of this post (starting at approximately 2:10). 

Click here for more free pregnancy workouts. My personal favorite pregnancy workout is this 30-Minute Pregnancy Strength Workout!

3. Balance Work

Another FAQ about pregnancy workouts I get asked — what are pregnancy-safe core exercises?

My favorite way to safely engage the core muscles (or transverse abdominal muscles) during pregnancy is through balance work.

This can be a bit contrary to what you may read and see online in regards to pregnancy workouts. Several sources suggest limiting balance work as your growing bump throws off your center of gravity. Paired with an increase in relaxin, a hormone secreted during pregnancy that causes your joints and ligaments to be more loose and can cause you to lose your balance. 

But I believe if you don’t use it, you loose it even more.

Continuing to challenge yourself with balanced-based exercises is a great way to maintain core strength throughout pregnancy. Balance work targets your transverse abdominal muscles without compressing or compromising babies space like most traditional core exercises. 

That said, as your belly grows, your center of gravity shifts slightly; paired with increased relaxin, balance exercises can become more difficult. Therefore, I recommend using a chair, tabletop or counter for added support as needed.

My favorite pregnancy exercises that require balance work are:

  1. Single Leg Deadlift
  2. Lateral Lunge and Press
  3. Barre Exercises (like this Advanced 20 Minute Cardio Barre Workout or this Low Impact, Beginner Barre Workout
pregnancy exercises to maintain strength

You can see these pregnancy exercises to maintain core and balance strength demonstrated in the video at the top of this post (starting at approximately 3:05). 

4. Low Impact Cardio Exercises  

If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount if time, you know that I love HIIT workouts. Pairing strength training with HIIT is my favorite form of exercise, especially for at home workouts.

Therefore plyometrics or jumping was a regular part of my exercise routine prior to pregnancy and I continued to do it well into my second trimester of pregnancy until it no longer felt good for me. 

Around 25-30 weeks pregnant, I started to decrease high impact exercises and transition to low impact exercises. 

Of course every body and pregnancy is different; you know your body best so do what’s right for you. 

That said, low impact exercise doesn’t mean low intensity. Low impact workouts can be just as challenging as high impact workouts. For example, give this 10-Minute Low Impact HIIT Cardio Workout a try. 

Some of my favorite low impact pregnancy exercises are: 

  1. Kettlebell Swings — you can always substitute one heavy dumbbell if you don’t have a kettlebell. 
  2. Kickboxing Moves or Cardio Kickboxing — try this 30 Minute Cardio Barre Boxing Workout!
low impact cardio kettlebell swing

You can see these low impact pregnancy exercises demonstrated in the video at the top of this post (at approximately 4:00). 

5. Hip Opening Exercises + Hip Opening Stretches

Hip opening exercises and stretches are a great way to prepare your body for labor and delivery.

I try to start adding these stretches to my pregnancy fitness routine in the second trimester, but really focus on hip opening exercises throughout my third trimester.

Stretching and opening the hips can also help reduce lower back pain, which is a common pregnancy complaint. 

Some of my favorite pregnancy exercises that stretch and open the hips are: 

  1. Yogi Squat or Supported Yogi Squat on a Yoga Block 
  2. Low Runners Lunge
  3. Frog Pose (pictured below)
hip opening stretches for pregnancy

You can see these hip opening pregnancy exercises demonstrated in the video at the top of this post (at approximately 5:20). 

Also, reference these 8 Mobility Exercises to Open Hips and Avoid Back Pain and this 10-Minute Recovery Prenatal Yoga Flow.

At-Home Pregnancy Workouts

CLICK HERE to access all of my FREE Pregnancy Workouts on the blog!

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