Maintain a strong core during pregnancy with this safe and efficient routine: the BEST prenatal core exercises for all trimesters! This is strength training for your deep abdominal muscles, designed to safely build core muscle and reduce postpartum recovery time. Use one dumbbell or just your bodyweight.
Core exercises are one of the first things I had to modify from my pre-pregnancy fitness routine and let’s be honest – subbing the same one or two “pregnancy safe” moves for any ab exercise can get boring pretty fast.
Enter today’s workout: a challenging and efficient core strength routine combining six of my favorite pregnancy ab exercises with dumbbells.
This is strength training for your core: using a dumbbell to safely strengthen the deep transverse abdominis muscles, rectus abdominis, obliques, glutes, pelvic floor, and stabilizing muscles along your spine.
Yes. In general, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says it’s safe to continue regular exercise during pregnancy. This includes most abdominal exercises you were doing pre-pregnancy (with some modifications as needed, especially if you’re coming into pregnancy with existing diastasis recti). You may need to avoid deep flexion or spinal rotation and lying on your back (which can compress the vena cava vein) as your pregnancy progresses.
Can You Build Core Muscles While Pregnant?
YES. During pregnancy, you want to focus on pregnancy-safe core exercises (especially ones involving weights, like this workout) that build strength in the deep transverse abdominal muscles. These muscles wrap around your body like a natural corset, and provide stability as your belly grows.
What Are The Benefits of Core Workouts During Pregnancy?
Maintaining and building a strong core during pregnancy can help reduce common pregnancy aches and pains (specifically, lower back pain). Additionally, women who exercise during pregnancy are more likely to have a shorter labor (European Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology).
6 Best Prenatal Core Exercises
Strength train your ab muscles with this prenatal core workout: safe for first trimester, second trimester and third trimester.
This effective workout engages the core using a weight (or use just your bodyweight to reduce the intensity).
A core routine designed to safely strengthen the abdominals and engage the pelvic floor muscles and glutes.
Add this quick abs routine to your pregnancy exercise program 1-2 times a week to maintain strength through the first trimester, second trimester and third trimester.
One Medium Dumbbell (8-20 lbs). I’m using a single 10 lb dumbbell.
Option to use just your bodyweight to reduce intensity and scale down the workout.
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Transverse Abdominis (TA) or Belly Breathing with Dumbbell Press Out
Targets: Transverse abdominis (TA) muscle which extends between the ribs and the pelvis, wrapping around the trunk of the body from front to back.
How To Do TA Belly Breathing and Dumbbell Press Out
Start standing, feet under hips, holding a dumbbell horizontally between your hands at your chest.
Take a deep breath and allow your core and pelvic floor to relax. Imagine there is a string between your hip bones and as you exhale that string (or your TA muscles) is pulling your hip bones together.
Inhale, letting the belly expand out and down.
Exhale, pulling the belly in tight and think about tucking the tailbone underneath you. As you exhale, push the dumbbell out away from your chest.
Inhale, letting the belly expand and pull the dumbbell back to starting position.
Kneeling Hip Thrust and Dumbbell Press Out
Targets: Hips, glutes, quads, pelvic floor, shoulders and core.
How To Do A Kneeling Hip Thrust and Dumbbell Press Out
Start in a kneeling position, knees under hips, tops of your feet pressed into your mat. Hold a dumbbell horizontally between your hands at your chest.
Sit your hips back, hovering your glutes an inch above your heels.
Exhale as you squeeze your quads to lift your hips, driving your hips forward. As your hips lift, push the dumbbell out away from your body, holding it at shoulder level.
Then, inhale as you pull the dumbbell back to your chest and lower your hips, hovering your glutes above your heels.
Half Kneeling Lift and Press
Targets: The deep transversus abdominis muscles, oblique muscles, hips, back, shoulders and core.
How To Do Half Kneeling Lift and Press
Start in a kneeling position, knees under hips, core engaged. Keep your left knee on the mat and place your right foot flat on the mat, right thigh parallel to the ground (right knee in line with right hip).
Hold one dumbbell horizontally between your hands. Bring the dumbbell to the outside of your left hip.
Then exhale as you use your abs and obliques to drive the dumbbell crossbody, extending your arms up overhead on the right side. Think left hip to chest to right shoulder.
Lower the dumbbell with control back towards your left hip, returning to the starting position. Repeat this movement.
Bird Dog Back Row
Targets: Upper, mid and lower back, glutes, hamstrings, hips, abs and core.
How To Do A Bird Dog Back Row
Find a quadruped position on your hands and knees. Knees hip-width apart, shoulders stacked over wrists.
Place one dumbbell in your left hand. Find a bird dog position by extending your right leg straight back behind you (arm and leg are opposite sides). Keep your spine neutral.
Hold this bird dog position as you perform a single arm row with your left arm, pulling the dumbbell back toward your left hip.
With control, return the dumbbell to the mat, keeping your right leg lifted the entire movement.
Seated Shoulder Press Up and Over
Targets: Obliques, shoulders, transverse abdominis and erector spinae.
How To Do A Seated Shoulder Press Up and Over
Find a wide seated position, legs extended towards the corners of the room. Engage your core to create a long, tall spine – sitting up straight. Hold the dumbbell in both hands at your left shoulder.
Exhale, engaging your abs as you press the dumbbell up and over your head, bringing it to tap your right shoulder.
Inhale, releasing the tension in your core.
Exhale, engaging your core as you press the dumbbell up and over your head, bringing it to tap your left shoulder.
Goblet Hold and March
Targets: Low abs, obliques, glutes, hip flexors, chest and shoulders.
Note: the farther you hold the dumbbell out, away from your body, the harder your core will have to work.
How To Do A Goblet Hold and March
Start in a standing position, feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell vertically at your chest, elbows tucked in.
Engage your core, then drive your right knee up in line with your right hip. Right knee bent at a 90-degree angle.
Ground through your standing left leg for stability, then return your right foot back to the ground.
Switch sides, driving your left knee up in line with your left hip. Return to starting position and repeat these alternating high knee lifts.
Lindsey’s Outfit Details:
lululemon Align High-Rise Leggings. Wearing a size 6 for pregnancy (I typically wear a size 4 in the Align Leggings). The Align Leggings are my absolute favorite everyday-wear legging when I’m not pregnant, but they become my favorite workout leggings during pregnancy.
lululemon Ebb to Street Tank. Wearing a size 8 for pregnancy (I typically wear a size 6 in lululemon shirts and tanks when I’m not pregnant). This tank has seamless support-to-stretch balance. It has a built in bra which I love too.
lululemon Muscle Love Long Sleeve Shirt. Wearing a size 6, my typically lululemon top size. I love layering this crop with a fitted tank during pregnancy! It’s lightweight but provides the perfect amount of coverage, and I’ll wear it postpartum too.
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