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8 BEST Exercises for Pregnancy

The 8 BEST exercises for pregnancy! This strength training workout is safe for the first, second and third trimesters, with modifications provided for all fitness levels. These are my favorite challenging but safe exercises during pregnancy – designed to build and maintain muscle tone through your entire pregnancy (and it’s one of my go-to workouts postpartum too).

Working out during pregnancy can be confusing – especially if you were active pre-pregnancy and looking for workouts that are safe but still challenge you.

This is what led to the development of our library of pregnancy workouts and our free pregnancy exercise program – and it has resonated with so many of you.

Today’s workout is a challenging, full body workout made with pregnant mamas in mind. It focuses on building strength in the big “mom muscles” — the hips, back, glutes and core. It’s also low impact (gentle on the joints), safe for your core, and easily modified if you’re experiencing sciatica or pelvic pain.

These are 8 of my favorite effective and safe exercises during pregnancy – appropriate for all trimesters.

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Stay strong during pregnancy with these free pregnancy and prenatal workouts for expecting moms. 30 days of daily guided workout videos on YouTube. Safe for all trimesters of pregnancy.
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pregnant woman performing a bird dog row as part of best pregnancy exercises workout

Best Exercises For Pregnancy FAQs

What Exercises Are Good For A Pregnant Woman?

In my opinion, the best pregnancy workouts focus on strength training. It is naturally low impact, and keeps you strong and ready for labor. I also like to include pelvic floor exercises and low-impact aerobics to my pregnancy workout plans. Walking, using a stationary bike, cycling and prenatal yoga/pilates are more popular pregnancy workouts at home. 

What Exercises Should Be Avoided During Pregnancy?

Listen to your body. In general, you want to avoid forms of exercise that put you at higher risk of injury, especially during pregnancy when your center of gravity has shifted. Common examples of activities to avoid include contact sports (like basketball, ice hockey or soccer), surfing, scuba diving, horseback riding, downhill skiing and gymnastics.

What Are The Benefits Of Exercise During Pregnancy?

Maintaining a regular exercise routine during pregnancy can reduce common aches and pains AND help you maintain strength to prepare for labor. Physical activity can reduce risk of pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes, bloating, swelling and back pain (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists).

pregnant woman performing a bird dog row as part of best pregnancy exercises workout video

8 Best Exercises for Pregnancy (30-Minute Strength Workout)

Maintain muscle tone and endurance with this STRENGTH focused full body pregnancy workout: the 8 Best Pregnancy Exercises for every trimester!

These exercises are safe during pregnancy, whether you’re in your first, second or third trimester. Modifications are provided so you can choose the intensity level that feels good for you.

Add this full body strength workout to your pregnancy workout routine 1-2 times a week to maintain strength through the first trimester, second trimester and third trimester.

Workout Equipment:

Medium-to-heavy dumbbells and an optional exercise bench/box .

We’re using 15-20 lb dumbbells. You have the option to use one heavy dumbbell or two lighter dumbbells.

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Workout Instructions:

Follow along with the guided Safe Exercises During Pregnancy Workout on YouTubeled by certified personal trainer and prenatal fitness instructor, Lindsey Bomgren. 

Your Workout Looks Like This:

  • 8 Safe Exercises For Pregnancy
  • Timed Intervals (40 seconds of work, 20 seconds rest; complete as many reps as you can in the timed interval)
  • Repeat All 8 Exercises x2 Sets
  • BURNOUT ROUND: complete 5 reps of all 8 exercises

Workout Outline

  1. Goblet Squat to Box and Calf Raise
  2. Squat Clean and Squat Thruster
  3. Dumbbell Shoulder Press and Overhead Tricep Extension
  4. Sumo Squat and Bicep Curl
  5. Staggered Deadlift and Back Row
  6. 3-Second Incline Plank and 3 Incline Push Ups
  7. Incline Push Up and Walking Burpee to Squat Dumbbell Pick Up
  8. Bird Dog Back Row and Extension

Prefer to Watch On YouTube?

youtube icon Pregnancy Strength

8 Best Exercises For Pregnancy

Goblet Squat to Box and Calf Raise

Targets: Legs, glutes, quadriceps (thighs), hamstrings, calves and core.

pregnant woman performing a box squat with dumbbell in a goblet hold

How To Do A Goblet Squat to Box and Calf Raise

  1. Start standing in front of your box or bench, feet shoulder-width distance apart, knees slightly bent, core engaged. Hold a dumbbell vertically between both hands at your collarbones (goblet-hold).
  2. Lower down into a squat position, lowering your hips down to tap your glutes to the box behind you. Both knees bent at 90 degrees.
  3. Drive through your heels to stand tall, squeezing your glutes.
  4. As you stand, perform a calf raise by lifting your heels off the ground.

Squat Clean and Squat Thruster

Targets: Legs, glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors, adductors (inner thighs) and core.

squat clean and overhead shoulder press | safe exercises during pregnancy

How To Do A Squat Clean and Squat Thruster

  1. Start standing, feet hip distance apart (or slightly further). Hold one dumbbell horizontally in your hands between your legs.
  2. Bend your knees to lower down into a squat, pushing your knees out towards your outer three toes as you drop your hips parallel to your knees.
  3. Pause for a moment at the bottom of your squat, then drive through your heels, squeezing your glutes and inner thighs to return to standing.
  4. As you return to standing, ‘clean’ the dumbbell up towards your shoulders. Think about “getting under” the dumbbell to catch it — this is a dumbbell clean.
  5. Then, lower your hips down to perform another sumo squat, this time holding the dumbbell at your chest.
  6. Drive through your heels to stand tall, pressing the dumbbell overhead as you stand.

Modification: Omit the overhead shoulder press.

Dumbbell Shoulder Press and Overhead Tricep Extension

Targets: The long head of your triceps (back of the arms), shoulders, abs and core muscles.

pregnant woman performing overhead shoulder press and tricep extension

How To Do A Dumbbell Shoulder Press and Overhead Tricep Extension

  1. Start standing, feet hip distance apart (or slightly further). Hold one dumbbell horizontally at your chest.
  2. Engage your core, tucking your pelvis under your ribs.
  3. Press the dumbbell overhead, keeping your elbows in line with your shoulders.
  4. Then, bend your elbows to a 90-degree angle, bringing the dumbbell behind your head.
  5. Exhale as you press the dumbbell back overhead. Think ‘hide the dumbbell, show the dumbbell’ if you were watching yourself in a mirror.
  6. With control, lower the dumbbell to your chest, returning to starting position.

Sumo Squat and Bicep Curl

Targets: Legs, glutes, quads, hip adductors (inner thighs), hip abductors (outer thighs) and biceps.

pregnant woman performing a sumo squat with added bicep curl as part of best pregnancy exercises workout

How To Do A Sumo Squat and Bicep Curl

  1. Start in a wide stance, feet wider than hip width, heels in and toes pointed out (sumo squat stance). Hold one dumbbell horizontally in your hands between your legs.
  2. Lower down into the bottom of your sumo squat, thinking about getting your thighs parallel to the ground. Tuck your pelvis to engage your core and protect your low back.
  3. With core engaged, exhale as you bend your elbows and curl the dumbbell up to shoulder height, performing a bicep curl.
  4. Hold for a moment then lower the dumbbell with control.
  5. Pull your thighs together to return to standing.

Modification: Later in pregnancy, the hormone relaxin helps your body prepare for labor and delivery by loosening the pelvis’s ligaments, bones, and muscles. If that makes this wide stance uncomfortable, take a more narrow squat stance.

Staggered Deadlift and Back Row

Targets: Legs, glutes, hamstrings, quads, hips, core and back.

pregnant woman performing staggered deadlift and back row (safe exercises during pregnancy)

How To Do A Staggered Deadlift and Back Row

  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart, hold one dumbbell in your right hand, palm facing in towards your body.
  2. Stagger your feet, so your left leg is slightly in front of your right foot. Kickstand your back right foot, right heel floating off the ground. Keep 80% of your weight in your front foot, 20% in your back toe.
  3. Maintain a staggered stance as you hinge at the hips. Pushing your hips back towards the wall behind you as you glide the dumbbell down the front of your legs.
  4. Once you feel a stretch in the back of your leg, pause, and pull your elbow towards your rib cage (performing a single arm row). With control, lower the dumbbell back down.
  5. Then, press through your front heel to push your hips forward, pulling the dumbbell back up towards your hips as you stand tall.

3-Second Incline Plank and 3 Incline Push Ups

Targets: Chest, shoulders, triceps, back, abs, obliques and core muscles.

pregnant woman performing modified plank and push ups

How To Do A 3-Second Incline Plank and 3 Incline Push Ups

  1. Stand in front of your bench (or counter, or wall). The higher the surface, the easier the push up will be.
  2. Plant your hands on the bench and step back into a high plank position. Shoulders are stacked over wrists, weight evenly distributed between all fingers. Hold this plank position for three seconds.
  3. Then, maintain a straight line with your body, as you slowly lower your chest towards the bench. Lead with your chest, elbows falling about 6 inches away from your body (not out to the sides).
  4. Once at the bottom of your push up, exhale as you push back up into high plank position. Repeat x3 (completing three push ups).

Incline Push Up and Walking Burpee to Squat Dumbbell Pick Up

Targets: Legs, glutes, shoulders, chest, triceps and core.

pregnant woman performing a modified push up and burpee using a box to reduce abdominal pressure

How To Do An Incline Push Up and Walking Burpee to Squat Dumbbell Pick Up

  1. Stand in front of your bench (or counter, or wall). The higher the surface, the easier the push up will be. Place your dumbbell horizontally at the base of your bench.
  2. Plant your hands on the bench and step back into a high plank position. Shoulders are stacked over wrists, weight evenly distributed between all fingers.
  3. Then, maintain a straight line with your body, as you slowly lower your chest towards the bench. Lead with your chest, elbows falling about 6 inches away from your body (not out to the sides).
  4. Once at the bottom of your push up, exhale as you push back up into high plank position.
  5. Step your feet in towards your bench, planting them outside your weight.
  6. Lower your hips as you sit back into a squat, picking up the dumbbell in both hands at the bottom of your squat.
  7. Press through your heels to stand tall, pulling the dumbbell up between your legs.
  8. Perform another squat to return the dumbbell to the floor.

Modification: Perform an alternating squat dumbbell pick up.

Bird Dog Back Row and Extension

Targets: Upper-mid-and-lower back, glutes, hamstrings, abs and core.

pregnant woman performing a bird dog back row with lat extension

How To Do A Bird Dog Back Row and Extension

  1. Find a quadruped position with your knees hip-width apart and hands firmly on the ground, about shoulder-width apart. Engage your core. Have one dumbbell on the ground in front of your right hand.
  2. Find a bird dog position by sending your opposite (left) leg back, floating it off the ground. Think about keeping your spine long.
  3. Perform a single arm row with your right arm, pulling the dumbbell back toward your right hip.
  4. With control, lower the dumbbell to the ground.
  5. Then, extend your right arm forward, reaching in front of your body, thumb towards the ceiling.
  6. With control, lower the right arm to the starting position.

Pin This Workout: 8 Safe Exercises During Pregnancy

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4 comments
  1. I am not pregnant (18mnths postpartum) and this was a great workout. I was able to lift heavier than my usual. Loved the multi body moves, worked the mind and muscles!