Expecting but also keen to get a sweat on? You're in the right place.
Expecting a child and searching the internet for a safe pregnancy workout?
Don’t worry – you’re not the only one who has questions about what workouts you should be doing while carrying a child. The search term “Can you workout while pregnant?” is only rising, showing that there’s not enough information out there about what, exactly, working out does to your body and baby, and similarly, whether you should be moving more, less, or the same amount if you’re a mum-to-be.
Here, we share a topline on what the medical professionals at the NHS recommend you should do movement-wise while you’re expecting. Plus, qualified personal trainer Emily Ricketts answers all of your questions and shares her go-to safe pregnancy workout, suitable for all stages of pregnancy.
Don’t miss our guides to online pregnancy workouts, our fashion editor’s guide to the best maternity clothes, and an explainer on suitable postpartum exercise, for once you’ve given birth, while you’re here.
Safe pregnancy workouts: your guide
To state the obvious, during pregnancy, your body is going through a whole host of different changes – it’s growing a human, after all. “It’s no wonder your workouts need to change to adapt to you so that you can continue to move safely and comfortably,” shares the expert.
Some worry that exercise may not be “safe” and may even risk the baby. But this isn’t true – as the NHS website states, exercise is not dangerous for your baby – quite the opposite, in fact. “There is some evidence that active women are less likely to experience problems in later pregnancy and labour,” they share.
How often should I workout while pregnant?
It is generally recommended that pregnant women participate in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week, shares the personal trainer. “This ideally should include two resistance based sessions targeted to strengthening all major muscle groups,” she continues.
Do read up on what exercises are advised for your point of pregnancy, though. “For example, it’s important to avoid exercises in the supine position (aka laying flat on your back) after the first trimester, avoiding exercises that could ‘bump your bump’ and exercises that put unnecessary pressure on your core, e.g. crunches, sit-ups, double leg raises or plank positions,” she explains.
So what workouts should you aim for? That totally depends on your fitness levels and what workouts you were already doing.
“The exact type of exercise, frequency, duration and intensity should be dependent on your current fitness levels going into your pregnancy,” the expert explains. Her advice, if you’re new to exercise? Ease into it slowly starting with short ten minute sessions (read our round-up of seven-minute workouts, here), and build up from there.
“Just like every fitness journey, we are all different. It’s about going with what feels good for you and your body. I always encourage women to be in tune with their body while training – honouring that ‘feel good’ factor. In pregnancy, this gets stepped up a whole other level.”
That said, if you can squeeze in some active movement during the nine months you’re carrying your little one, it’ll likely benefit you. Ricketts shares that being able to keep active and strong throughout your pregnancy is a great way to support your body through these changes. “Pregnancy can also create a lot of aches, pains and changes, and workouts should leave you feeling good.”
Need some extra support? These pregnancy Instagram accounts offer a wealth of support and knowledge.
A safe full body pregnancy workout to try tonight
Worth noting here: Ricketts points out that, when moving whilst pregnant, your intentions will likely be centred around a different goal. “It isn’t about hitting personal bests or running your fastest 5km; rather, honouring your body through this different phase and scaling things back to a more moderate intensity.”
Note here too: while the below workout is suitable for all trimesters, your workouts should always fit you, your goals and your lifestyle, not the other way around. “As your pregnancy progresses, your workouts will continue to adapt and change, too,” shares the PT.
With that in mind – give the below safe pregnancy workout a go, and take any regressions that you need. After a sweat session for post-birth, too? This postpartum workout is PT approved.
Time: 30 minutes – each movement ten to twelve times and the circuit three times over.
Equipment needed: Dumbbells and a bench or chair.
1. Neutral Grip Bent Over Row
a. Start in a bent-over position, feet shoulder-width apart, spine neutral.
b. Have your dumbbells by your side and row them up towards your hips. Lower back with control.
2. Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift
a. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, dumbbells in front by your thighs, and hinge at your hips.
b. Lower the dumbbells down until they are level with your mid-shin — keeping your spine neutral and the dumbbells as close to you as possible throughout the movement.
3. Seated Dumbbell Press
a. Sit on your chair or bench and have your dumbbells racked by your shoulders, feet firmly
planted on the floor.
b. Press up and overhead until your arms are fully extended, then lower with control. If you are using a bench, you can have your back supported.
4. Dumbbell Sumo Squats
a. Take a sumo stance that feels comfortable for you and hold your dumbbell vertically by the
top between your legs.
b. Squat down with control, then drive back up.
5. Tricep Dips
a. Sitting on the edge of your chair or bench, ensure your legs are wide enough to feel
comfortable for you and your bump. Place both of your hands on the chair or bench behind you, elbows pointing backwards.
b. With your elbows and knees bent, lower your bum towards the floor, creating tension in your biceps. Then, push back up. Ensure you work within a range of motion that feels comfortable for you.
6. Bodyweight Hip Thrusts
a. Start with your upper back on the edge of a chair or bench, legs bent out in front of you at a
comfortable width for you and your bump.
b. Lower your hips down and then drive up into a bridge position.
5 tips for exercising safely when expecting
Still not convinced the above weight training circuit is for you? The below might help.
1. Focus on your breath
Did you know? Your breath is a really powerful tool when exercising in pregnancy.
Try this: Focus on mastering connecting your breath to your pelvic floor and using this in your workouts, shares the PT. “You also want to avoid holding your breath as this can put more pressure on your pelvic floor and affect your blood pressure,” she shares.
FYI, a good connected breath pattern would be to exhale on exertion – that’s during the hardest part of the movement – while lifting your pelvic floor, and inhale during the easiest part of the movement, whilst lengthening your pelvic floor. Read our guide to breathwork training, here.
2. Listen to your body
This one’s important. If something doesn’t feel right, stop or change the exercise. “Watch out for warning signs your body is telling you and don’t just push through,” warns the expert.
Try this: Honour your body and adapt if needed. “Listening to your body and adjusting based on what it’s telling you is never failing,” she advises.
3. Master moderate intensity
Exercising during pregnancy isn’t about hitting PB’s, it’s about working at a moderate intensity and keeping your body feeling good throughout, she advises. “You should always be able to hold a conversation whilst exercising,” she shares.
Try this: Always aim for around a 70% effort level.
4. Educate yourself
In other words, talk to the professionals, read the books, and ask the questions – knowing what to avoid and adapt during pregnancy can help you feel confident in your workouts and the way you’re moving your body, advises the PT.
As above, avoiding supine positions or exercises that put unnecessary pressure on your core is key.
5. Take your time
And finally, don’t worry if you need additional rest times – you are carrying another human, after all. “Listen to how your body feels before restarting your next set and take your time moving between exercises,” she shares.
Safe pregnancy workout? Sorted. Happy sweating.