In Part 1 we looked in detail at exercise and pregnancy, the benefits, the considerations and the concerns. Here we set out a thorough sample workout.
Sample Workout – First trimester or up to 16 weeks
- Goal: gauge fitness level, personal comforts and ability, and then progress to moderate relative intensity with the goal of 150 minutes per week.
Warmup: walking or stationary biking for 10 minutes at a light, comfortable pace
Cardio: Choose two of the following, based on pre-pregnancy fitness level, to perform for 10-20 minutes (light to moderate intensity)
- Walking, jogging, swimming or stationary biking
- Stair Stepping
- Power rope
- Mountain climbers, burpees(add a jump at the end for increased difficulty), or other callisthenics such as these.
Resistance Training: (choose a comfortable variety, based on pre-pregnancy fitness level, and use a weight that allows you to perform 12-15 repetitions, for 2-3 sets.
- Lat pull down
- Prone row/ cable row
- Shoulder shrugs
- Farmer’s walk (walk for 20-30 seconds per set and use a dumbbell in each hand)
- Squats (full or partial, can be progressed by holding a weight)
- Wall squats can be incorporated if isometric exercises are not contraindicated. Keeping your back flat against a wall, sink down so that your thighs are parallel to the ground and knees are at a ninety-degree angle. Hold for up to 30 seconds, as fitness and comfort allows.
- Glute Bridges (have both feet flat to begin with and progress to single leg)
- This exercise can be progressed by having your heels on a Swiss ball instead of the ground. For a triple threat, once the bridge up is complete, perform a leg curl, and then a second bridge or hip thrust.
- Calf raise
- Planks (Front and side, remember to breathe evenly, and only hold for a maximum of 30 seconds if your fitness level allows)
- Flutter kicks/supine leg lift
- While lying on your back, lift both feet off the ground about 6 inches while keeping your legs straight and then slowly lower them back down. The difficulty can be increased by holding the legs in the air longer (keep breathing deeply), or by scissor kicking instead.
- Adductor squeeze
- Place a ball or foam roller between your knees and squeeze. This can be made harder by holding the squeeze for up to five seconds.
The next two are dependent on whether you have been taught the correct form and usage of kettlebells:
Flexibility: Stretch to a point of mild discomfort, with a goal of one minute total stretching, broken into 3-5 sets for each muscle group.
Sample Workout (into the second and third trimester)
- Goal: increase and progress volume, catering to any discomforts, to 150 minutes or more per week.
- Start avoiding supine (on the back) positions.
- Some workouts may have to be phased out for easier, more accommodating ones, as the pregnancy progresses.
- Some exercises such as squats and lunges, or modifications of planks and wall sits may still be performed if they do not cause any discomfort or contraindications.
Warmup: 10-15 minutes of walking, starting at a light intensity and gradually increasing to a moderately fatiguing, yet safe, pace.
Cardio: Same idea as the warmup, however it should be slightly more intense. Activity should be safe, and not compromise balance. Stair stepping is still a viable option. At this point, if you have access to a pool, swimming is a fantastic choice, per reasons stated previously in this article.
Resistance Training: The following are more accommodating exercises, assuming a normal pregnancy. The first three were taken from an established birthing program1. Once again, other exercises listed can be still performed if no contraindications and discomfort are observed.
- Swiss Ball trunk stabilization
- Sitting on a Swiss ball, with your feet flat on the floor, slowly and with control, shift the ball in all directions. This should last about 1-2 minutes and 2-3 sets should be performed with rest in between.
- Swiss Ball marching
- Sitting on a Swiss ball with your feet flat against the floor, slowly raise each leg, one at a time, in an alternating fashion, keeping your trunk and back straight and as unmoving as you can. March 20 times on each leg and once again rest before going on to complete 2-3 sets.
- Swiss ball Plank
- This can be done with either a swiss ball or another giving surface to place your elbows on. It is recommended to have padding underneath the knees and perhaps a few pillows underneath the abdomen as a precaution. On your hands and knees, place your forearms on top of the swiss ball so that you are in a quadruped position and form a 90-degree angle at both your hips and shoulders. Once there, do not allow your back to sink down, rather aim to keep it entirely flat by squeezing the core. Perform this movement 20 times.
- Quadruped hip extension
- While on your hands and knees, straighten each leg, so that it is even with the trunk, alternating between the two.
- Sidestep with resistance
- This is best performed by a railing to hold onto for support if needed. A resistance band can be tied around the legs, just above the knees, and then you can sidestep going to each side equally.
- Resistance band row/extension
- With a band attached to a safe anchor, mimic the previously mentioned cable row.
- Keep your arm straight and start parallel to the floor and end at your waist.
Flexibility: (same as first trimester, with added considerations such as avoiding stretching in the supine position)
- Seated hamstring
- Gently tilt your head directly to either side, almost trying to touch your shoulder with your ear.
- Levator Scapulae
- Allow your head to tilt down, looking diagonally across your body to opposite hip. Stretch may be increased by gently pulling the head further down if tolerance allows.
- Standing Gastrocnemius
Adjust to personal, relative fitness level; for example, some pregnant women do in fact run, but that does not mean it is a good idea for everyone.
The sample workouts are in no way all-inclusive, they are a starting block that should be added to and varied according to personal preference and comfort.
Breathe deeply and evenly during all aspects of exercise; this assists in minimizing any blood pressure spikes and avoiding an involuntary use of the Valsalva manoeuvrer.
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! if an exercise feels unusually uncomfortable, discontinue it or find ways to modify to your discomforts. Movement and exercise are great, but it must be done right.
Be safe, even if you do not feel like you need to, take precautions such as not working out alone, or allowing yourself to hold onto a railing for stability if you do not have a partner to watch you closely.
Keep an open communication with your physician, as it is vital to monitor bodily symptoms before, during and after exercise.
Connect here with WatchFit Expert Jon Kilian
Martens, D., Hernandez, B., Strickland, G., & Boatwright, D. (2006). Pregnancy and Exercise: Physiological Changes and Effects on the Mother and Fetus. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 78-82.
Wing, C., & Stannard, A. (2016). Pregnancy and Exercise Guidelines: Fifty Years Makes a Difference. ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal(March/April), 4-6. doi:10.1249/FIT.0000000000000183
Bushman, B. (2012). Wouldn’t You Like to Know: Pregnancy and Exercise. ACSM’s Health and Fitness Journal, 16(3), 4-6. doi:10.1249/01.FIT.0000414744.03074.f8
ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription. (2014). Baltimore: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Fournier, D., Feeney, G., & Mathieu, M.-E. (2017). Outcomes of Exercise Training Following the Use of a Birthing Ball During Pregnancy and Delivery. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 1941-1947. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000001672