Pre-Natal Exercise Modifications


It is great you are planning to continue with your regular workout routine during your pregnancy! There are so many great benefits to you (& baby!) if you continue to exercise during pregnancy.

For you – it will improve your overall health, posture, balance and coordination, help to relieve backaches, leg cramps, muscle tension and stress, and also prevent excessive weight gain, urinary incontinence, and other health risks.

For baby – improves overall fetal health, lots of good oxygen will get to baby, fetal brain development, and gives a positive response to outside the womb.

Most health care practitioners would agree, you can continue with any workout routine you were doing prior to pregnancy, but please note, because of the increase of the hormone relaxin in your body, you will need to focus on good technique and avoid over range of motion.

Stop exercising immediately if you experience any of the following:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Abdominal or chest pain
  • Sudden swelling of hands or feet, ankles or face
  • Dizziness or light-headedness – Blurred vision
  • Numbess in any body part

Once you have passed the first trimester (after week 12):

  • Avoid lying supine (on your back) for extended periods of time. Modifications can include:
    • Incline bench press
    • Modified core work
      • If you do core work on your back (i.e. leg extensions) it is recommended that after you complete the set you recover on your side before starting the next set again. See below for additional core work safe during pregnancy.
  • Avoid higher impact exercises (i.e. box jumps)
    • Modifications can include step ups.
  • If you notice pain in your wrists while working out you can reduce the angle of wrist extension with props (ex. exercise mats or plates).

Through all trimesters it is crucial to listen to your body and trust what you are doing. If at any time you feel any discomfort or are uncomfortable with any movement please stop immediately. It is very important that you are comfortable in what you are doing, no matter what stage of pregnancy you are. We cannot stress this enough.

Common Pre-Natal Exercises and Modifications:

  • Squats (deep squats) – these are great for pelvic floor and posture. Elevate your heels if you feel pulling forward as your belly gets bigger.
  • Back exercises – great for posture. Bent over/TRX/Dumbell rows for example.
  • Lunges – as you get bigger you can reduce the range of motion if you are feeling unstable or unsteady at any time. Also, you can use a wider stance as you become bigger and your balance is off. This will help with keeping your centre of gravity. Another option is to use a prop (i.e. chair, mobility stick) to help keep your balance.
  • Hands/knees variations – great options for core work (cat/table – stressing table, coming to neutral, and not cow which is over extending; bird/dog)
  • Planks and side planks – variations and modifications with lowering knees to ground – avoid if recti diastasis is present (tenting or bulge in core). If you are unsure if you are experiencing this, please ask.
  • Lean backs – another core option. Sitting with knees up, lean back keeping neutral spine as far as you feel comfortable. Can be done from kneeling (level 1), or sitting (level 2).
  • Leg extensions – while lying on back, extend leg from 90 degrees to the floor one at a time, and raise back up to 90 degrees. Once the set is complete recover on your side as you will want to avoid lying on back for extended period of time (as stated above).
  • Bridge pose (glute bridges) (avoid if indigestion).
  • Child’s pose is great for circulation and to lift uterus off pelvis for better circulation
  • Burpees – use box or bench to place hands on instead of floor once belly becomes large enough to be in your way.
  • Weighlifting – using boxes to lift off once belly becomes large and uncomfortable when bending to pick bar up off floor. Avoid lifting weights too heavy that you have to hold your breath for extended period (valsalva manoeuvre).
  • Chin-ups – if comfortable, continue as long as desired. TRX rows are great modification for chin- ups where you would feel less stretch and pull through core muscles and belly.
  • Push-ups – incline on boxes to avoid hitting belly off floor.
  • Running – if you feel comfortable and had ran before pregnancy, running is fine through pregnancy. Avoid quick movements (switching directions, etc.) because of relaxin in body and loose ligaments.

Your Pelvic Floor – Very Important

Pelvic floor exercises are a very important component to pre and post natal. Working the inner most core muscles will help to avoid Recti Diastasis (separation of abdominals).

It is common for some separation to occur as your uterus expands, but strengthening these muscles will keep the separation to a minimum. These exercises can and should be done through all stages of pregnancy and almost immediately following delivery (once perineum is no longer tender).

Your Pelvic Floor is CRUCIAL!!!

Strengthening your pelvic floor will not only help during pregnancy but after you have the baby to bring your abdominal muscles back together (as stated above, some separation is normal)

Pelvic Floor Exercises:

1) Faucet

This exercise will help you find your pelvic floor muscles. During mid-stream interrupt the flow as you pee, maximum one or two times. Once you have found the muscle, discontinue this exercise. Do not do this exercise if you have, or have history of UTI’s.

2) Kegels (or Elevator)

This exercise can be done in any position; sitting, lying down, or in a squat. Pull the vaginal muscle up like an elevator to the count of five without stopping as any “floors”, hold, and then lower the muscle to the count of five.

3) Super Kegels

Pull the muscle in the vagina up as high as you can, keep it tight, and hold for a count of 20. If you find the muscle slipping, re-tighten it again as many times as necessary during the count. Let down with control.

4) Wave

This exercise is very difficult. Sit on the floor leaning back on your arms, soft elbows, knees bent, pelvis tilted forward. Tighten all the pelvic floor muscles – anal, vaginal, and urethral, from back to front, one by one. It’s hard to separate these muscles, so try visualization as you tighten each area. When all three are tight, release each muscle one by one in reverse.
1) Visualize and squeeze the opening to your anus.
2) Visualize and squeeze the opening to your vagina.
3) Visualize and squeeze the urethra.

5) “Hug your baby”

Engaging your true core – deepest core muscles, to create stability and strength. Steps to “hug your baby”

1) Sit or stand in proper posture

  • blue exercise ball makes this easier

2) Inhale to Expand

  • With one hand on lower abdomen and one on the lower ribcage, draw an inhale deep into the lower abdomen. This will expand the belly and the hands will be moved outward.
  • During this inhale the diaphragm will move downwards as the rib cage expands.

3) Exhale to Engage

  • Exhale and draw the abdominal wall inward creating that corset of stability. The hands will be moved inward.
  • During this exhale the diaphragm will rise as the rub cage returns to neutral.

4) Repeat

….Adding in the pelvic floor:

5) Inhale to Expand Part 2

  • During an inhale the pelvic floor will naturally move downward with the intra-abdominal pressure, but this movement or relaxation of the pelvic floor is an important step. Some mistake pelvic floor exercises with constant contraction but lengthening is equally important.

6) Exhale to Engage Part 2

  • As the abdominal wall draws inward, the pelvic floor contracts and rises. Visually you could imagine a zipper drawing up, sucking a milkshake from a straw, lifting a delicate egg from a nest (and lowering gently on the next inhale so it does not break!)

7) Repeat

….Now adding intention:

8) Inhale to Expand Part 3

  • Same as above, releasing and relaxing the pelvic floor.

9) Exhale to Engage Part 3

  • Add a pursed lip exhale, feeling the intention or added “work” within the core muscles. This added intention is perfect for core/pelvic floor strengthening as well to create stability during the exertion of any exercise.

10) Repeat

Like I mentioned earlier, it is highly recommended to continue exercise during pregnancy. As you move from 1st, 2nd, to 3rd trimesters it is extremely important to listen to your body BUT there is always an exercise or modification that you can do and that is good for you and your baby.

The more active and fit you stay during pregnancy, the quicker your recovery will be post-pregnancy. The modifications mentioned above are very important to your success. Also, the Pelvic Floor exercises are very important for your recovery. Focus your time on the pelvic floor exercises as you progress through your pregnancy.

If you have questions about any of the exercises or modifications please do not hesitate to email and of course after the baby arrives join our amazing moms at our BABies Bootcamp