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Pregnancy workouts

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Pilates is one of my top choices when it comes to strength training. I studied to be a Pialtes instructor in my early 20s, and I’ve never stopped using it as a tool to build strength and supplement my running and other workouts. Pilates is also one of the best forms of exercise for prenatal and postpartum mamas! It is low impact, focuses on building your core and breath work, while also building strength in the hips and glutes. I have created many Pilates workout routines for both postpartum and prenatal mamas using the exact exercises I’ve used to help me stay strong during pregnancy, and heal quickly after birth.

Prenatal Pilates is an amazing way to prep your body for birth, keep up your strength and help you maintain a healthy weight through all trimesters. I have a basic Prenatal Pilates workout you can use no matter what trimester you are in, to get you started on your Pilates journey. I also have a great round up of Prenatal workouts on YouTube that will help you get started with Pilates and your workout program.

The Basics of Prenatal Pilates

Prenatal Pilates focuses on core strength, flexibility, and conditioning the whole body. It includes modified exercises to cater to pregnancy, ensuring safety and comfort. Starting any new exercise during pregnancy requires consulting a healthcare provider.

Core Benefits of Prenatal Pilates

Prenatal Pilates has become my go-to for a healthier pregnancy journey. I found it does wonders not just for me but for many moms-to-be. So, let’s dive into why this form of exercise stands out, especially during these special nine months.

Benefits of Prenatal Pilates:

Here are some benefits of Pilates for prenatal core strength:

  1. Improved Posture:
    • Pilates emphasizes proper alignment and body awareness. Engaging in Pilates exercises can help pregnant women maintain good posture, reducing the strain on the spine and alleviating discomfort associated with changes in body shape.
  2. Core Stability:
    • The core muscles, including the deep abdominal muscles and the muscles around the pelvis, are targeted in Pilates. Strengthening these muscles helps provide stability to the spine and pelvis, which is particularly important as the body undergoes changes during pregnancy.
  3. Reduced Lower Back Pain:
    • Pregnancy often leads to increased strain on the lower back. Pilates exercises can help alleviate lower back pain by strengthening the core muscles, providing better support to the spine, and improving overall spinal stability.
  4. Pelvic Floor Support:
    • Pilates incorporates exercises that engage and strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. This can be beneficial for preventing issues like incontinence and supporting the pelvic region during pregnancy and childbirth.
  5. Safe Abdominal Workouts:
    • Pilates offers a variety of exercises that target the abdominal muscles without putting excessive strain on the rectus abdominis (six-pack) muscles, which can separate during pregnancy (diastasis recti). Pilates focuses on strengthening the transverse abdominis, the deepest layer of abdominal muscles, which can help prevent or minimize diastasis recti.
  6. Enhanced Body Awareness:
    • Pilates encourages mindfulness and body awareness. Practicing these exercises can help pregnant women develop a better connection with their changing bodies, improving balance and coordination.
  7. Adaptability to Different Trimesters:
    • Pilates workouts can be modified to suit different stages of pregnancy. Certified prenatal Pilates instructors can provide modifications that ensure safety and effectiveness throughout each trimester.
  8. Breathing Techniques:
    • Pilates emphasizes controlled breathing techniques that can be beneficial during labor. Learning how to engage the diaphragm and use the breath effectively can assist in managing stress and maintaining focus during childbirth.
  9. Whole Body Strength:
    • While Pilates has a focus on the core, it also engages and strengthens other muscle groups, promoting overall body strength and flexibility. This can contribute to a sense of well-being during pregnancy.
  10. Preparation for Labor and Postpartum Recovery:
    • Pilates can help pregnant women build strength and endurance, which may contribute to an easier labor and facilitate postpartum recovery.

Above all, these benefits don’t just make pregnancy more comfortable; they pave the way for a potentially smoother labor. By keeping the body active and prepared, Prenatal Pilates primes mothers for the physical demands of childbirth. I couldn’t imagine my pregnancy without it, and I strongly encourage other expectant moms to give it a try. With each gentle stretch and core engagement, we’re not just taking care of ourselves but our babies too.

Free 7-DAY Prenatal Workout Challenge

Safety Guidelines

Starting prenatal Pilates turns exciting, but safety always comes first. You must get a clear green light from your doctor or midwife before diving in. This step is non-negotiable. Once you have that, look for a certified prenatal Pilates instructor. Someone trained specifically for pregnancy knows the dos and don’ts, setting you up for a safe journey.

Moderation holds the key. Overdoing it could harm you and the baby, so always listen to your body. If something feels off, stop immediately. Certain positions, especially those on your back, might need avoiding as your pregnancy progresses. Your instructor can guide you on this, ensuring your Pilates experience supports you and your baby every step of the way.

Getting Started with Prenatal Pilates

Finding someone to guide you through your Prenatal Pilates workout is really important. I have the basic Pilates moves listed below, and these are really simple to start incorporating into any workout routine you might already be doing. Start by doing 10 reps of each move, 3 times before you do any workout. This will prep your body, strengthen your core and keep your pelvic floor safe as you go to workout.

Basic Prenatal Pilates Workout Routine Warmup:

Prenatal Pilates can be a safe and effective way for expectant mothers to maintain strength, flexibility, and overall well-being during pregnancy. Pilates is a wonderful warm up to any prenatal workout routine you might already be doing. You can build habits, protect your core and pelvic floor, as well as keep yourself injury-free through all trimesters by using these moves to warm up with. However, it’s crucial to consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise routine during pregnancy to ensure it is suitable for your individual situation. Assuming you have received approval from your healthcare provider, here’s a general prenatal Pilates routine that you can consider. Make sure to listen to your body and modify exercises as needed:

Warm-Up:

  1. March in Place: 2 minutes
    • Gently lift your knees one at a time, engaging your core muscles.
  2. Shoulder Rolls and Arm Circles: 2 minutes
    • Stand tall and roll your shoulders backward and forward. Perform gentle arm circles to warm up the upper body.

Prenatal Pilates Routine: Perform each exercise with controlled movements and focus on your breath.

Pelvic Tilts (first and second trimester only):

Stand with your feet hip-width apart, hands on your hips. Inhale to tilt your pelvis forward, arching your lower back. Exhale to tilt your pelvis backward, rounding your lower back. Repeat for 1-2 minutes.

 

Standing Leg Lifts:

Hold onto a sturdy surface for balance. Lift one leg to the side, keeping it straight. Lower it back down and repeat on the other side. Perform 10-15 reps on each leg.

 

Cat-Cow Stretch:

Come down onto your hands and knees. Inhale to arch your back (cow position), and exhale to round your back (cat position). Repeat for 2-3 minutes.

Pilates Squats:

Stand with feet wider than hip-width apart, toes turned slightly outward. Inhale to lower into a squat, keeping your back straight. Exhale to return to the starting position. Perform 15-20 squats.

Side-Lying Leg Lifts:

Lie on your side, supporting your head with your hand. Lift your top leg while keeping your pelvis stable. Lower it back down and repeat. Perform 12-15 reps on each side.

Seated Spine Stretch:

Sit with your legs extended in front of you. Inhale to lengthen your spine, and exhale to hinge forward from your hips. Hold for a few breaths, then sit back up. Repeat for 2-3 minutes.

Pelvic Floor Exercises:

Perform Kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. Inhale to relax, and exhale to engage the pelvic floor muscles. Hold for a few seconds, then release. Repeat 10-15 times.

Modified Plank:

Come down onto your hands and knees. Extend one leg back at a time to come into a modified plank position. Hold for 20-30 seconds, keeping your core engaged.

Cool Down:

Child’s Pose:

Kneel on the mat, sit back on your heels, and reach your arms forward. Hold for 2-3 minutes to stretch your back and shoulders.

Seated Side Stretch:

Sit with your legs crossed. Inhale to lengthen your spine, and exhale to reach one arm overhead, stretching to the side. Hold for 20-30 seconds on each side.

Always prioritize your safety and comfort during prenatal exercise. If you experience any pain, dizziness, or discomfort, stop the exercise and consult with your healthcare provider. Consider taking a prenatal Pilates class or working with a certified prenatal fitness instructor to ensure you’re performing exercises correctly and safely.

Best Prenatal Pilates Workouts On YouTube: 

Once you’ve started developing your consistent Pilates warm up for your workouts, you will want to start adding full Pilates workouts into your routine. There are some great, free, Prenatal Pilates Workouts on YouTube that I loved, and you will love too!

Pregnancy Pilates For A Sculpted Body (15-Min Prenatal Pilates Workout)

Pregnancy Pilates For A Fit & Toned Pregnancy (20-Min Prenatal Pilates Class)

Full Body Pregnancy Pilates Workout + Stretches | Prenatal Pilates | 1st, 2nd, 3rd Trimester

BEST Pregnancy PELVIC FLOOR Workout | Prenatal Pelvic Floor Strength Exercises

20 MIN PRENATAL PILATES 🤰Gentle Full Body Workout / 1st, 2nd & 3rd trimester save for fit pregnancy

Continuing Your Pilates Journey Post-Pregnancy

After the baby arrives, the Pilates journey doesn’t have to end. Bringing a new child into this world changes everything, including your body. Pilates can shift again to meet your postpartum needs. It’s not just about bouncing back; it’s about rebuilding strength and confidence in your body’s new normal. This transition period lets you focus on recovery, with exercises specifically tailored for postnatal rehabilitation.

Finding time for Pilates might seem challenging with a newborn. Yet, integrating short sessions into your daily routine can make a significant difference. You could practice pelvic floor exercises while feeding your baby or do gentle stretches during nap times. This flexible approach ensures Pilates remains a supportive part of your life, offering stability and strength during the whirlwind months following birth.

Remember, consistency is key. Even a few minutes a day can contribute to your overall recovery and well-being. Pilates offers a gentle, supportive path back to fitness, making it an ideal choice for new mothers looking to regain their strength and stamina.

The Best Second Trimester Cardio Workout

First-Trimester Glutes Workout – Keep The Booty!

After 4 pregnancies, I know that sometimes you just need a great workout you can find on YouTube when you finally feel ready. Sometimes, you don’t need a full program to follow, or a pdf printout, but a quick video you can follow along to and get a great sweat!

I have a free, 7-day workout challenge, that is simple and a great addition to these workout videos!

The prenatal workout videos on YouTube are fun, challenging, and made to make you sweat. These are not necessarily beginner workouts because you can always slow down or modify the workouts to where you are at in your pregnancy. If you are feeling heavier, you can do less impact even if the video calls for jumping jacks. Most of the videos are low-impact and perfect for all trimesters!

Remember, if you weren’t working out during pregnancy at all, then starting during pregnancy is possible but harder because you have to be more careful. If you were in really good shape and doing crossfit workouts before you got pregnant, you can absolutely keep up with those workouts as long as your doctor approves!

Important information on working out during pregnancy:

What Are The Benefits Of Exercising During Pregnancy?

Physical activity during pregnancy can help reduce swelling, back pain, help you sleep better, and lower the risk of gestational diabetes (Mayo Clinic). There’s also some research that indicates that an active pregnancy provides a boost to baby’s brain and heart health as well (What To Expect).

What Are Safe Pregnancy Exercises?

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says most pregnant women can continue regular exercise during pregnancy. In fact, there are many benefits to physical activity during pregnancy, including reduced aches and pains, better sleep quality and reduced risk of complications like gestational diabetes. Most physical activities you were doing pre-pregnancy are safe to continue into your pregnancy. Some examples of safe pregnancy exercises include:
1) Strength training and weight training
2) Walking and running
3) Prenatal yoga and pilates
4) Stationary bike or cycling
5) Swimming and water aerobics
Of course, every body (and every pregnancy) is different. Before you begin an exercise routine, you should consult your doctor, midwife or health care professional.

Are There Any Exercises I Should Avoid During Pregnancy?

You generally want to avoid lying on your stomach and belly-down postures, upward facing dog, deep back bends and abdominal overextension, crunches and abdominal twisting, and any exercise that causes coning or doming in your midsection. You should also avoid getting ‘breathless’ during pregnancy workouts. It’s ok to raise your heart rate, but remember the ‘talk test.’ You should be able to comfortably hold a conversation with a friend while exercising during pregnancy.

Full Body Pregnancy Workout | Low Impact | NO TALKING (1st trimester, 2nd trimester, 3rd trimester)

15 Minute Pregnancy Workout (Second Trimester + Third Trimester)

Pregnancy Cardio Workout (NO SQUATS, NO LUNGES) 20 Min Pregnancy Walking Workout!

 Pregnancy Workout Challenge // Full Body HIIT Prenatal Workout!

Pregnancy Exercises For A Fit Pregnant Body (30 Min Full Body Pregnancy Workout)

Pregnancy Cardio Workout | Day 1 Pregnancy Workout Challenge (Pregnancy Exercises)

Pregnancy Pilates For A Fit & Toned Pregnancy (20-Min Prenatal Pilates Class)

 

 

A belly-only pregnancy involves working hard on your fitness game even as your belly grows. Staying fit during pregnancy is super important, more than just for gaining only a belly. It has numerous benefits on mama and baby in terms of health, nutrients and mood. As I get into my second trimester of my fourth pregnancy, I am super excited to really start working out again. I have a lot off fatigue and neausea from about 8-12 weeks, where I literally just eat and sleep. Mentally, it is really depressing for me, but it also reminds me just how important exercise is feeling better during pregnancy.

Related: Why I Take Folate Not Folic Acid During Pregnancy

I’ve talked about how my first and second pregnancies I was less active, and ultimately gained the most weight. My third pregnancy, I was determined to get my steps in every day, workout and be much healthier. It works! I am telling you that staying focused on activity, workouts and a clean diet REALLY works to have a belly-only pregnancy.

My free, clean-eating challenge is going to do amazing things for you, especially if you do it while adding in some of these exercises. I am currently doing a 21-day eating clean challenge with the mamas in my postpartum program (they don’t know I’m pregnant yet!), and I’ve been really feeling so much better. You can even burn off extra fat you’ve already gained by eating clean and exercising.

The Belly-Only pregnancy fitness program is a specific program for pregnant mamas looking to stay as fit and healthy as possible while pregnant. This program is also designed to prepare you for labor, as well as protect your core and pelvic floor for after baby. I’ve had three babies, and I wish I did a program like this! I was able to gain minimal weight during all three of my pregnancies, and lose it all within a few months because of my diet, but I didn’t focus on the repair work my muscles needed to recover and heal! That is why I first created my postpartum program, The Postpartum Cure. After popular demand, and many requests for a pregnancy program, I now created this program for mamas wanting to do some prep-work, eat clean and gain minimal weight while pregnant!

I have a very specific pregnancy ciet plan that is actually super simple, yet the key to gaining minimal weight while pregnant. As a certified Pre/Post Natal Exercise Specialist, I studied the massive benefits of nutrition during pregnancy for both mamas and babies. I included lots of recipes in this program to help you feel motivated and full of ideas to eat healthy.

Why are these exercises smart ones for a belly-only pregnancy?

These exercises are called compound exercises. This means you are working mulitple muscle groups at once. You get a bigger bang for your buck. Rather than just doing squats, you are adding a press at the top to work your arms too. You burn more calories at once, and get more muscle groups engaged. You can save time, yet still do a lot of work.

Related: How To Run Safely During Pregnancy

5 smart exercises for a belly-only pregnancy:

Squat Press:

squat press

These are hard, which is why they are the first move. All you need is a pair of dumbells. Place the dumbells on your shoulders and squat down. As you come up, stand up then press them straight up. That is one rep. Do 10 total for one set. I want you to go through one set of each move, then circle around and do 2 more sets. Start with light dumbells, then you can progress to heavier as you get into better shape.

Single Leg Dead lift with Row:

single leg dead lift with row

This one requires your core, legs and arms, so it is a great one. I want you to grab one dumbell in your hand, hinge at the hips and bend over, lifting the opposite leg as your dumbell. Your leg will lift straight back, your arm straight down. Hold your leg back, row the weight back so your elbow comes even with your side. Come back to standing and do it 10 times on one side. Switch sides for 10 times on the other side. That is one set.

Crab Walk:

crab walk

This involves now weights, and it is totally awkward. Start by sitting on your glutes, knees bent and prop yourself up behind you. Lift your hips off the ground and walk with your hips raised. Leading with your heels pulling you, and your arms pushing behind. Choose a distance to walk and walk it 10 times. A full-body workout yes!

Lunge + Bicep Curl:

lunge bicep curl

This involves the dumbells. All you have to do is stand in place with your dumbells in hand, hanging at your side. Lunge forward with one leg, hold position and curl your dumbells up. Face your dumbells parallel to the floor. If they are perpendicular, you will be still working your arms, just different muscles. Do 20 lunges, 10 on each side.

Reverse Lunge + Tricep Curl:

reverse lunge tricep curl

The reverse lunge activates the hamstrings and glutes just a bit more than the forward lunge. You will need your dumbells again. Start standing with dumbells at your side. Lunge backwards with one leg, lift the opposite arm so your elbow is near your head. Hinge so you weight is behind your head, then extend your arm straight, so the dumbell goes towards the ceiling. Bring your leg back in. Do the same side for 10 reps. Then switch sides for 10 more.

Some great pieces of equipment for a prenatal workout are:

Exercise Ball:

This will come in handy as you get farther into your pregnancy. It can help with stabalization as you isolate muscles, and there are a lot of labor prep videos with a ball.

Bands:

Dumbells or Kettlebells:

I use both. I have a lighter set of dumbells and my kettlebells are heavier. I have found that these come in handy when wanting to do lower reps with heavier weight, and just get it done!

A good mat:

There’s a lot of stretching and floor work you can do that lowers the impace on your joints as you get farther a long. A good mat is super important, with a thicker base to make it more comfortable.

These are a lot easier to keep around the house for strength work. I do a lot of hip and glute work with bands. Many people underestimate the power of small resistance.

I want you to do one set of each move. Then, circle back around for the next set. Three sets total to get you through this belly-only workout!

I love compound moves like these ones because you get more done at once. In my program, we do a lot of compound moves in addition to cardio, so you stay as fit as possible during your pregnancy. Also, I have some awesome recipes, nutrition guidelines, and lot of details on the amazing benefits of exercising while pregnant. I hope you try the free clean-eating challenge too!

In addition to doing strength work, stay active and walk throughout the day.

Strength workouts can be around 15 – 30 minutes, depending on how many exercises you are doing. This should not be your main activity all day. I HIHGLY encourage the mamas in my program to walk at least 30 minutes 5 days a week. Walking will help with swelling, keep your blood flowing and overall help you burn fat. I also tell the mamas in my postpartum program to get 10,000 steps in a day. That usually means staying fairly active cleaning, cooking and wrangling children as well as a 2-3 mile walk. Same goes for pregnancy. Focusing on steps is a great way to get more activity in, without having to carve out time to actually work out.