3 Workouts for Pregnant Women
A workout for each trimester, from Rachel Buschert Vaziralli.
In an age in which, for many, a workout doesn't happen if it's not documented on social media, it seems no exercisers garner more criticism than pregnant women. Fitness models, Olympians, CrossFit athletes: All sorts of fit females face backlash for working out with a bump, says Rachel Buschert Vaziralli, the New York City-based creative manager for group fitness programming.
But the negative comments often can’t stand on their own: “They stem from a lack of education on the current information surrounding exercise and pregnancy,” says Buschert Vaziralli. After all, there’s a wealth of research that supports a consistent fitness program throughout pregnancy. “Motherhood is the toughest sport out there and being healthy and strong is critical for both mother and baby.”
Buschert Vaziralli would know. She’s a new mom. Of course, every body is different. And just as all fitness programs are tailored to the bodies completing them, a workout routine for pregnancy should change as your body does.
Early on, exhaustion and morning sickness may leave you craving challenging workouts that don't zap your energy, says Buschert Vaziralli. As your energy stores increase in the second trimester, a total-body workout focusing on endurance may be best, she says. And come trimester three, props like stability balls can help you work your core and strength train right through till the end.
So use Buschert Vaziralli’s trimester-by-trimester guide—exercises crafted into three workouts perfect for the majority of low-risk pregnancies.
Note: Be sure to get your doctor’s clearance before any changes to your workout routine while pregnant.
Warm up first with light cardio, preferably using both upper and lower body (such as the elliptical or rower). Exercises can be done with bench or couch. Perform each exercise for 30 seconds. Repeat circuit 2 to 3 times.
1. Open Leg Kegel Squat: Stand with legs wider than shoulder-width apart, feet slightly turned out, arms extended between legs holding dumbbells. Inhale and bend knees until thighs are parallel to the floor. Exhale and perform a kegel as you stand.
2. Incline Push-Up: Assume plank position with hands wider than shoulder-width apart and hands pointing straight ahead on a bench, feet on the floor. (Open leg stance for greater stability, if needed.) Inhale and bend elbows. Lower chest toward the bench. Exhale and engage core, straightening elbows. Return back to plank.
3. Weighted Chair Squat: Start sitting on bench, feet hip-width apart and toes pointing ahead. Rest dumbbells on thighs. Stand up and sit down. For a deeper squat, remove bench and go as low as possible into squat.
4. Wide and Narrow Row: Start with feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, body pitched forward, back flat. Holding dumbbells with arm straight, pull up to side of chest (elbows in). Return to start. Next time pull with elbows wide. Alternate.
5. Full Lunge Get-Up: Start standing with one hand placed on wall for balance if needed. Step right leg back until knee comes to floor. Step left leg back until knee comes to floor. Step right leg forward until right foot flat on floor then step left leg forward and stand up. Repeat on the other leg. Continue to alternate sides.
Warm up first with light cardio, preferably using both upper and lower body (such as the elliptical or rower). You work lower body, upper body, core in each sequence, then rest. Repeat each sequence 2 to 3 times, then move to the next.
1. Walking Lunge (Lower Body): Stand tall with dumbbell in each hand. Step one leg forward and to the ground and bend knee until front and back leg are 90 degrees. Raise back leg up, finding balance, and bring knee to chest. Continue moving that leg forward until you reach same lunge position on the other side. Walk 10 steps forward then go back.
2. Seated Long Cable Pull (Upper Body): Sit on bench with tall spine and slightly bent knees facing cables and holding the handles or the bar. Pull the bar to chest by retracting the shoulder blades together. Return to start and repeat 12 to 15 times.
3. High Incline Plank (Core): Assume plank position with hands wider than shoulder-width apart and fingers pointing straight ahead on a bench, feet on the floor. Hold plank for 30 to 60 seconds but do not hold breath.
4. Lateral Squat Walk (Lower Body): Start in a squat stance with feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, body pitched forward, back flat, holding one heavy dumbbell at the chest. Stay in squat and travel to the right 10 steps then to the left 10 steps.
5. Cable Chest Press (Upper Body): Sit or stand with cables in hands slightly behind shoulders; elbows are bent, arms are lifted. Press arms forward until elbows fully extend and bring hands together in front of chest. Repeat 12 to 15 times.
6. Single Leg Balance and Breath (Core): Standing on one leg, breathe in and expand ribcage for 10 counts and breathe out while engaging core for 10 seconds.
7. Step-Ups (Lower Body): With dumbbells in hands and arms straight at sides, step onto bench or plyo box with right leg then left and step down with right then left. Repeat 12 to 15 times on both sides.
8. Lat Pull-Down (Upper Body): Sit facing cable or bar with arms overhead. Bend elbows and pull down making a ‘W’ shape with upper body at the bottom. Slowly bring arms back up. Repeat 12 to 15 times.
9. Forearm Side Plank (Core): Lay on side propped up onto one forearm with shoulder stacked directly over elbow and hips lifted off ground. To modify, bring bottom knee to floor with top leg extended. Breathe and hold 30 seconds each side.
Warm-up first with light cardio, preferably using both upper and lower body (such as the elliptical or rower). Repeat each exercise 12 to 15 times; complete one to three circuits. Option to add core moves from second trimester workout.
1. Wall Ball Squat: Stand with ball against wall and back against ball. Slide down to a squat then slowly return back up.
2. Ball Chest Press: Sit on ball with dumbbells in hands. Slowly walk out with knees bent until hips almost touching floor. With head resting on ball and arms bent at two 90-degree angles, press arms until straight bringing dumbbells to meet over the chest.
3. Asymmetrical Lunge-Ups: Start kneeling with left leg forward and right leg back. Hold one dumbbell in right hand tacked onto right shoulder. Step right foot in to meet left and stand up. Slowly return right leg back to ground. Repeat then switch dumbbell to other side and perform on other leg. Hold onto wall or chair for balance if needed.
4. Ball Row: Sit on ball with legs wide, feet slightly turned out, spine flat and pitched forward. Arms are straight down with dumbbells in hand. Engage back and pull dumbbells up into armpits. Lower and repeat.