Pregnancy and working out

This can be a very divided topic between generations and professions so lets share some light on training while pregnant. 

Confusion around exercise during pregnancy is widespread. Previously inactive women may be inspired to get moving in anticipation of weight gain in weeks to come. On the other hand, athletic women may prepare to dial back so as not to risk the health of their growing fetus or themselves as their body is going through many changes. Obstetricians used to warn pregnant women to not exercise above a certain heart rate (of around 140 beats per minute) and to be very cautious when exercising during pregnancy. But now, given a growing body of research and an increase of excessive weight gain during pregnancy, the tables have turned. Pregnant women are now encouraged if not already, to start and keep moving.

While beginning an intensive exercise program during pregnancy is not recommended, starting a low-to-moderate intensity program or maintaining an exercise routine throughout pregnancy and up until the birth of a child is generally considered to be safe and even beneficial to both Mum and bub. Specific exercise recommendations during pregnancy vary to some extent based on the pregnant women’s previous exercise status, as well as the gestational age of the fetus (see below). 

However, in all cases, Mums are encouraged to incorporate both cardiovascular and resistance training into their week and to listen closely to their bodies when deciding whether to ramp up, ramp down or take a break altogether. And, of course, pregnant women should address all concerns and questions with their doctor first.

A common misconception around training while pregnant is that you must avoid any core exercises in fear of hurting the baby or damaging core muscles. When you consider the shifting of weight through the front of the body as the baby grows, having strength in the core is critical in keeping a neutral spine and minimising lower back pain. As back pain is something that many women experience , let’s explore 3 Safe and Effective Prenatal Core Exercises:

Before beginning any prenatal exercise to build core strength, it is critical to establish abdominal engagement first.

Wood Chop – Functional rotational strength (resistance band required)
Place one handle on the ground and stand on the band with both feet
Hold onto the other handle with both hands
Create tension in the abdominals
Squat down, with weight in heels and spine neutral
Stand up and rotate arms out in front of the body, twisting at the ribcage with hips squared off to the front
Keep knees soft at the top of the movement
Bird Dog – 3-dimensional stability strength (no equipment needed)
Lower the body onto all fours (hands and knees)
Create tension in the abdominals
Extend one arm out in front while the opposite leg extends back (hold for a count of 8-10 seconds and repeat on the other side)
Note: For balance concerns, perform the arm and leg movements separately.
Prone Plank Variations – 3-dimensional stability strength (no equipment needed)
Start on knees and hands to begin a prone plank (if wrist pain is present, try a forearm plank)
Create tension in the abdominals
Hold for a count of 15-30 seconds; rest and repeat

The key to getting the maximal benefit of any core exercise during pregnancy is to establish good core contraction before the exercise  time begins. If that is not available, the advanced step of performing the exercises could result in a no beneficial return.

** Disclaimer: Before beginning a prenatal exercise routine, speak to your physician about whether it’s safe for you to exercise. 


American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2011). FAQ 119: Exercise During Pregnancy Pitkin, R.M. (1999). Energy in pregnancy. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 69, 4, 583. Zavorsky, G.S. and Longo, L.D. (2011). Exercise guidelines in pregnancy: New perspectives. Sports Medicine, 41, 5, 345-360.