9 Core Exercises that are Safe During Pregnancy

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Looking for ways to safely workout your core during pregnancy can feel overwhelming. When you are pregnant, there are so many rules to help keep you and baby safe that core workouts can feel scary. 

Luckily, there are plenty of ab exercises while pregnant that are safe to increase your core strength, making birth easier and your postpartum journey a breeze. 

Ready to see my favorite core exercises that are safe during pregnancy? Keep reading…

All About Diastasis Recti

When you begin your pregnancy journey as a new mom, it is important that you spend some time learning about safe core workouts and how they can prevent health conditions like diastasis recti. 

Diastis Recti is a condition that any woman that has given birth can experience where your abdominal muscles separate. According to WebMD, around 2/3rds of women will experience this widening in the abdominal wall between your left and right stomach muscles.

What Causes Diastasis Recti?

Diastasis Recti is a condition that occurs from a drastic hormonal switch as well as the continual pressure added from the growing baby, according to NASM.

Performing safe abdominal exercises that will give your body the strength to support the pregnancy until the birth into postpartum. 

Complications with Diastasis Recti

There are plenty of complications that can occur from having diastasis recti after you have given birth. Not only can your stomach develop what is known as a ‘pooch’, but the lack of connection in your abdominal muscles can cause a lack of strength in your core. 

Without a strong core, you can experience a lot of side effects like: 

  • Low back pain
  • Constipation
  • Bladder Leakage
  • Hernia

The best way to prevent experiencing that separation of the abdominal muscles is to strengthen your core before pregnancy and continue to add pregnancy safe core workouts to your original workout. 

side plank during pregnancy

Safe Exercise Guidelines During Pregnancy

It’s important to talk with your doctor or healthcare provider before starting any new fitness program during pregnancy. However, there are a few general guidelines that are recommended by the ACOG in each stage of pregnancy:

First Trimester – Generally safe to continue or start regular physical activity in a healthy pregnancy. Energy levels may decrease due to hormonal changes. Stay hydrated and avoid becoming overheated.

Second Trimester – Avoid lying flat on your back (supine position), as it could compress the vena cava (a large vein) and restrict blood flow to the heart. Avoid ab exercises and movements that use a crunching motion (like full situps) or put too much pressure on your ab muscles. Skip any prone (face down) exercises that put pressure on your growing baby bump.

Third Trimester – Be cautious with exercises that require a lot of balance (lunges, single leg movements). You may need the help of a chair to keep your balance.

Here are a few of my favorite pregnancy exercises to avoid abdominal separation to help keep core stability during pregnancy.

9 Core Exercises that are Safe During Pregnancy

With a little bit of planning, there is no reason to stop working out in your pregnancy. As long as you avoid certain movements like laying on your back and – most importantly – listen to your body, you will love these moves!

You can see a video demonstration of each of the moves here in my Web Story.

1. Pelvic Tilt on Stability Ball

Start by safely sitting on a stability ball, with your back upright. If you are farther along in your pregnancy, it will probably be more comfortable to sit toward the edge of the ball. 

With your knees bent at 90 degrees and your feet flat on the floor, gently tighten your stomach muscles while bringing your shoulder blades back and down. 

First, you will tilt your pelvic bone forwards, arching your back. Picture your tailbone sticking out behind you. 

Next, you will reverse the movement and arch your back by rolling your tailbone. Picture your back mimicking a capital C, and pulling your pubic bone toward the bottom of your ribs.

Repeat 10-15 times and make sure that you keep your shoulders and upper back in place the entire time. 

2. Modified Side Plank

There are so many plank variations out there, it can be hard to know which ones are safe during pregnancy! That’s why as a personal trainer I always recommend a modified side plank for my pregnant clients. It’s great for strengthening your oblique muscles.

modified side plank

For this move, begin by laying on your side and bringing your upper body up to the hand (if you need a modification, you can rest on your forearm). 

It is essential that you keep your shoulder directly above your elbow in order to keep your shoulders, hips, and knees in alignment. 

With the leg closest to the ground bent at the knee, bring your opposite leg straight so that your weight is on the foot. Picture a straight line from the top of your head down to your feet as the original position. 

Slowly dip the hip towards the ground and return it to the starting position. 

Repeat 10-15 times and remember to keep your shoulders away from your ears.

Bird Dog

There are so many yoga positions that are great for core strength during pregnancy! One of my favorites is the bird dog. This move works your erector spinae (the back muscles), the rectus abdominis muscles (those six-pack abs muscles), and the glutes.

Bird Dog easy posture exercises

Start in a tabletop position with your core flexed (pretend that someone is going to come and feel your 6 pack). Then extend one hand out with the opposite leg reaching out at the same time. Hold for 2-3 seconds then gently return to tabletop position.

Repeat with the other hand/opposite foot. 

Repeat 8-12 times. 

Cat/Cow

Another yoga move that is excellent for core strength during pregnancy is the cat/cow. This is a safe abdominal exercise that gently strengthens as well as stretches your core area.

Start this move in the tabletop position with a neutral spine.. Engage your core so that your back is flat (you know – like a table). 

Cat cow

Slowly round your back upwards, curling your chest and hips together while arching your back. Think of a cat when they are stretching their back. 

cat cow exercise for improved posture

Next, slowly arch your back and bring your core towards the ground, bringing your shoulders and glutes together as you open up your chest. Think of a cow’s stomach that drops down to the ground. 

Gently repeat this move 8-12 times.

Reverse Plank

This move is one of my favorites! Not only will it work out your core, but it will work your arms, shoulders, back, legs, and glutes too! The best type of exercise is one that packs a big punch, in my opinion.

Begin the reverse plank in a seated position with your legs straight and your feet straight out. With your feet firmly on the ground and your hands on the floor next to your hips, lift your hips so that they are in line with your shoulders and heels then gently lower.  

Repeat 10-15 times.

In and Outs 

Great for engaging that lower core and pelvic floor, adding in and outs are ideal for any pregnant women hoping to avoid diastasis recti. 

Start this exercise in a seated position with your hands directly behind you and your knees bent. Lean back slightly to engage your core and rest your weight on your hands with a slight bend to the elbow. 

Slowly extend your legs and tap your heels on the ground then return. Another option is to use heel slides instead of tapping your heels out and in.

For a modified move, alternate your right leg and left leg so that only one leg straightens out at a time. 

Repeat 12-15 times. 

Seated March

Depending on your core strength, this seated march move can be done on a chair, on a stability ball, or the floor! 

With your legs slightly bent in a seated position, slowly raise your right knee then return to the ground. Repeat on the other side, lifting your left knee and lowering it back down.

In order to effectively execute this move, make sure that you keep the core engaged the entire workout. 

Perform this exercise in 30 second intervals.

March and Reach

If you enjoyed the seated march, then you will love this exercise. The march and reach is an exercise that takes the seated march and adds a fun twist to it (literally!). 

Just like the seated march, begin in a seated position with your knees bent. As you lift one bent knee up, twist the body away from the raised knee with your arms extended. 

In order to get the most out of this exercise, it is important to remember to keep your core engaged and to move through the exercise slowly. 

Repeat this exercise in 30 second intervals. 

Kegel Exercises for Pelvic Floor Muscles

Did you know that you don’t have to live your life constantly wetting yourself after your pregnancies? It’s true! Despite almost all women reporting it after giving birth, adding kegel exercises to strengthen those deep core muscles is the best way to prevent accidentally peeing your pants. 

First, make sure that your bladder is completely empty before beginning this exercise. Then, sitting in a chair, focus on tightening and lifting your pelvic floor muscles and hold for 3-5 seconds. Release completely before your next rep.

The best way to know you are doing it correctly is if you are flexing your muscles like you are holding in going to the bathroom. My pelvic floor physical therapist also compared it to an elevator that you want to lift as you contract and allow to lower when you release.

This move will also make vaginal birth so much easier! Try to get into the habit of doing your kegel exercises on your morning commute, waiting at your kids karate class to finish up, or while you are watching TV. It is worth it!

Repeat 10 times, 3 times a day. 

Which of these safe core exercises for pregnancy will you try?

There are so many benefits to implementing a workout routine into your day throughout your pregnancy. With these core exercises that are safe during pregnancy, you will be surprised at how much you can prevent conditions like diastasis recti and remain comfortable until labor. 

Have you tried these workouts while pregnant? Do you have any others that you want to see added? Tell me in the comments below!

Get more home workouts and fitness tips here!

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