Erica Ziel, owner and founder of Knocked-Up Fitness®, is proud to give you her complete guide to the Best Pregnancy Workouts. Erica and her team have developed a series of precise exercises that have been proven to prevent many major health issues that women can experience during pregnancy and post-pregnancy. This guide will highlight the best exercises during each trimester of pregnancy, along with the recovery process post-pregnancy.

Pregnancy is the BEST time to learn to strengthen your deep core muscles! This goes beyond just strengthening your ‘abs’. While tightening and toning is a goal for many moms, core training is all about learning to strengthen your entire deep core. When you’re learning to connect to your deep core when you’re pregnant, you have your baby in your belly to lightly ‘hug’– and it can actually help you find and feel your deep core muscles like you’ve never felt them before!

Deep core training encompasses specific methods (Push Prep); improving your ability to connect with your deep core in every movement, and of course performing the most effective exercises the correct way!

 

 

1. Best Pregnancy Workouts: First Trimester

When exercising, if the core is not correctly engaged, injury and even worsening of existing abdominal separations or pelvic floor dysfunction can occur.  This is why it is so important to learn the best pregnancy workouts to accommodate your changing body. It might seem a little strange to think about ‘training your abs in pregnancy, but it’s actually the best time to connect with your belly and really feel your best when exercising and throughout your day!

Some of the benefits to learning how to strengthen your core during pregnancy:

  1. Fewer aches + pains
  2. Better posture
  3. Minimize diastasis recti
  4. Even improve diastasis recti
  5. Better pelvic floor strength
  6. Decrease the likelihood of pelvic organ prolapse and incontinence
  7. Increased energy
  8. Easier delivery and recovery
  9. Achieving a toned and strengthened core {Hips to Shoulders}
  10. Improve body confidence!!

Below I’ve included some of the best pregnancy workouts for core strength building. Doing the right kind of exercises to help properly train and strengthen your abdominal muscles is so important to achieve the results you want and need. More importantly, these exercises will help you connect with your deep core, so you can feel that connection, and even help heal abdominal separation {diastasis recti} while you are pregnant!

Because it really is possible to get stronger while you are pregnant!

I’ve always been fascinated by working with expecting mama’s, and seeing first hand that it is possible to become much stronger, even in pregnancy, by using the best pregnancy workouts! Becoming stronger doesn’t just happen by staying physically active – it requires a specialized training to strengthen your deep core correctly, and learning how to move your body effectively so you feel good! What I’ve learned over the years from training moms of all activity levels, is that the physical changes of pregnancy can cause us to lose the connection with our core.  However, with proper training and specific exercises, this connection can actually improve during pregnancy.

You’ll find a lot of my best pregnancy workout tutorials on how to strengthen your deep core, along with other recommended exercises, plus get exclusive access to join me each month for a live group coaching call, become a member of our private online community, and much more when you start your Knocked-Up Fitness® Membership.

  • Aim for 20-60 minutes of exercise every day (yes, walking counts).
  • Aim for at least 3 hours/week of exercise to maximize benefits (being sure to include cardiovascular exercises such as walking, biking, or swimming).
  • Aim for strength resistance exercise 2-4 times/week. (Lightweight exercises, pilates, & yoga count)
  • Stay hydrated. Always carry a bottle of water, preferably not plastic. (If you are thirsty you are dehydrated)
  • Wear layers so you can easily remove outer ones when you get warm
  • Don’t exercise outside in hot humid temperatures or indoors for that matter either (If its hot inside)
  • Wear good supportive tennis shoes
  • Remember, your body is changing so your balance may not be as good, just be aware.
  • For more tips and info check out the Knocked-Up Fitness® Membership and take some time to look around the Knocked Up Fitness website.

 

2. Best Pregnancy Workouts: Second Trimester

Our best pregnancy workouts second trimester include the following tips when working out during your second trimester of pregnancy:

Take advantage of feeling better during your 2nd trimester. If you weren’t able to exercise during your 1st trimester, but you feel better now and you doctor has cleared you to exercise, then it’s time get moving. Even just 10 minutes every day can harbor results and help you feel better.

If you haven’t been exercising and are starting now, begin by following the same guidelines as exercising during your 1st trimester. Start slow, keep it pregnancy safe, follow the guidelines below and be sure to discuss your exercise with your doctor. The Knocked- Up Fitness® Prenatal Program and Workouts are appropriate for beginners (just follow any modifications and skip any exercises that don’t feel good for your body).

As your baby grows and your belly gets bigger, limit lying on your back for long periods of time. Some doctors tell their patients not to lie on their backs at all, so of course listen to your doctor if he/she tells you this (just skip those exercises when working out). Unless you have a high-risk pregnancy or other medical reason, I typically advise lying on your back up to 5 minutes at a time during rest or exercise, IF YOU FEEL OK.

Release that annoying low back pain during pregnancy with this foam rolling exercise

It’s great during pregnancy and beyond! Every single one of my clients have seen tremendous benefit by learning simple foam rolling release exercises. If you find this one provides a bit of relief in your low back and/or sacral area in even just after spending 30 to 60 seconds releasing then its one that I recommend you do on a daily basis.

Some simple tips for making this foam rolling release most effective:

  1. Engage your deep core muscles
  2. Lengthen tall through the top of your head
  3. Move s-l-o-w-l-y
  4. Breathe deep + slow
  5. Relax those tense shoulders and hip!

Avoid overstretching during your entire pregnancy

Relaxin is a pregnancy hormone – It allows for your ligaments to become for lax, specifically for your pelvis, to open up so your baby can birth out of your birth canal. However, it doesn’t only affect ligaments around your pelvis and hips.

It affects the ligaments throughout your entire body, so you need to be cautious when it comes to stretching when you’re pregnant.

  • Avoid exercises that also require you to change direction quickly.
  • Active stretching that connects your muscles if far more effective {and safe!} then just holding a stretch.
  • While yoga can be very beneficial during pregnancy, we need to be cautious of going too deep into poses.
  • Foam rolling is a great way to achieve balance, connectivity and healthy stretching {access to several foam rolling release videos in my Knocked-Up Fitness Membership}
  • Give yourself time to heal after delivery, mama. Your body has been through so much, now is not the time to risk injury. Relaxin stays in your body for 10-12 weeks after delivery. Try these exercises after baby once your doctor has approved you for exercise.
  • Core strength is central to all of my pregnancy and postpartum exercises – you will feel stronger, more fluid in your movements, and more flexible when you have an activated core.

Yoga during your pregnancy:

I know lots of mama’s look to join a prenatal yoga class to start doing prenatal yoga during pregnancy. While I do love yoga I also want to share with you some of my professional expert advice when it comes to yoga during pregnancy:

  1. Relaxin – a hormone that comes along with pregnancy and helps to relax your ligaments to allow for the baby to be birthed through your pelvis. Problem is that relaxing doesn’t just affect your pelvis, it affects all the ligaments in your body. So you do need to be careful to avoid overstretching during pregnancy.
  2. Look for a trained fitness professional that is aware of modifications for pregnancy, especially if you are not joining a specific prenatal yoga class.
  3. Wear layers, even in non-Bikram classes; a yoga room can heat up fast! While your pregnant body actually could dissipate the heat better than non-pregnant bodies it’s always best to play it safe, so wear layers that can be shed as the room heats up and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated {because dehydration, especially later on during pregnancy could cause pre-term labor or false early labor}.
  4. Avoid any excessive twisting moves as your belly becomes bigger {in part baby will be in the way but I also recommend avoiding twisting through your torso if your hips aren’t moving through the motion with you}.
  5. Inversions: while many may say to avoid these pregnancy exercises, I recommend to avoid if you haven’t been doing them prior to pregnancy. However, if you are an avid yogi who was doing inversions prior to pregnancy and they feel good for your body then, by all means, carry on {unless, of course, your doctor tells you to avoid inversions} just minimize your time spent inverted.
  6. Move through a controlled range of motion where you can feel your muscles really activating and not just stretching. I find it very important {especially during pregnancy} plus see amazing benefits to building strength over just stretching. Start thinking about your poses for building strength and continue lengthening as one instead of falling into stretches {remember tip #1, about the relaxin hormone}.

Avoid coning of your belly during pregnancy to help in minimizing diastasis recti

 

 

Coning of the belly during pregnancy is when you see a ridge or bulge popping out down the midline of your belly, typically when doing an exercise in correctly or an exercise that puts too much stress on the abdominals and should be avoided (see the image below for a visual). You can also see coning after baby if there is any abdominal separation (diastasis recti).

NOTE: This is why you do NOT do traditional crunches during pregnancy, once in your second trimester you will always see coning doing crunches.

A pregnant belly should stay as round and smooth across your entire belly, if you see any coning that is a good indication of a couple of things:

  • 1) You need to be sure your deep core muscles are activated properly.
  • 2) You should avoid any exercise that causes coning during and right after pregnancy.
  • 3) You have diastasis recti and need to follow #2 rule very strictly until you can heal your diastasis after baby.
  • 4) And YES you can heal your diastasis after baby and even prevent further separation and possibly even decrease the separation during pregnancy – crazy concept but I’ve done it with many clients and you can too! Join me for my monthly group coaching calls!
  • 5) Always roll to your side to lay down and to get up instead of laying straight back which typically always creates coning towards the end of pregnancy. I do recommend to continue this after baby until your core strength is back and/or diastasis recti is healed.

 

 

3. Best Pregnancy Exercises: Third Trimester

Our best pregnancy workouts during the third trimester include the following tips when working out during your third trimester of pregnancy:

By now as you enter your 3rd trimester, you may be feeling more tired, maybe even exhausted, and just ready to have your baby (well… not the labor, but after, right?). As you exit out of your 2nd trimester, you may be noticing that everything is just a little more challenging.

Exercising may be getting more difficult, especially since your lung capacity has greatly decreased. The solution — Mental Toughness. This is where you need to dig deep within yourself to find the motivation to get these exercises done. This is also what will separate you from either having abdominal separation issues post pregnancy or not. You are much stronger than you think! Stay focused, stay strong, stay sharp! You can do it! We believe in you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To safely do the best pregnancy workouts in the third trimester, consider the following in addition to the modifications in Exercising During your 2nd Trimester:

  • You may feel like you “just can’t get a big enough breath in”, which is completely normal. Your baby is getting bigger and taking up more space, thus causing less room for your diaphragm to expand. This leaves you having a hard time breathing, especially when exerting energy. As you breathe, try to breathe out into your sides and into your back. Continue practicing good posture and engaging in cardio exercise as these can help increase your ability to breathe deeper both during and after pregnancy.
  • Having a hard time getting a breath in? Stretch your arms overhead and take in really deep slow breaths. I recommend sitting down, but sitting straight with good posture.
  • Some women begin to feel Sciatic nerve pain, a dull or sharp pain in your butt, which usually runs down your leg. Exercise may or may not help alleviate sciatic pain. If you’re experiencing in the beginning or middle of your pregnancy with appropriate exercises, you can usually get the sciatic pain to go away, or at least minimize it. If you’re near the end of your pregnancy, many times it’s the position of your baby plus the added weight that’s causing the pain, and it may not resolve until after the baby is born. If you have sciatic pain, you should avoid any straight leg lifts or kicks as this can pull even more on your sciatic nerve & make it worse. There are several amazing exercises I’ve included in the Knocked Up Fitness Guide to Pregnancy and Knocked-Up Fitness Membership that can help alleviate those small aches & pains. Be sure to watch the foam rolling video here that could help with both sciatic and low back pain. You will find many more release videos and information when you join my Knocked-Up Fitness Membership.
  • Swelling of your legs, ankles, and feet is common, especially the last month or two. Regular exercise during your 3rd trimester can help with swelling and varicose veins. Elevate your feet as often as you can while avoiding standing or sitting for long periods of time. If you tend to stand a lot, try setting an alarm to remind you to sit or modify your day so you can rest your feet.
  • If you haven’t been already, be sure you roll to your side when you are getting up to avoid overusing your abs (specifically rectus abdominals) to help minimize or avoid diastasis recti (abdominal separation). Continue avoiding any crunching motion exercises — planks can be ok for some — but I recommend doing the modified plank into your 3rd trimester as long as you are able to properly engage your deep core muscles and avoid any “coning” of your belly. Rotational exercise such as Squats with Rotation, Forward Rolls (also a great back stretch), and Cat Cows are wonderful, just to name a few.
  • Stay Hydrated! Take breaks every 20 minutes or so during exercise to drink water (you will probably have to pee as well!). Dehydration is one cause of early labor. Remember: if you are thirsty, then you are already dehydrated!
  • If you haven’t already, you may begin to feel “Braxton-Hicks Contractions”. This is your body’s way of practicing for the real event…LABOR! They are completely normal, so don’t worry. These contractions may come on stronger as you exercise (due to dehydration), so it’s even more important that you stay hydrated. If you start to feel them come on too strong, it’s an indication to momentarily stop exercise, sit, drink some water, and once you feel better, continue your exercise as long as your body is telling you it’s ok. If not, give yourself a break and see how you feel tomorrow. If they don’t stop or decrease intensity, it’s a good idea to go see your Doc — especially if you are within those last 4 weeks or so.
  • As you near the end of your pregnancy baby will “drop” getting ready for the main event and making it easier to breath! Relief! But now you have to pee ALL THE TIME! You may feel as though your baby is going to “fall out”! He/She/They won’t, but it’s a great reason to have a strong deep core muscles (pelvic floor and transverse). After your baby has dropped, there may be exercises that don’t feel so good anymore, so just don’t do them,  modify them and go through a smaller range of motion and decrease the resistance.
  • It’s important to spend time relaxing both your body and your pelvic floor in those weeks leading up to your due date. Each night spend some time focusing on deep diaphragmatic breathing and releasing and relaxing your pelvic floor.

 

 

  1. The Best Pregnancy Workout Routine

The Best Pregnancy Workout Routine Guidelines:

Across the eleven proposals, frequency recommendations differed for almost every guide. How often you should be exercising is partly determined by your pre-pregnancy activity level, among other health factors. 3/4 of the guidelines recommended a goal of gradually building up to more frequent exercises, on most days of the week.

For moms who were active before pregnancy, it’s generally considered safe to continue to exercise as often as you were before, especially in the first trimester, so long as the intensity (see below) is within range, and the exercises are safe &  feel good. If you’re just starting out, get clearance from your doctor, and begin with 2-3 days per week of low-intensity exercise, gradually working up to most days of the week for optimal results. Doing my best pregnancy workouts each day can help to improve your endurance, strength, and muscle memory, giving you results more quickly and safely than trying to pack a weeks worth in one day.

So rather than trying to set aside a day or two a week to squeeze in a gym-marathon, try fitting in shorter bursts (see Time, below), of prenatal exercises daily– your body and baby will thank you!

 

Intensity

Determining how hard you’re working during an exercise can be challenging, especially if you are new to an exercise program and are concerned about over exerting yourself.

Many exercise guidelines traditionally advise tracking your heart rate. Heart Rate Monitoring involves tracking resting heart rate, and calculating a safe range to exercise within (usually 60-80% of maximum aerobic capacity) or around 140 beats per minute. This measurement, however, varies significantly based on your individual cardiovascular strength and pre-pregnancy activity level. Using heart rate monitoring is not considered the most effective way to determine what’s safe, or whether you’re getting the best pregnancy workouts in.

Recently updated health care recommendations suggest moms use the ‘Talk Test‘ to help achieve optimal prenatal exercise. This easy-to-use intensity indicator requires no equipment (and no math!).  You should be able to carry on a conversation with your workout buddy, sing along to a song, or say a few words to your growing baby-bump. Use the talk test to determine if your workouts are too intense (not getting enough air), or if it’s time to ramp up your efforts!

It’s most important to remember that the best indicator for safe prenatal exercise is how you feel. So breathe easy, do what feels good, and challenge yourself where you can to make the most of our best pregnancy workouts.

Time

Several studies now show that shorter workouts, (10-15 minutes at a moderate intensity) performed more frequently can actually be more effective than one long sweat-session. These shorter workouts also have longer-lasting benefits, including long term cardiovascular and muscular response improvement. We recommend incorporating this into your best pregnancy workouts.

Frequent, shorter exercises, performed at your maximum intensity works to:

  • Regulate blood sugar
  • Keep blood pressure in check
  • Improve cardiovascular health
  • Increase your metabolism and improve digestion (which can often be sluggish in pregnancy– thanks, hormones!)
  • Improve your sleep quality

As busy mamas, an hour or more at the gym might be impossible to come by, but fifteen minutes to perform some exercises at home that don’t require a gym-full of equipment can be a very realistic goal.  By performing exercises for shorter periods of time, you are more likely do them accurately– so you can reduce your risk of injury, and get more out of each move.

Rather than exercising to exhaustion once or twice a week (not recommended in pregnancy!), you can try 10-30 minutes of well-performed pregnancy workouts each day. You’ll see more benefits from breaking up 2-3 hours of exercise over 7 days, versus one long day spent at the gym!

Type

Activities considered beneficial for prenatal health promotion across most of the guidelines in the study include: aerobic, strengthening, walking, and water exercises. Other examples of safe and effective prenatal exercises suggested in many of the included samples include; yoga, Pilates, and pelvic floor exercises (incorporated in the Knocked-Up Fitness Prenatal Membership )!

The best pregnancy exercises for each individual pregnant mom vary, based on your pre-pregnancy exercise routines and how your pregnancy is progressing. We see moms cross-fitting, lifting, and competing in athletics, all within their own range of physical capability.  You can safely continue any pre-pregnancy exercises into the first trimester, so long as there is no risk for impact, falling, or pressure on your pelvic floor (including incontinence symptoms). Into your second and third trimester, including some prenatal specific programs, like the Prenatal Sculpt workouts. Introducing these pregnancy-specific exercises can help prepare your growing body for late pregnancy, delivery, and life as a mom.

Always remember, only perform exercises that are comfortable for you. You can alleviate many common discomforts of pregnancy with light stretching, walking, or mindful breathing exercises, but it’s important to talk to your doctor before exercising.

 

 

So What’s Right For Me?

Always discuss with your healthcare provider before changing your health plan during pregnancy.  Your doctors can provide insight into how your pregnancy is progressing, and if there might be concerns or limitations specific to your body and baby.

Once you have the green light, and if you’re new to exercising, begin with 10-15 minutes of low-to-moderate intensity exercises, then you can gradually work up to 30 minutes per day, on most days of the week. Research indicates that 150 minutes of exercise per week is the minimum to strive for, which works out to 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.

Breaking up that 150 minutes in any manageable slices (fifteen minutes in the morning, and fifteen after work) can help you achieve the ultimate objective: improving your health and endurance in pregnancy, without having to overhaul your schedule!

  1. Best Pregnancy Exercise for normal delivery

Best Pregnancy Exercise for normal delivery

Train Your Body for Delivery Day- The average marathon, 26.2 miles, take elite athletes a little over 2 hours to complete– about the same amount of time, on average, moms can spend in active labor! Like any athlete, training your muscles for the required work is the most effective way to be prepared for the big day. Specifically training your deep core (‘pushing muscles’), legs, and back, within your total body prenatal exercise program can significantly improve your pregnancy and delivery experience. Learning Erica’s Push Prep Method could help you ease of and speed of delivering your little one. You can find her methods in her book, The Knocked-Up Fitness Guide to Pregnancy and by video in the Knocked-Up Fitness Membership.

Remember the goals of exercising during pregnancy:

  • Prepares your body for labor & delivery
  • Helps you feel good
  • Keeps you as “pain-free” as possible
  • Helps maintain/create good posture
  • Return to your pre-pregnancy weight sooner & easier
  • Easier recovery after baby
  • Improve your body confidence!

Having gone through 3 pregnancies, all very different, my best advice during the 3rd trimester is to get out and move every day, even if you don’t have the energy. It doesn’t have to be hard or long — just move (as long as it’s not painful).

Painful and tired are two different things. If this is your first pregnancy, take advantage of it and sleep as much as you can. During my first pregnancy I slept 12 hours every night during the last month (except to get up and pee of course!). With my 2nd pregnancy I couldn’t do that, but I did sneak in naps when my daughter slept. With my 3rd, there is no time to sleep!

Remember, some things can wait and you and your baby’s health is the most important thing right now. Even though you may have a list a mile long of things you want to get done before your baby arrives, they can wait. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your hubby (of course), as well as close friends and family.

 

6. Best Pregnancy Exercises Videos 

My best pregnancy workouts focus on moving from your core, appropriately, teaching you properly deep core breathing with each movement. Every exercise has a purpose for your body – to improve your overall strength, posture, deep core strength while decreasing and even getting rid of aches and pains.

Back pain is something that many believe is just a part of pregnancy – but it doesn’t have to be! Learning how to strengthen your deep core safely and effectively, with the best pregnancy workouts and postural tips (all of which I teach you in additional educational tutorials in my Knocked-Up Fitness® Membership).

Every single pregnancy workout you do involves your core in one way or another and I teach you and clue you in every exercise what your core should be doing. While it’s important to learn how to strengthen your core during pregnancy (including your pelvic floor), it’s also important to learn how to release and relax your body and specifically your pelvic floor to help prepare your body for birth. Even if you are planning a c-section learning both how to strengthen and release your deep core is extremely beneficially for your body during pregnancy, for postpartum recovery and life as a busy mama!

I become very emotional when just thinking about how important it is to learn the best pregnancy workouts to strengthen your core safely and effectively and how pregnancy is the best time in your entire life to learn to do so. It really can be life changing – both now and for the rest of your life!

Due to a high demand for a step-by-step program designed to help mama’s heal abdominal separation (diastasis recti) and improve pelvic organ prolapse symptoms, incontinence, poor posture, aches and pains, and so on I knew I had to put my training together in an online format for woman to be able to access all over the world. And today I have my Core Rehab Program which is helping countless woman get their body confidence back! Improving and healing diastasis recti, pelvic floor dysfunction, getting rid of aches and pains and helping mama’s feel better than they did before having their little ones. Mama it really is possible to feel good – you deserve to feel good – when you feel good your quality of life improves and you get more enjoyment out of each and every day!

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  • Brice DeNice
    Reply

    Hey Neil, this is amazing. I had no idea this was even possible! I’m definitely checking this out. I think it’s so important and a great idea to offer this type of service and help our expectant moms, since scheduling Dr appointments is so annoying! As you put it, I think the best indicator of prenatal exercise is how you feel. However, as I echo your efforts and ask any pregnant mother to try this out due to resultant health benefits, I think prevention is usually always easier than trying to cure, and these tests will allow people to be smarter with their body decisions while seeking doctor’s advice where needed.

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