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Last Updated on December 16, 2020

The Most Critical Do’s and Don’ts of Working Out While Pregnant

The Most Critical Do’s and Don’ts of Working Out While Pregnant

Are you scared of working out whilst pregnant? Or simply not sure how to proceed? Everything seems slightly more daunting once you’re carrying and creating a whole other person.

In this article I will give you specific advice, tips and strategies for working out while pregnant. Ensuring that you, and your baby, are safe. Not only that but you will both benefit.

Benefits of Working Out While Pregnant

It is clear that everyone, not just you but your baby, and probably your partner and other kids will benefit from you working out while pregnant. If you’re sleeping better and feel less stress, you can guarantee everyone in the household is going to feel better.

How you benefit from working out while pregnant:

  • Reduced incidence of lower back pain
  • 30% reduction in the risk of gestational diabetes
  • Reduced likelihood of unplanned cesarian
  • Lower incidence and reduce severity of depression
  • Less pregnancy weight gain
  • Lower risk of urinary incontiennce
  • Reduced pregnancy constipation
  • Less pregnancy tiredness
  • May have a shorter labour

How your baby benefits from working out while pregnant:

  • A healthier heart
  • Normal birth weight
  • Quicker neurological development
  • Reduced risk of respiratory distress syndrome (for infants of high-risk women)
  • Less maternal stress could reduce impact on immune system development

Instant Big-Rocks for Working out While Pregnant

Before we get cracking into what really will benefit, here are some instant ‘big-rocks’ when it comes to working out while pregnant.

Safety first: Check with your midwife

Each person and pregnancy is individual – and as I”m not speaking to you in person, the first pre-qualifier is that you check with your doctor that you’re ok to work out while pregnant. In certain circumstances, it is not recommended due to potential complications arising from exercise.

If you’re new to exercising or have just fallen pregnant do check with your GP or midwife before commencing or recommencing your exercise program.

Exercise Check In Second – No lying Flat or Crunches

Crunches are a whole other issue in regards to pre and post natal training that I’ll get into during another article.

For now, know that lying flat on your back puts pressure on your body, especially after 16 weeks. The weight of your bump pressing on certain blood vessels can reduce cardiac output, make you feel dizzy and affect the flow of blood that carries nutrients and oxygen to your baby.

While this means traditional stomach crunches are out, you can and should still include core and pelvic floor strengthening exercises in your routine. These I’ll get to later in the article.

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Third Intensity Check In – No High Intensity Workouts

When it comes to exercise intensity, it is best to abide by the guideline “to be able to comfortably hold a conversation” whilst working out. Unless you are an athlete and extremely used to very high heart rates whilst you workout, keeping your rate of perceived exertion to a 7 out of 10 is best practice.

Experts agree that you should avoid undertaking activities that will raise your core temperature by more than 2°C – or above 38.9°C. This is because such a temperature change may result in hyperthermia (the opposite of hypothermia). Hyperthermia during pregnancy has been linked to a twofold increase in the risk of birth defects impacting the spine or brain.

As such, it is not advisable to use hot tubs or spas during pregnancy, and hot yoga should be avoided as well as parking in only moderate intensity exercise.

Final & Fourth Point – No high contact/dangerous sports

For obvious reasons, contact sports or sports in which it’s likely you can fall or have an accident should be avoided.

For example scuba diving while pregnant should be avoided as your baby will have no protection against decompression sickness (‘the bends’) or gas embolism – bubbles in the bloodstream that can cut off blood supply or cause breathing difficulties.

Similarly, horse riding, climbing, cycling, gymnastics and other activities that require extreme balance are best avoided as your centre of gravity shifts and affects your balance.

Certainly, sports like kick boxing, jujitsu or rugby in which contact is prevalent should be avoided for bump protection.

Actual Workouts You Can Do While Pregnant

1. Let your personal trainer or group exercise instructor know that you’re pregnant

In doing so they can assist you in providing expert advice or refer you to a qualified practitioner in your area. If you’re unsure ask your GP or Midwife for a referral.

2. Use your breath to engage your core and pelvic floor throughout your workout programs

Your breath plays a big part in controlled core to assist with labour and reduce back pain. We each take thousands of breaths per day, as as your baby grows pressure is placed upon the lungs and pelvic floor.

Preparing and practicing proper breath ensures that your core remains as integrated and activated as possible throughout and after your pregnancy.

3. Find a Holistic Core Restore Coach

The reason the Holistic Core Restore® programmes are more effective than performing keels or traditional abdominal exercise alone for true core restore and pelvic floor activation. A Hollisitc Core Restore Coach will work with you to integrate your core and pelvic floor with your whole body through a series of movements and lifestyle factors.

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4. Join a Pre & Post Natal Class

Join a Pre & Post Natal Class in order to move in specific ways designed to boost your health and recovery post birth.

This not only provides you with a chance to connect with other pre & post natal women in your area to and create a community; but also provides you access to pre & post natal experts who can give you tailored advice for exercising whilst pregnant.

5. Focus on strengthening the glute muscles

Focus on strengthening the glute muscles to counteract the anterior tilt produced by your expanding bump.

Most people will simply focus on keeping the core engaged and active to help the ‘pre-mummy-tummy’ bounce back. When in actual fact the synergist muscle to the core for pelvic stability is the butt.

Really focus on strengthening the glute muscles in order to support the core, posture and back.

Hinge movements such as single leg romanian deadlifts are a brilliant way to do so. You can do this holding a Kettlebell or Dumbell but also, once the bump is big enough just using your bodyweight.

6. Enjoy swimming

Enjoy swimming, especially in your third trimester, to remove weight and boost lymphatic drainage of your feet and ankles.

It’s well known that your ankles swell during the last months of pregnancy. This is due to the changes in posture from the weight of the stomach pulling down towards the floor.

Consequently, this causes the front of the hip to become compressed. And this in turn reduces circulation of the lymphatic fluid in the lower body.

One way to improve this circulation is to get into water as the pressure from the water removes the weight of the bump whilst providing pressure to the legs improving circulation.

7. Bring layers to your workouts

Bring layers to your workouts so that you can add and remove layers as you warm up and cool down.

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As previously mentioned, changes in body temperature can be dangerous for the baby – using layers so that you can keep your temperature constant is one the the most simple and best things you can do whilst working out while pregnant.

8. Practice the 7 fundamental primal movement patterns in your workouts

Practice the 7 fundamental primal movement patterns in your workouts – squat, lunge, anti-rotate, push, carry, hinge, pull.

“We love pregnant mamas to be regularly training their squats, since a low squat is the ideal position for working through contractions and pushing during labor.”

They also improve pelvic floor strength and elasticity to help prevent tearing during the natural labor process and teach abdominal strength relative to hip mobility for an easier labor and faster postnatal recovery.

Kiberd and her team prefer front squats done with at least a 12-kilogram kettlebell held at the chest. (Choose an appropriate weight for your level.)

“The kettlebell gives great feedback to the muscles that need to engage to stand you back up and to stabilize your weight while you’re down in the squat,” she explains.

And once the bump gets big? “No weight on the front is needed,” she says. “The belly is that natural weight.”

9. Do exercise that your enjoy

Because really if you’re enjoying it so will bump and you’ll feel less stressed.

Do not making working out while pregnant a chore – if it becomes that way, seek advice from an expert in your gym or area on some new varied things that you can try.

10. Practice anti-rotation exercises

Practice anti-rotation exercises whilst focussing on the breath for core integration and activation.

The Palloff press (a core stabilizer done on a cable machine) and the bear crawls offer the same degree of effectiveness.

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“These two exercises engage the external and internal obliques, which are involved in stabilizing the torso in rotation and help stabilize the shoulders down and back.”

11. Make sure to wind down properly

Cooling down slowly after your workouts and providing a little leeway time before your next appointment will reduce your stress levels and help you feel more balanced.

It will also stop sharp changes in body temperature that are non-beneficial to your baby.

Take your time and enjoy each session for what it is.

The Bottom Line

You will have to make fitness modifications as your body changes, but deep down, you know that’s ok. Dr Dawn Harper says

“We’re now seeing evidence that exercising in pregnancy may be one of the best things you can do for your baby’s future health. Pregnancy exercise can have a huge impact on your personal experience of pregnancy, too. Provided you follow the expert guidelines, it’s safe for most women to continue and even start exercising in pregnancy. Just make sure you check with your midwife or doctor first, in case there are any specific medical reasons why you should avoid being physically active in pregnancy.”

There are certain things that are essential. The first being to check with your Dr/Midwife to be given the ‘OK’ to exercise.

There are definite ‘no-nos’ such as abstaining from contact or dangerous sports as well as performing extreme high intensity workouts that bring your heart rate and temperature very, abnormally high for you. It is also contraindicated that you perform any exercises lying on your back.

The exciting thing is that you can and should exercise. You simply have to adapt to what is possible by seeking advice of a local pre & post natal expert. If you take one sentence away let it be this:

Focus upon your breath, workout at a 7/10 level, strengthen your glutes and perform whole body integrated exercises preferentially led by a pre & post natal expert.

And finally, if in doubt, get in the pool for some weight off your feet and relax!

References

  1. Pennick V, Liddle SD. Interventions for preventing and treating pelvic and back pain in pregnancy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2013(CD0011):1-100.
  2. Sanabria‐Martínez G et al. Effectiveness of physical activity interventions on preventing gestational diabetes mellitus and excessive maternal weight gain: a meta‐analysis. BJOG 2015;122(9):1167-74.
  3. Price BB et al. Exercise in pregnancy: effect on fitness and obstetric outcomes-a randomized trial. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2012;44(12):2263-9.
  4. Domenjoz I et al. Effect of physical activity during pregnancy on mode of delivery. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2014;211(4):401.e1-e11.
  5. Gaston A, Prapavessis H. Tired, moody and pregnant? Exercise may be the answer. Psychol Health 2013;28(12):1353-69.
  6. Robledo-Colonia AF et al. Aerobic exercise training during pregnancy reduces depressive symptoms in nulliparous women: a randomised trial. J Physiother 2012;58(1):9-15.
  7. Perales M et al. Benefits of aerobic or resistance training during pregnancy on maternal health and perinatal outcomes: A systematic review. Early Hum Dev 2016;94:43-8..
  8. Shi W et al. Epidemiology and risk factors of functional constipation in pregnant women. PloS one 2015;10(7):e0133521
  9. Gaston A, Prapavessis H. Tired, moody and pregnant? Exercise may be the answer. Psychol Health 2013;28(12):1353-69.
  10. Barakata et al. Exercise during pregnancy is associated with a shorter duration of labor. A randomized clinical trial 2018, 224 33-40
  11. May LE et al. Aerobic exercise during pregnancy influences fetal cardiac autonomic control of heart rate and heart rate variability. Early Hum Dev 2010;86(4):213-7.
  12. Bisson M et al. Physical activity volumes during pregnancy: A systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies assessing the association with infant’s birth weight. AJP Reports 2016;6(02):e170-e97.
  13. Labonte-Lemoyne E et al. Exercise during pregnancy enhances cerebral maturation in the newborn: A randomized controlled trial. J Clin Exp Neuropsychol 2016:1-8.
  14. Muktabhant B et al. Diet or exercise, or both, for preventing excessive weight gain in pregnancy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2015 Jun 15;(6):CD007145.
  15. Marques AH, Bjorke-Monsen AL, Teixeira AL, Silverman MN. Maternal stress, nutrition and physical activity: impact on immune function, CNS development and psychopathology. Brain Research. 2015;1617:28–46

Featured photo credit: lucas Favre via unsplash.com

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Camilla Dempster

A prenatal/postnatal and health expert who teaches women to ditch the binge/restrict/guilt cycle around their body, food and exercise.

The Leading Causes of Prenatal Depression and How to Manage it Best Working in the Third Trimester (The Complete Survival Guide) The Most Critical Do’s and Don’ts of Working Out While Pregnant

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Last Updated on April 14, 2021

12 Best at Home Workouts (No Equipment Needed)

12 Best at Home Workouts (No Equipment Needed)

Covid-19 has certainly made getting to the gym more difficult, but if we’re honest, it was difficult before, as well. Between tiring days at work, helping the kids with their homework, and maintaining a social life, where do you find time to squeeze in an hour or two at the gym? Sometimes, the only solution to maintaining your health and fitness rests on the best at home workout.

The good news is that it’s possible to train from home without any equipment and get fantastic results. As long as you’re pushing the body hard enough, you’re going to be fine. The bad news is that you may not know where to start.

There are a plethora of different training regimens out there, and it’s difficult to know which one is best for you, especially if you’re used to live classes or in-person workout programs.

This article will cover the 12 best at-home workouts that you can use for strength, High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), and mobility. There will be an exact breakdown of all the exercises, sets, reps, rest periods, and instructions required to stay fit, healthy, and happy while on lockdown.

The following sessions are broken down into beginner, intermediate, and advanced workouts to accommodate any experience level. They are all bodyweight exercises that can be combined into a full body workout to build strength while working out at home.

A thorough warm-up is also included to ensure that you don’t get injured. Please check each workout before you perform it to make sure that the exercises and movements don’t cause you any pain from previous or pre-existing injuries.

If you need help getting into the habit of working out at home, you can try Lifehack’s free 30-Day Resistance Band Workout Challenge.

Read on to find the 12 best at-home workouts you can use to upgrade your strength, burn some calories, and improve your flexibility while training at home.

Warm-Up

Complete the warm-ups below for 5-6 minutes before each of the best at home workouts you’ll find below. Complete each exercise for a total of 15 seconds at a slow to moderate pace, and your body will be ready to jump into more intense exercises.

Repeat for 3-4 rounds, as this will help lubricate your joints, slowly elevate your heart rate, and get your body ready for exercise[1].

  • Exercise 1: Squats

    • Exercise 2: Lunge

      • Exercise 3: Leg Swings

        • Exercise 4: Star Jumps

          • Exercise 5: Push-ups

            • Exercise 6: Squat Thrusts

              Dynamic Stretches

              Complete the relevant dynamic stretches after your warm-up. For strength workouts, complete the stretches relevant to the session you’re about to partake in (e.g. upper body stretches before an upper-body workout).

              For HIIT workouts, complete both the lower body and upper body dynamic stretches. For mobility workouts, you don’t need to do these.

              Aim to do 15-20 reps on each side for 1 round.

              Upper Body Dynamic Stretches:

              • Exercise 1: Arm Swings

                • Exercise 2: Arm Circles

                  • Exercise 3: External Shoulder Rotations

                    • Exercise 4: Torso Twists

                      Lower Body Dynamic Stretches:

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                      • Exercise 1: Step Throughs

                        • Exercise 2: Lying Side Leg Swings

                          • Exercise 3: Quadruped Kickbacks/Hip Circles

                            • Exercise 4: Leg Swings (Front & Side)

                              Strength Workouts

                              1. Upper-Body Strength Workout (Beginner)

                              This is one of the best at home workouts if you’re a beginner looking to build upper-body strength. Complete all exercises with 30-60 seconds rest between sets.

                              For exercises 2-6, use two water bottles to mimic weights. For exercise 7, you can use the couch or a chair to support yourself.

                              • Exercise 1: Push-Ups — 2 sets, 5-10 reps

                                • Exercise 2: Bent-Over Row — 2 sets, 8-10 reps

                                  • Exercise 3: Shoulder Press — 2 sets, 8-10 reps

                                    • Exercise 4: Floor Chest Press — 2 sets, 8-10 reps

                                      • Exercise 5: Lateral Raises — 2 sets, 8-10 reps

                                        • Exercise 6: Bicep Curls — 2 sets, 12-15 reps

                                          • Exercise 7: Triceps Dips — 2 sets, 12-15 reps

                                            2. Abs Strength Workout (Beginner)

                                            This bodyweight workout is great for building muscle tone in your abs. Complete all exercises with 30 seconds rest between sets, and use a yoga mat if you have one.

                                            • Exercise 1: Air Bike — 2 sets, 8-10 reps

                                              • Exercise 2: Crunches — 2 sets, 8-10 reps

                                                • Exercise 3: Russian Twists — 2 sets, 8-10 reps

                                                  • Exercise 4: Bridges — 2 sets, 8-10 reps

                                                    • Exercise 5: Plank Shoulder Taps — 2 sets, 8-10 reps

                                                      • Exercise 6: Flutter Kicks — 2 sets, 8-10 reps (each leg)

                                                        3. Leg Strength Workout (Beginner)

                                                        If you’re looking to add some strength to your legs, this is the best at home workout for that purpose. Complete all exercises with 30-60 seconds rest between sets. For exercises 3-4, you can use the sofa or a chair to support yourself.

                                                        • Exercise 1: Squat Kicks — 2 sets, 8-10 reps

                                                          • Exercise 2: Forward Standing Lunges — 2 sets, 8-10 reps

                                                            • Exercise 3: Bulgarian Split Squat — 2 sets, 8-10 reps

                                                              • Exercise 4: Hip Thrusts — 2 sets, 8-10 reps

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                                                                • Exercise 5: Romanian Deadlift (Use two water bottles) — 2 sets, 8-10 reps

                                                                  • Exercise 6: Standing Calf Raises — 2 sets, 12-15 reps

                                                                    4. Upper-Body Strength Workout (Advanced)

                                                                    Complete all exercises with 30-60 seconds rest between sets. With advanced workouts, you have to push yourself close to your limit, or to your absolute limit (until you feel like you really can’t do more). This will dictate how many reps to do.

                                                                    For exercises 6-7, use two heavy water bottles if you don’t have weights available.

                                                                    • Exercise 1: Vertical Wall Push-Ups — 3-4 sets, 1 rep before limit

                                                                      • Exercise 2: Pike Push-Ups — 3-4 sets, 1 rep before limit

                                                                        • Exercise 3: Towel Row — 3-4 sets, 1 rep before limit

                                                                          • Exercise 4: Plyometric Push-Ups — 3-4 sets, 1 rep before limit

                                                                            • Exercise 5: Triceps Extensions (from plank position) — 3-4 sets, 1 rep before limit

                                                                              • Exercise 6: Bicep Hammer Curls — 3-4 sets, until limit

                                                                                • Exercise 7: Triceps Kickbacks — 3-4 sets, until limit

                                                                                  5. Abs Strength Workout (Advanced)

                                                                                  If you need more core support and strength, this is the best at home workout for those who are already comfortable working out. Complete all exercises with 30-60 seconds rest between sets.

                                                                                  With advanced workouts, you have to push yourself close to your limit, or to your absolute limit (until you feel like you really can’t do more). This will dictate how many reps to do.

                                                                                  • Exercise 1: Jack Knife Sit Ups — 3-4 sets, 1 rep before limit

                                                                                    • Exercise 2: Lying Leg Raises — 3-4 sets, 1 rep before limit

                                                                                      • Exercise 3: Plank Hand-to-Toe Touches — 3-4 sets, 1 rep before limit

                                                                                        • Exercise 4: Cocoon Crunches — 3-4 sets, 1 rep before limit

                                                                                          • Exercise 5: Plank Elbow-to-Knee — 3-4 sets, 1 rep before limit

                                                                                            • Exercise 6: Side Plank Reach Through — 3-4 sets, until limit

                                                                                              6. Leg Strength Workout (Advanced)

                                                                                              Complete all exercises with 30-60 seconds rest between sets. With advanced workouts, you have to push yourself close to your limit, or to your absolute limit (until you feel like you really can’t do more). This will dictate how many reps to do.

                                                                                              For exercises 4-6, use heavy water bottles if you don’t have weights available.

                                                                                              • Exercise 1: Pistol Squat — 3-4 sets, 1 rep before limit

                                                                                                • Exercise 2: Bulgarian Jump Squat (use sofa) — 3-4 sets, 1 rep before limit

                                                                                                  • Exercise 3: Jumping Lunges — 3-4 sets, 1 rep before limit

                                                                                                    • Exercise 4: Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift — 3-4 sets, 1 rep before limit

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                                                                                                      • Exercise 5: Single-Leg Hip Thrusts — 3-4 sets, 1 rep before limit

                                                                                                        • Exercise 6: Single-Leg Calf Raises — 3-4 sets, until limit

                                                                                                          7. HIIT Workout (Beginner)

                                                                                                          This is the best at home workout for those who are new to HIIT training. Complete all exercises for 30 seconds of work with 30 seconds of rest. Complete 4 rounds.

                                                                                                          • Exercise 1: Squat

                                                                                                            • Exercise 2: Toe Touches

                                                                                                              • Exercise 3: Walk-Outs

                                                                                                                • Exercise 4: Heel Flicks

                                                                                                                  • Exercise 5: Plank

                                                                                                                    • Exercise 6: Jumping Jacks

                                                                                                                      • Exercise 7: Mountain Climbers

                                                                                                                        8. HIIT Workout (Intermediate)

                                                                                                                        Complete all exercises for 35 seconds of work with 25 seconds of rest. Complete 5-6 rounds.

                                                                                                                        • Exercise 1: Squat Kicks

                                                                                                                          • Exercise 2: Burpees

                                                                                                                            • Exercise 3: Push-Ups

                                                                                                                              • Exercise 4: High Knees

                                                                                                                                • Exercise 5: Plank Ups

                                                                                                                                  • Exercise 6: Star-Jumps

                                                                                                                                    • Exercise 7: Cross-Body Mountain Climbers

                                                                                                                                      9. HIIT Workout (Advanced)

                                                                                                                                      If you’ve already been doing HIIT training for a while, this is one of the best at home workouts to keep you going. Complete all exercises for 45 seconds of work with 15 seconds of rest. Complete 7-8 rounds.

                                                                                                                                      • Exercise 1: Jump Squats

                                                                                                                                        • Exercise 2: Hand Release Burpees

                                                                                                                                          • Exercise 3: Lateral Shoot Throughs

                                                                                                                                            • Exercise 4: Tuck Jumps

                                                                                                                                              • Exercise 5: Plank Toe Touches

                                                                                                                                                • Exercise 6: Spiderman Push-Ups

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                                                                                                                                                  • Exercise 7: Sprawls

                                                                                                                                                    Mobility Workouts

                                                                                                                                                    10. Upper Body Mobility Workout

                                                                                                                                                    Hold each exercise for 15-20 seconds total, and do 2-3 sets. Slowly increase the range of each stretch until you feel tension, then hold before slowly releasing it.

                                                                                                                                                    This workout will help improve flexibility in your upper body.

                                                                                                                                                    • Exercise 1: Cat-Cow

                                                                                                                                                      • Exercise 2: Upward Dog

                                                                                                                                                        • Exercise 3: Chest Release

                                                                                                                                                          • Exercise 4: Child’s Pose

                                                                                                                                                            • Exercise 5: Reach Through (15-20 seconds each side)

                                                                                                                                                              11. Lower Body Mobility Workout

                                                                                                                                                              If you need more flexibility in your hips and legs, this is the best at home workout for you. Hold each exercise for 15-20 seconds total, and do 2-3 sets. Slowly increase the range of each stretch until you feel tension, then hold before slowly releasing it.

                                                                                                                                                              This workout will help improve flexibility in your lower body.

                                                                                                                                                              • Exercise 1: Scorpion Kicks (15-20 seconds each side)

                                                                                                                                                                • Exercise 2: Seated Glute Stretch (15-20 seconds each side)

                                                                                                                                                                  • Exercise 3: Lying Quad Stretch (15-20 seconds each side)

                                                                                                                                                                    • Exercise 4: Lumbar Twist (15-20 seconds each side)

                                                                                                                                                                      • Exercise 5: Standing Hamstring Stretch

                                                                                                                                                                        • Exercise 6: Seated Hip Flexor Stretch (15-20 seconds each side)

                                                                                                                                                                          12. Spinal Mobility Workout

                                                                                                                                                                          Complete each exercise for 10 reps total, and do 2-3 sets. This workout will help improve your posture, alleviate lower back pain, and increase your flexibility.

                                                                                                                                                                          It’s highly recommended if you’re an office worker that spends most of the day sitting.

                                                                                                                                                                          • Exercise 1: Prone Back Extension

                                                                                                                                                                            • Exercise 2: Tail Wag

                                                                                                                                                                              • Exercise 3: Quadruped Side Bend

                                                                                                                                                                                • Exercise 4: Seated Forward Fold

                                                                                                                                                                                  • Exercise 5: A-Frame to Squat

                                                                                                                                                                                    • Exercise 6: Side-Lying Rotations

                                                                                                                                                                                      Final Thoughts

                                                                                                                                                                                      These are the 12 best at home workouts that you can use to level up your body, torch some calories, and enhance your flexibility while at home. Give these a go, and you’ll be well on your way feeling fitter, healthier, and more productive after lockdown is over!

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                                                                                                                                                                                      Featured photo credit: Scott Broome via unsplash.com

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