The Method

Why Barre Is A Safe (and Effective!) Pregnancy Workout

September 21, 2022

That excitement you feel when you see those two lines appear on a pregnancy test is one of life’s greatest moments. Whether you’re a first-time mom or expecting your second child and beyond, having a baby is one of the most exciting (and perhaps nerve-wracking) times in your life. While delivering a baby is hard work, it doesn’t need to feel impossible. Working out while pregnant can help you to feel stronger and energized throughout all three trimesters all the way through delivery and postnatal recovery. We’re sharing what you can expect when you’re expecting from a prenatal workout program, broken down by trimester, and why barre is one of the safest options for moms-to-be.

What Is Prenatal Fitness?

One of the most common questions expectant mothers have is, “Can I workout when pregnant?” Fortunately, the answer is typically an emphatic yes: Exercise and pregnancy are the perfect pair.

According to guidelines set forth by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, pregnant women are encouraged to exercise regularly throughout all three trimesters — as long as they’re given the green light from their doctors first. Be sure to speak with your physician at your initial prenatal appointment to make sure that exercise is safe for you and the baby before starting or continuing any workout program. Most pregnant women can aim for approximately 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. Working out while pregnant is one of the best ways to keep you and your baby healthy. Furthermore, prenatal fitness is shown to reduce the risk of discomfort and complications in pregnancy. Prenatal fitness can all benefit you in other ways, outside of your pregnancy. It gives expecting mothers a chance to get out and socialize which can help boost mood and energy levels.

It’s important to keep in mind, however, that your workout routine may require some adjustments as your body changes throughout each trimester. For example, you’ll likely feel more tired as you near your due date, and you may feel out of breath, off-balance, or achy. These are all normal changes that can be better accommodated with the right prenatal program.

Top Benefits of Working Out When Pregnant

Staying active during pregnancy can provide a wide range of benefits for both you and your baby. While the benefits of working out while pregnant are truly endless, we’re going to talk through some of our favorites:

  • Prenatal fitness can help lower your risk of conditions like gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia.
  • Exercise can help you stay within recommended guidelines for weight gain throughout your pregnancy.
  • Continuing to work out throughout pregnancy can help maintain physical fitness.
  • Prenatal fitness has been known to reduce lower back pain.
  • It can positively impact sleep quality and energy levels.
  • It can offer relief from those not-so-fun pregnancy discomforts, including fatigue, constipation, swollen ankles, and aches and pains.
  • Working out while pregnant has been associated with faster deliveries, easier labors, reduced risk of C-sections and smoother postpartum recoveries.
  • It is also known to reduce postpartum depression and anxiety.

Other benefits that may not immediately come to mind but are certainly worth mentioning are improving your stamina and heart health along with lowering blood pressure and even improving your self-esteem. The important thing with prenatal fitness is to make a part of your regular routine right from the beginning. That way you can reap the benefits through every trimester.

RELATED: My Journey With The Bar Method as an Expecting Mother

Exercises to Avoid When Pregnant

When you’re pregnant, certain exercises and activities can become much more challenging and uncomfortable. In fact, some are best to skip altogether – especially as your pregnancy advances into the second and third trimesters. In order to keep both you and your baby safe, it’s important to know which exercises you should be avoiding while pregnant:

Here’s a quick overview of exercises to avoid when pregnant:

  • Avoid lying flat on your stomach or back after your first trimester. Floor work can be a wonderful component of your fitness routine but avoid lying flat on your back as you enter your second trimester and beyond. The position can put too much pressure on your vena cava, the vein that carries blood from your lower body to your heart. This, in turn, can restrict circulation.
  • Stay away from rigorous core work. It’s a good idea to skip any exercise or movement that involves deep twisting at the waist as it can place too much additional stress on your knees and back as your baby bump grows.
  • Avoid exercising to the point of exhaustion. Your body is already hard at work growing an entire human being inside of you, so go easy on yourself when exercising. Now isn’t the time to push past your limits. HIIT classes, cross fit, weightlifting, bouncing on a trampoline, and boot camp come to mind but there are exceptions to every rule. Not to sound like a broken record but check with your physician to be sure what type of exercise is off limits!
  • Try not to get overheated. Be mindful not to raise your body temperature too much. That means no hot yoga or saunas during pregnancy. Wear loose-fitting activewear and drink plenty of water throughout your workouts to stay hydrated.
  • No high-risk sports during pregnancy. Try to avoid any activity that has a high risk of falling or causing bodily injury (think basketball, horseback riding, skiing, gymnastics, skating, etc.).

Safe Pregnancy Workouts and Tips for New Mothers  

When it comes to pregnancy-safe workouts, you can usually maintain the same activities you did pre-pregnancy – although you’ll want to check with your doctor to be sure.

If you didn’t work out prior to conceiving, be sure to speak with your OB-GYN about safe workouts for you. Now’s a wonderful time to start taking better care of your body as you grow and nurture your little one. Remember to start slow, build up your stamina and endurance, and be patient with yourself as you adjust to your new routine.

Generally speaking, it’s best to stick with low impact exercises the are easy on your joints and can be safely modified as your body changes throughout pregnancy. Because The Bar Method features low-impact exercises that can be modified under the guidance of one of our expert instructors, our barre practice is a top choice for pregnant women.  

Strength training can also be a safe and effective part of your fitness routine as long as you stay within certain lifting guidelines. This is another reason to consider barre as we stick to using lighter weights at higher repetitions. No matter what form of exercise you’re practicing while pregnant, we have some safety tips you should be sure to follow:

    • Be sure to get clearance from your doctor after your initial prenatal appointment if you’re new to exercise or you have any health conditions that may inhibit exercise. This is also the perfect time to ask any questions or voice any concerns you may have about prenatal fitness with your health care provider.  
    • We’ll say it once and we’ll certainly say it again, remember to drink lots and lots of water before, during, and after exercise.  
    • For extra comfort, wear supportive clothing like a well-fitting sports bra or belly band when working out.

RELATED: 4 Tips on How to Make The Most of Your Barre Workout While Pregnant

The Bar Method’s Safe Pregnancy Workout Plan 

We’ve created a safe pregnancy workout plan, broken down by trimester, for you to come back to throughout your pregnancy. Each trimester of your pregnancy brings a different set of needs, challenges, and precautions. As always, t’s so important to listen to your body and stick with what’s most comfortable for you.

First Trimester Workout Plan

Once you get the go-ahead from your doctor, it’s a good idea to find a first trimester workout that’s not only safe during pregnancy but also enjoyable! It’s possible you’re feeling really tired and possibly nauseous during this point in your pregnancy. We want to remind you to tune in with how your body’s feeling throughout every workout to ensure you’re not overdoing it.

  • Go slow and steady. Whatever type of exercise you choose, make sure you don’t go overboard and push your limits. Pregnancy presents its own set of physical challenges, so focus on maintaining or gradually building strength and mobility. It’s also a great time to strengthen your mind-body connection!
  • Talk to your instructor. We’re not saying your instructor should be the first to know and it’s perfectly reasonable to keep the exciting news to yourself in the early weeks of your pregnancy, it’s also wise to let your instructor in on the secret when taking classes that aren’t geared towards pregnant women. It allows your instructor to help you not only modify various positions throughout class but also avoid anything overly grueling or potentially unsafe.
  • Stay hydrated. Again, we can’t stress this enough. It’s so important to stay hydrated throughout your pregnancy, but especially when you’re exercising. Always keep a bottle of water nearby to prevent becoming dehydrated during your workout. It’s always important to replenish lost fluids, but it’s even more vital when you’re expecting. When you’re pregnant, your body temperature is slightly elevated due to hormonal effects, increases in heart rate, and increases in resting metabolism. This also means you start sweating faster than you did pre-pregnancy AKA you’re losing liquids more quickly. So, drink up!
  • Steer clear of the stall barre. Some barre studios have a stall barre, which is a set of vertical barres that are used for stretching. While using a stall barre has its own benefits, they’re not recommended for pregnant women due to the risk of slipping and falling.
  • Skip cobra pose. This stretching pose can cause you to strain the muscles in your core, so it’s best to avoid it for now. Instead try cat/cow pose, which involves kneeling on your hands and knees while you arch your back up and down.

Second Trimester Workout Plan

Your second trimester workout plan is when you’ll begin to require more modifications to accommodate your growing baby bump. You may feel some discomfort or aches as your uterine ligaments stretch but you might also experience an energy burst during this time. At The Bar Method, we suggest the following modifications for all of our prenatal students beginning at 20 weeks:

  • Go easy with stretching: Your hormones are making you more flexible than ever in preparation for your baby’s arrival, but this enhanced flexibility can make you more prone to pushing yourself beyond your safe range of motion. While light stretching is definitely encouraged, avoid the deep abdominal twists for now.
  • Try seated exercises: As your uterus becomes heavier and heavier, it can place extra pressure and strain on your back. Seated exercises can help alleviate some of this pressure by keeping your back in an upright or diagonal position.
  • Use back-support risers: When performing round back and abdominal work during your barre class, we recommend placing three to four risers beneath your mat to tilt your pelvis slightly forward and support proper blood flow. (The number of risers varies depending on the size of your bump.) Risers are great for helping to prevent the uterus from putting any added pressure on the aorta and vena cava. In turn, they keep your blood flowing throughout your entire body and can help to prevent any feelings of lightheadedness and fainting spells.
  • Don’t completely ignore your core: Contrary to popular belief, you can and should include light abdominal exercises into your pregnancy workout routine. Just be sure to use the aforementioned risers to support your back when doing curls and keep your feet on the floor during your abdominal work to keep your pelvis tilted in the proper position. You can always hold the curl position as well and just focus on your breathing for a modified approach if needed.

Third Trimester Workout Plan

For your third trimester workout plan, it’s more important than ever to take special care while working on your core. During this time, you’re more than likely to feel lots of aches and pains. You may be starting to slow down, and fatigue might be setting in. Be gentle with yourself.

  • Stay grounded. Avoid any movements that require you to lift more than one body part off the ground, as doing so can inadvertently strain your abs.
  • Keep your balance: When exercising, keep something to balance on right within your reach (e.g., a wall, chair, or ballet barre). As your pregnancy nears the home stretch, your center of gravity will begin to shift. Having a stable surface nearby can help prevent you from losing your balance or taking a spill. If certain movements feel unstable or unsteady, speak with your instructor for additional modifications. Simple adjustments like widening your stance just a couple of inches can oftentimes make a huge difference in how certain exercises feel.
  • Embrace modifications: During your third trimester, you’ll likely prefer modified planks and push-ups that keep your knees on the ground rather than full-body positions. Safety should be the top priority. It’s important to focus on back safety by modifying glute work and avoid twisting.
  • Focus on your breathing. We’re all about embracing the shake and feeling the burn, but make sure you keep breathing as you push through your barre workout. Your bump is placing additional pressure on your diaphragm these days, which typically means you’re more than likely to feel out breath. Remember not to over-exert yourself and slow down if you find yourself getting winded. (Pro tip: practicing controlled breathing will also come in handy in the delivery room!)
  • Go at your own pace: Don’t feel pressured to keep up with everyone else in your class – be patient and kind to your body as it performs its very own miracle and use exercise as a way of keeping both you and your baby happy and healthy.

Why Barre Is the Best Prenatal Workout Program

Barre itself is one of the best prenatal workout programs for a wide variety of reasons. Not only is it low impact, but it’s easily modified to accommodate every stage of your pregnancy. It also has built-in balance support and has no major risk of falling. At The Bar Method, the technique was developed in partnership with physical therapists and kinesiologists who have taken extra special care to ensure that it would strengthen women while also keeping her and baby safe. Additionally, each of our instructors is specially trained to guide expectant mothers through each barre class. They will help to tweak and modify each exercise to make them as targeted as possible for problem areas associated with pregnancy.

Here are just a few additional benefits that barre has to offer:

  • Greater flexibility
  • Better balance and posture
  • Stronger muscles
  • Improved endurance
  • Stronger bones
  • Controlled breathing
  • Heightened mind/body awareness

The focused and controlled nature of The Bar Method workout alongside its non-impact and isometric moves make it the ideal choice for expectant moms. In fact, most of our classes are suitable for all skill levels, including prenatal students.

Longtime Bar Method Instructor Stephanie Kagan shared on our blog that, “One of the main reasons I loved barre during my pregnancies and postpartum is because it gives you the opportunity to still build strength and endurance—two things you absolutely need once your baby arrives. Throughout pregnancy and postpartum, you rely on your muscles to stabilize and support your changing body. Barre is the perfect way to build and maintain those muscle groups, which help you breeze through your pregnancy journey with fewer aches, pains and head-noise.”

Another Bar Method enthusiast and instructor, Mia Pruitt, shares in another blog that, “Many women suffer with back pain, and it can be extremely uncomfortable and even sometimes debilitating. With the strategic balance of stretching and strengthening, barre was an incredible tool to help bring me relief. It was also a great mood booster, which is necessary for the harder moments.” 

Our Favorite Barre Classes for Expecting Mothers  

One of the best things about The Bar Method is our variety of barre classes. When it comes to booking your Bar Method class, any of our classes can be modified to fit where you’re at in your pregnancy and fitness journey. However, we have some recommendations: 

  • Bar Method: This class is for everyone and can help build stronger, leaner muscles while improving your flexibility, posture, core strength, and balance. Perfect for the first and second trimester! If you’re in your third trimester, you may need to make some modifications but it’s still a perfect class to work into your barre routine.  
  • Bar Flow: This class style infuses Vinyasa yoga flow sequences into our signature Bar Method class. It has a stronger focus on your breathing and mind-body connection. This class is ideal for any stage of pregnancy.  
  • Bar Restore: This class is split into two parts, with the first being signature elements of our Bar Method class and the second slowing down to focus on stretching out those muscles you’ve just worked.  
  • Bar Combo: For those days you just need movement without the long commitment, Bar Combo is the perfect solution. It includes all of the core elements of any barre class – all within 30 minutes. Anyone and everyone can take this class! 
  • Bar Prenatal: The perfect class for anyone with a baby on board! This modified version of our traditional 60-minute Bar Method class is especially designed to be both safe and effective for mom and baby. Filled with strengthening exercises to help support your growing bump and help prepare you for labor, this class will offer sweet relief to tired leg and back muscles.

No matter what Bar Method class you’re booking, be sure to ask your instructor for any modifications or assistance throughout class. We want you to have the safest and most effective prenatal workout possible.

Following a prenatal workout program is a wonderful way to invest in the health and well-being of both you and your baby. Barre is the perfect exercise, no matter what trimester you’re in. Our instructors, who are specially trained in prenatal fitness, will be there for you to help modify and assist throughout every class. When you commit to a fitness routine throughout your pregnancy not only will you feel strong, but you’ll also be prepared for when baby does arrive. Ready to give The Bar Method a try? Find a studio near you, or sign up for our online classes.