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 of your life. Working out while pregnant can help you feel stronger and more energized throughout all three trimesters. It can even help you prep for labor and delivery while shortening your postnatal recovery. We’re sharing what you can expect when you’re expecting from a prenatal workout program and why barre is one of the safest options for moms-to-be.
Working Out When Pregnant | What Is Prenatal Fitness?
One of the most common questions expectant mothers have is, “Can I workout when pregnant?” Fortunately, the answer is usually 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 exercise is safe for you before starting or continuing any workout program. Most healthy 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.
Keep in mind, however, that your workout routine may require some adjustments as your body changes 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.
Benefits of Working Out When Pregnant
Staying active during pregnancy can provide a wide range of benefits for both you and your baby. Here are just a few benefits of working out when pregnant:
- lowers your risk of conditions like gestational diabetes and preeclampsia.
- helps you stay within recommended guidelines for weight gain throughout your pregnancy.
- positively impacts your sleep quality and energy levels.
- can offer relief from pregnancy discomforts, including fatigue, constipation, swollen ankles, and aches and pains.
- is associated with faster deliveries, easier labors, reduced risk of C-sections and smoother postpartum recoveries.
- is shown to reduce postpartum depression and anxiety.
Exercises to Avoid When Pregnant
When you’re pregnant, certain exercises and activities can become much more challenging. In fact, some are best to skip altogether — especially as your pregnancy advances into the second and third trimesters.
Here’s a quick overview of exercises to avoid when pregnant:
- Lying flat on your stomach or back after the 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. This 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.
- Rigorous core work. It’s a good idea to skip any exercise 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.
- Exercising to the point of exhaustion. Your body is already hard at work growing another human being, so go easy on yourself while exercising. Now isn’t the time to push past your limits!
- Getting overheated. Be mindful not to raise your body temperature too much. Wear loose-fitting activewear and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
- High-risk sports: Avoid any activity that has a high risk of falling or causing bodily injury (think basketball, horseback riding, skiing, gymnastics, skating, etc.)
Safe Workouts For Pregnant Women
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, speak with your OB-GYN about safe workouts for pregnant women. Now’s a wonderful time to start taking better care of your body as you grow and nurture your little one. Start slow and build up your stamina and endurance as you adjust to your routine.
Generally speaking, it’s best to stick with low-impact exercises that 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 weightlifting guidelines. This is another reason to consider barre as we stick to using lighter weights at higher repetitions. Talk with your doctor about how much you can safely lift at each point in your pregnancy. As always, it’s so important to listen to your body and stick with what’s 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!
- Go slow and steady. Whatever type of exercise you choose, make sure you don’t push your limits. Pregnancy has its own physical challenges, so focus on maintaining or gradually building strength and mobility.
- Talk to your instructor. While 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 specifically geared toward pregnant women. Doing so will allow them to help you modify positions or avoid anything overly grueling or potentially unsafe.
- Stay hydrated. 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. That’s because your body temperature is slightly elevated during pregnancy, which means you start sweating faster than you did pre-pregnancy.
- 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 these have their own benefits, they’re not recommended for pregnant women due to the risk of slipping and falling.
- Skip cobra pose. This stretching position 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. 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 of your baby’s arrival, but this enhanced flexibility can make you more prone to pushing yourself beyond your safe range of motion. Avoid the deep abdominal twists for now.
- Try seated exercises: As your uterus becomes heavier, it can place extra strain on your back. Seated exercise can help alleviate this pressure by keeping your back in an upright or diagonal position.
- Use back-support risers: When performing round back and abdominal work, we recommend placing three to four risers beneath your mat to tilt your pelvis slightly forward and support proper blood flow. (The amount of risers varies depending on the size of your bump.) Risers help prevent the uterus from putting added pressure on the aorta and vena cava. In turn, they keep your blood flowing throughout your entire body and help prevent lightheadedness and fainting spells.
- Don’t ignore your core: Contrary to popular belief, you can and should include abdominal exercises in 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 and focus on your breathing for a modified approach, as well.
Third Trimester Workout Plan
For your third trimester workout, it’s more important than ever to take special care while working on your core.
- 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: Keep something to balance on right within reach (e.g., a wall, chair or ballet barre). As your pregnancy nears the home stretch, your center of gravity begins to shift. Having a stable surface nearby can help prevent you from losing your balance or taking a spill. If certain moves feel unstable, 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 the third trimester, you’ll likely prefer modified planks and push-ups that keep your knees on the ground rather than full-body positions.
- Focus on your breathing. We’re all about embracing the shake, 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 means you’re more likely to feel out of breath. Don’t over-exert yourself, and slow down if you find yourself getting winded. (Pro tip: practicing controlled breathing will come in handy in the delivery room!)
- Go at your own pace: Don’t feel compelled to keep up with everyone else in your class — be patient and kind with your body as it performs its own miracle, and use exercise as a way of keeping you and your baby healthy.
Why Barre Is the Best Prenatal Workout Program
Barre 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 a built-in balance support and has no major risk of falling. At The Bar Method, the technique was developed in partnership with physical therapists who have taken special care to ensure that it would strengthen women while also keeping her and baby safe. Additionally, each instructor is specially trained to guide expectant mothers through each barre class.
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 an ideal choice for expectant moms. In fact, the majority 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.”
Following a prenatal workout program is a wonderful way to invest in the health and well-being of both you and your baby. Ready to give The Bar Method a try? Find a studio near you, or sign up for online classes here.