A heavily pregnant woman wearing workout clothes smiles while looking at her phone.
Emily Skye

Everything you need to know for pregnancy-safe workouts

Emily Skye

You’re pregnant and determined to stay fit, strong and healthy throughout. That’s great – exercising while pregnant can have huge benefits for you and your baby! And I can help you do it with the pregnancy workouts in my three-stage program Emily Skye FIT Pregnancy.

But before you get started, there are a few things you should know about working out while pregnant. I’ve put together a list of some of the most important stuff I’ve learned throughout my pregnancy workout journey, and now I’m going to share that knowledge with you!

1. Talk to your doctor
You MUST get approval from your doctor or OB-GYN before starting. They will clear you of any pre-existing conditions and give you advice on things to look out for.

It’s so important to take this step. Even if you’re feeling great and you can’t imagine having any issues, it’s key that you consult with medical professionals before you begin any kind of pregnancy workout plan.

2. Choose the pregnancy workout that’s right for you
If you sign up to FIT and begin my Pregnancy program, please select the Low Intensity option if you’re not comfortable exercising at a similar pace and intensity as before you were pregnant.

Of course, all of the workouts on my program are made up of pregnancy-safe exercises, but it’s still important that you find a level that is comfortable for you. And remember, you should not start FIT Pregnancy if you have not participated in exercise regularly prior to becoming pregnant – this program is not designed for those who are beginners to exercise.

3. Stay alert and pay attention to your body
Always listen to your body and be on the lookout for signs of a problem. Stop straight away if you have shortness of breath before exercising, feel a headache, chest pain or contractions, or experience vaginal bleeding or swelling. Your pregnancy workout safety is crucial, so I’ve created another blog to help you better understand when and why you should stop exercising.

4. Pace yourself
Women often ask me: “Can I work out pregnant?” and the answer is always yes, with your doctor’s clearance – absolutely! But every pregnancy is different, and the intensity of your workouts won’t be the same as everyone else. Go with what feels comfortable, but to give you an idea, Sports Medicine Australia recommends that your exertion during aerobic exercise should be “somewhat hard” – to the point where you can still talk, but not sing. (This is based on the Borg Rate of Perceived Exertion scale.)

5. Be ready to adapt
You may be able to work out at a similar intensity level as you usually would, so long as you’re feeling well comfortable and your doctor says it’s okay. Remember, your body will change as your pregnancy progresses so you will need to make allowances for this and adjust. It’s okay to listen to your body and take it slower than you usually would. Your body is going through the biggest change of its life, so be patient with yourself.

Make it your priority to understand and take action on each of these 5 points before you work out with me on FIT Pregnancy. Yes, even more of a priority than ordering that cute pair of active maternity tights!

A pregnant woman smiles while holding a 5 kg dumbbell.

You don't have to give up weighted workouts during pregnancy, but you might have to adapt your routine.

How much exercise can I do while pregnant?

There’s no universally approved formula for your pregnancy workouts – the single most important thing you can do is listen to your body. In my FIT Pregnancy program, I provide a workout plan for all three trimesters.

Trimester 1
This stage of my FIT Pregnancy program covers weeks 5-12 of pregnancy. Your first trimester is when you’re going to be most mobile, so it’s a great time to set a movement habit and routine. Newsflash: life gets busy when you’re preparing for the arrival of a new baby, so make sure you’re carving out enough time for YOU. I recommend aiming for four training sessions per week during the first trimester – focus on low-impact moves with some light resistance and weight training, just like you’ll find in my program!

Trimester 2
This stage of my program covers weeks 13-28 of pregnancy. In the second trimester, your baby is growing and you’ll start to experience physical changes, so try not to compare your performance to your non-pregnant self. I’ve taken your changing body into account with a modified workout program to keep you and your baby safe. I recommend aiming for 3-4 low-impact and resistance sessions during this stage.

Trimester 3
The final stage of my program covers weeks 29-38. Your safety is more important than ever, so I suggest lowering the intensity to ensure you continue to enjoy positives like reduced backaches, better sleep and improved mood. If you find working out difficult or uncomfortable in your third trimester, stick to simple movements like walking – any movement you can do is beneficial.

Are there any risks when working out pregnant?

When you do get started on your pregnancy workout program, safety must be your number one priority. While there are a lot of benefits to exercising while pregnant, your body is going through a lot – do not start exercise without clearance from your doctor.

Assuming your pregnancy has no complications, it is safe to exercise during pregnancy. However, there are a number of conditions you could possibly experience during exercise that means it’s time to stop – immediately – and consult your doctor. Check out my list of reasons to stop exercising while pregnant here.

A smiling pregnant woman doing a lateral lunge.

Staying active during pregnancy is good for you and your growing bub.

What are the best types of exercise when pregnant?

I’m a big believer that any movement is good movement – but now that you’ve got a baby on board, there are a few more things to consider before you unroll the mat and start working. Here are some of the best exercise styles for pregnant women.

Cardiovascular exercise
Cardiovascular exercise is anything that raises your heart rate and gets you breathing more heavily – we’re talking running, your morning boot camp or even a dance class. Safe cardio while pregnant does not include contact sports like rugby or basketball – but you have plenty of low-impact cardio options like swimming, elliptical and stationary bike, rowing machine and the low-impact HIIT sessions in my FIT Pregnancy program!

It’s also fine to continue running, however, be aware that as your body changes your balance will, too.

Strength training
Strength training incorporates weights to help strengthen and condition your muscles. The thought of lifting weights while pregnant might seem strange, but as long as you have clearance from your doctor the benefits of strength training are aplenty!

If you continue to lift weights throughout your pregnancy just like I did, your muscles and bones will be stronger and better equipped to deal with the strains of pregnancy as well as postpartum life. My Pregnancy program incorporates strength training throughout – all you need is some dumbbells!

Yoga is a great way to strengthen your mind-body connection – which is going to be very important throughout your pregnancy, especially during labour.

The benefits of yoga for pregnant women are wideranging but can include improved sleep, reductions in stress and anxiety, increased strength and flexibility and easing of aches and pains associated with pregnancy. Yoga is not only a great exercise for pregnant women, it’s also been a huge help to me as I’ve recovered from the birth of both my babies, which is why it plays an important role in my FIT Post-Pregnancy program.

The best exercises to try during pregnancy

As your body changes throughout your pregnancy, you need to adapt your workout style. My FIT Pregnancy program is delivered in three stages, one for each trimester, and is customised to help you feel your strongest and most confident at each stage. Here are my top five pregnancy exercises to help keep you feeling strong and confident throughout.

1. Forward-leaning dumbbell rows
As your baby bump and boobies grow, your body becomes front-heavy – your shoulders rolling forward, tightening your chest muscles and weakening the muscles in your upper back.

These leaning forward dumbbell rows will help maintain the strength through your upper back while the weight of your pregnancy is naturally pulling your posture forward. Take the time to set your position up, keeping your shoulder down and maintaining a neutral spine throughout.

2. Squats
There are so many variations of the squat (bodyweight squat, archer squat, side squat, ballerina squat) and they can all deliver big benefits during pregnancy.

As your pregnancy progresses and your lower body starts bearing more weight, your hip flexors, quads and lower back will tighten, while your hamstrings, glutes, pelvic floor and abdominals weaken. As a compound resistance exercise, squats will help to maintain strength and range of motion in your hips, glutes and quads. And when the time comes, you’ll find they also boost your endurance as you’re preparing to give birth. Remember to only squat as low as you feel comfortable.

3. Bicep curls to lateral raises
Think forward to when that bump is a bub – you’re going to need some serious arm and upper-body strength to carry that cutie around, and this exercise will get you into baby-carrying shape.

Make sure your technique is good – ensure your shoulders are back and down – and bicep curls into lateral raises will help tone your shoulders and keep those baby-carrying arms strong!

4. All-fours opposite arm and leg reaches
Opposite arm and leg reaches – performed on all fours – are a great way to maintain strength through your core, hips and back. They will also switch on the stabiliser muscles in your upper body, which you’ll rely on more and more as your pregnancy progresses.

5. Supported dumbbell glute bridge
Your booty can get a little lazy during pregnancy, but not if we maintain strength with regular, safe glute exercises.

Perform the bridges with cushions under your upper back to avoid the weight of your tummy obstructing blood flow back to your heart (the venous return).

Emily Skye
Personal trainer • Founder

Emily Skye is a strength training expert and the face of FIT, the digital fitness app that helps women worldwide build strength and confidence, stay active through pregnancy and rebuild post-pregnancy. Emily holds a Certificate IV in Fitness and Master Trainer qualification from the Australian Institute of Fitness. She is also co-founder of James Cosmetics and a mother of two.

Emily Skye
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