By Leigh Ann Thomas, Certified Personal Trainer

Working out during your first trimester of pregnancy may present some challenges: You’re overly tired, unpredictable morning sickness, brain fog, fear of harming your baby, less stamina and constant shortness of breath. Sound about right? Well deciding to ditch your workout routine during your first trimester may actually make you feel worse than you already do. 

The amount of blood your heart is now pumping through your body has increased by almost 50%, making you feel as if you have just run the New York City marathon. Rightfully so, you are creating a human life, therefore your body is working overtime. However, all these crazy symptoms you are feeling are quite normal and should begin to cease after the first trimester. Hooray!

Exercise during early stages of pregnancy will increase your energy levels, keep your heart strong and prepare your body for all the changes it is about to encounter over the next several months.  Exercise is completely safe throughout all stages of pregnancy, especially if you have already been working out before you got pregnant. If you are new to the scene, please consult with your Obstetrician before engage in any physical activity. If you are cleared to exercise, walking, pre-natal Yoga and Pilates are a great place to start.

Strengthening your body for the extra weight bearing you will endure as well as the process of delivery are extremely important factors to consider as you engage in a workout program. It requires a lot of muscle to deliver a baby. Many women do not realize as the baby grows, the extra weight in your midsection places a tremendous amount of stress on your back, your hips and your lower extremities. I highly recommend consulting with a Personal Trainer to develop a plan that will focus on strengthening your core, back, hips and legs. Not only will you have an easier pregnancy throughout, but delivery and recovery will be much easier than if you did not workout at all. Here is a workout routine that is safe for your first trimester (as well as the rest of your pregnancy) to do to get started.

Perform each exercise until all sets are completed before moving on to the next exercise. Remember to NOT overexert yourself and take as much rest time as you need before moving on. Go at your own pace.

Exercise 1: 3 sets of 12

Seated Rows at cable machine - Grip the handle and keep elbows close to your sides. Maintain good posture as you row (pull) the weight back until your handle reaches just below your chest. Squeeze your back, and release the weight to starting position.

Exercise 2: 3 sets of 12

Bent over rear delt fly – Standing with light dumbbells in hand, lean forward maintaining a line from the tip of your head to the bottom of your spine. Neck neutral, looking down. Allow your arms to hang down from your shoulders, palms facing inward. Without moving your torso raise the dumbbells up and backward (like a bird) squeezing your shoulder blades together until your arms can’t go back any further. Return to start slowly.

Exercise 3: 3 sets of 15

Squat and Press – Starting with dumbbells at your shoulders, feet hip-width apart, squat down (you can put a bench behind you, if you don’t feel comfortable without one) pushing your hips back and placing all your weight in your heels. Once thighs are parallel to the floor, drive back up through your heels and stand. Upon standing press the dumbbells up, in a shoulder press motion and return dumbbells to starting position. Repeat this move in a fluid motion, keeping abs as tight as possible.

Exercise 4: 3 sets of 15

Modified Push up – On your knees (or not if you feel comfortable to be on your toes) perform a push up with hands out wide below your chest. Lower your chest down as low as you can, and push back up to start. Remember to exhale as you push.

Exercise 5: 3 sets of 15

Stationary Lunge – place one foot forward and one foot back in a long stance. You may hold on to a chair or machine for assistance if needed. Lower your body so that your weight is even distributed through both feet, making sure your front knee does not exceed your front toe. Drive weight back up through your front heel and return to start. You may add dumbbells in each hand if you want more of a challenge. Perform 15 reps with right foot out front first, then switch feet and perform 15 more reps.

Exercise 6: 3 sets of 20

Bird Dogs – Start down on the floor on your hands and knees. Maintain a perfect line from your head to the bottom of your spine. Make sure hands are placed beneath your chest and shoulders and knees should be in line with your hips. You may add ankle weights if you desire. Raise and straighten your right arm out in front of you and left leg behind you until you form a perfect line between the two limbs. Abs tight for balance and pause for 5 seconds. Return to start and repeat this motion with your left arm and right leg. Make sure your toes are pointed downwards toward the floor allowing you to squeeze your glutes at the top of the motion.

Exercise 7: 3 sets

Side Planks – hold plank as long as you can – aim for 60 seconds. Begin with elbow on your floor beneath your shoulder and forearm out in front of you. Maintain good posture and a straight line from your head to your feet. Stack feet together and raise your hips and legs off the ground as high as you can and hold this position as long as possible. Maintain steady breath and squeeze your glutes. To modify this position, you may drop your bottom knee to the floor for added weight support. Alternate sides for 3 sets each.

Tips for exercising during your first trimester:

  • Aim for 20-60 minutes of exercise every day
  • Don’t exercise outside in hot, humid temperatures
  • Go at your own pace and do not overexert yourself
  • Drink a lot of water throughout your workout
  • Take longer rest periods between sets
  • Wear supportive shoes
  • Aim for strength resistance exercises 2-4x/week and cardio 2-3/week
  • Be careful with exercises that require balance. Always use support
  • Remember to have fun and find an activity you enjoy doing!