Workouts During Pregnancy For Each Trimester: Do's and Don'ts

Workouts During Pregnancy For Each Trimester: Do's and Don'ts

Dr.Neeraj Mehta profile Authored by Dr.Neeraj Mehta on 25 Mar 2015 - 11:33.


Gone are the days when pregnancy was considered as a time of being fragile and weak. During the years there has been a dramatic change in the stereotype thinking about exercise during pregnancy. After conducting several researches and surveys ACOG (American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology) has recommended that exercise during pregnancy can actually work in favor of mother and the baby.

A well designed exercise program can help in preparing the mother for labor and childbirth and reduce the chances of having any complications during the delivery. It also helps in improving body mechanics, having high energy level. And the bonus is that women who do pre-natal work-out can get in shape more easily after delivery.

First Trimester

Working out during the first trimester can be a little challenging as you have morning sickness, fatigue and other changes in hormonal ratios of progesterone to estrogen. A fear that any incorrect movement may harm the baby is also there. Keeping this in mind cardiovascular exercises such as low impact aerobics exercises, walking, swimming, yoga, Pilates are recommended as it enhances aerobic capacity, and heart rate. This also improves the supply of oxygen to the fetus and reduces the risk of gestational diabetes. To increase the muscle strength Light weight training should also be the part of training program.

Second Trimester

At the end of the first trimester your baby's weight would be increasing and his measure body organs would be taking shape and your belly would be expanding. Working out during this time can help you in maintaining the energy level, and keeping your heart rate normal.  Along with cardio basic weight training such as lat pull down, dumbbell flies, bicep curl are recommended. This is the best period to strengthen the pelvic floor muscle. Kegel exercise is recommended during this time.

To perform Kegel exercise, sit in a comfortable position and hold your pelvic floor muscle tightly to the count of 10. In order to contract this muscle properly, hold like you have to control urinating. Repeat 5 sets of maximum contraction of this muscle.

Third Trimester

Now your due date is just around the corner, you are eagerly awaiting for the newborn along with that you also experience many changes in your body such as profound weight gain, hormonal changes which increases uterine activity, a decreased energy level. At this time you should totally avoid any exercise which include jumping, running or any contraction on abdomen muscles instead you can go for brisk walking.

Lifting heavy weights should not be the part of this program. If you want to do weights go for seated exercises such as seated flies. Yoga postures which require core muscles contraction should not be attempted instead you can go for meditation as it will help in having a relaxed mind and better sleep.

Do’s and Don’ts:


Drink plenty of water; do not let your body be dehydrated. Upper body exercise has been shown to increases fitness and strength for women who find floor exercise too strenuous. Using heavy hands or hand weights to music may be beneficial in producing a desired training effect. Along with exercise, your food and nutrition should also be taken care of. Include a diet full of protein, vitamins and iron as you and your baby would need proper nutrition. The pregnant woman needs to satisfy her own nutrient needs as well as those of her unborn child. 

However, she does not require two times as many calories! The total requirement of a full-term pregnancy is between 60,000 and 75,000 calories, which amounts to about 300 to 700 extra calories each day. So, don’t eat more, thinking that you are eating for two, instead go for a nutritious meal. Avoid any alcoholic drink, smoking as it may result in physical or learning disabilities of the baby.  Having a good night sleep is also very essential in having a relaxed mind.


Do not push yourself up to the limit of getting over tired especially during third trimester, if you feel tired or dizzy stop the exercise, rest for a while and then continue. If you have unexplained abdominal pain, do not exercise on that day. Do not go for longer sessions. A 30-minute cardio workout with rest and 8-10 reps of any weighted exercise is recommended.

Safety should be the major criteria of the training program. Avoid working out in hot or humid weather. Ballistic movements (jerky, bouncy motions) should be avoided. Any exercise in supine position should be avoided after the fourth month of gestation. Breathing should be normal during the session, any exercise where holding your breath is required, should not be attempted.

Caution while Designing a Pre-Natal Fitness Program

It is strongly recommended that a pre natal workout should be done with a certified professional trainer. As per your convenience you can opt for home exercises or join any fitness center. Considering the guidelines recommended by ACOG there are certain things which should be taken care of while designing a pre natal fitness program.

Proper Exercise Prescription: Not all pregnant women will be able to perform the same types of exercise.  The specialist should understand the limitations of each participant and design programs according to individual needs.

Safety: Another very important aspect of a training program is that each any every exercise should be performed with proper safety measures. Whether it’s a weight room training session with machines and weights, or floor exercises such as surface walking, or yoga , everything should be done under proper observation.

Convenience: The goals of exercise should be accomplished with as little hassle as possible.  Exercise sessions should have regular times for participation; instruction guidelines for exercise should be demonstrated first by the trainer.  Exercise programs should meet the needs of members while adhering to medical guidelines. Proper rest should be included between two exercises. You don’t require to push yourself up to exhaustion limits.

Fun: Exercise program should be designed in a way that participant should see it as an enjoyable activity. Programs should provide women with a sound work out and an educational component that can enhance their awareness and lift their confidence.

Contraindications to Exercise:

While exercising, certain conditions will require the modifications to the training plan.  The following conditions should be considered contraindications to exercise during pregnancy.

a.     Pregnancy-induced hypertension.

b.    Preterm rupture of membranes.

c.     Preterm labor during a prior or current pregnancy or both.

d.    Incompetent cervix or a cerclage (surgical procedure to close the cervix to keep the                fetus intact in utero).

e.     Persistent second-or third-trimester bleeding.

f.     Intrauterine growth retardation.

An Exercise Session Should be Discontinued if :

  1. Any signs of bloody discharge from the vagina.
  2. Any "gush" of fluid from the vagina (premature rupture of membranes).
  3. Sudden swelling of the ankles, face, or hands.
  4. Persistent, severe headaches and/or visual disturbance; unexplained spell of faintness or dizziness.
  5. Swelling, pain, and redness in the calf of one leg (phlebitis).
  6. Elevation of pulse rate or blood pressure that persists after exercise.
  7. Excessive fatigue, palpitations, chest pain.
  8. Persistent contractions (>6 to 8/hour) that may suggest onset of premature labor.
  9. Unexplained abdominal pain.
  10. Insufficient weight gain (<1.0 kg/month) during the last two trimesters.

Contraindicated Exercises

The most important concept of exercise during pregnancy is the concept of training to tolerance. The issue of improving strength or pushing the woman to the point of pain is not medically advisable and should not be attempted.  Therefore, a program should emphasize toning and body awareness during the stages of pregnancy, when hormonal responses may have an effect on body performance.  The changes in the abdominal area make biomechanical movements more difficult. 

Exercise programs can be safe and effective if medical concerns are addressed every time a pregnant women trains. While designing a training program for pregnant women certain exercises needs to be avoided completely. Such as no supine exercise after fourth month , avoid bench press, unless it is a seated vertical press or higher incline 30 degrees or greater. Avoid T-bar rows, squats; sit up crunches, overhead presses, and supine exercise. Any barbell exercise that comes in contact with the abdominal area should not be the part of the training program.




*Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.