A full 9-month pregnancy workout plan to stay fit throughout the trimesters. Guidance for prenatal fitness Do’s and Don’ts and motivation.
Even as a certified fitness trainer, I remember feeling a sense of hesitation for my workouts during my first pregnancy. I was nervous about doing too much or if I was focusing on the right elements during my program design. As an experienced mom, I want to share my knowledge and experience to help expecting moms. I want to help you learn how to stay safe and effective in your exercise routine as you progress through your 9-month pregnancy workout plan. We will cover the general Do’s and Don’ts, adjustments for each trimester, and how to maintain motivation to keep you empowered through your fitness routine.
Take control of your pregnancy and learn how to stay fit throughout all three trimesters. It’s much easier than you think to keep prenatal fitness simple. Just follow these basic guidelines and listen to your body as you make adjustments along the way.
Prenatal Exercise Do’s and Don’ts
DO get cleared by your physician for exercise
Always seek clearance from your physician for this or any exercise or fitness routine before starting. Be sure follow your doctor’s advice as well as check in with any concerns along the way as your body progresses through pregnancy. What might work or feel okay in your first trimester, may not in the 2nd or 3rd. If at any time you feel dizzy, faint, lightheaded, or experience pain during your exercise stop and seek medical attention.
DON’T compromise safety during exercise
Exercises to avoid during pregnancy adjust throughout the trimesters. Generally speaking, throughout all trimesters it is unsafe to engage in sports or workouts that increase your risk of injury, falling, or having direct impact on your belly. This might mean taking out box jumps, plyometrics, or speed and agility exercises that can compromise your balance and stability. However, you can easily modify your movements to get that athletic feel in your workouts. Always exercise in controlled movement patterns and range of motion to protect your joints and muscles.
Beyond the second trimester, other exercises to avoid are those that compromise your core stability and support. It is often unsafe to do deep back bends, hanging exercises (think pull ups), core twisting movements, or exercises that are done while laying on your belly or back (like supermans or crunches).
DO follow an exercise routine that promotes quality sleep
Although pregnancy comes with fatigue, engaging in regular exercise can help you get a better night’s rest. Exercise improves energy levels, cardiovascular performance, joint mobility, and muscular strength. All things that can minimize mental stress, sluggishness, stiffness, swelling, and trouble breathing. Helping you to lay down for a restful night of sleep.
Try my Prenatal Workout for Better Sleep if you have been struggling to get a good night’s rest.
DON’T get dehyrdrated
Hydration during pregnancy is well known for having many benefits for mom and baby. Some of those include aide in digestion, protection for baby (amniotic sac), lubricated joints, nutritient and oxygen circulation, temperature regulation, and help prepare breasts for nursing. Adequate hydration may even help to reduce heartburn, fatigue, and headaches. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, pregnant women “should drink 8 to 12 cups (64 to 96 ounces) of water every day” (2020).
Personally, I feel my best when I am consuming a gallon each day, but check in with your doctor for your own specific hydration needs.
DO exercises for pregnancy core strength
Make core strength an integral part of your regular 9-month pregnancy workout plan. A strong core helps to support the spine and pelvic floor for a more comfortable pregnancy while preparing you for labor. Regular exercises for core strength can help to relieve hip pain and back pain during pregnancy.
Add in this Prenatal Safe Core Workout for All Trimesters into your fitness routine for a supported spine and pelvic floor.
DO monitor your workout intensity
Throughout all trimesters, you want to adjust your intensity to avoid overheating and/or other risks during your exercise routine. Intensity of exercise during pregnancy can be monitored with heart rate. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists characterize a safe and effective intensity to be within 60-80% of max predicted maternal heart rate, usually 140 bpm or less (2020). This can be determined by subtracting your age from 220 then multiplying the solution by 60 to 80 percent ((220 – age) x 0.6 or 0.8).
A safe intensity can also be determined by perceived rate of exertion. Also known as the “talk test,” or an expecting mom’s successful ability to hold a conversation during exercise (ACOG 2020).
If you like to turn up the intensity but want to stay safe, taking adequate rest breaks for cardiovascular recovery are key. I have an entire post filled with modifications and easy pointers on How to Safely Make Prenatal HIIT Workouts. If you enjoy interval training, you can incorporate my Prenatal Safe HIIT Workout to your workout routine.
9-Month Pregnancy Workout Plan Through the Trimesters
A consistent exercise routine will help you maintain overall fitness throughout your pregnancy to improve comfort and even help you prepare for labor. To stay motivated along the way, the best pregnancy workout plan is one that you can maintain throughout your trimesters. And the easiest way for an expecting mom to stay consistent with her exercise is with home workouts.
Home workouts are great for pregnancy because they allow for schedule flexibility, the comfort of being in your own space, and variety in exercise. It’s easy to stay consistent when you workout at home. Many of the hurdles you face when going to the gym disappear. You need less time since there’s no travel. You have complete freedom to do whatever you enjoy. There’s no need to share your space or equipment. Best of all, there’s nobody around to distract you with small talk. Plus, you can squeeze a home workout in to any schedule. If all you have is 20 minutes, then so be it!
To get an effective workout at home, you don’t need any special equipment to use while pregnant. All you need is enough space to move. And personally, I find it fun to write and plan your own workout based on how you feel that day instead relying on the coach or environment to dictate your workout. However, if that’s not for you, workout videos are the most effective and trouble-free way to workout at home while pregnant. You can follow along and just show up. No planning required, all you do is pick one and get started!
Pregnancy Workout Plan – 1st Trimester
While still making the general prenatal adjustments outlined above, you don’t usually need to modify your workouts just yet.
Unless directed otherwise by your doctor, most women with typical, low risk pregnancies can maintain their current exercise routine in the first trimester. Find balance in your workout regimen with a variety of cardio, resistance, and flexibility training for the entire body. Be sure to focus on core strength to help support your posture and pelvic floor for late pregnancy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggest to get in at least 150 minutes of exercise every week (2022).
This will help to maintain a good foundation of overall fitness before many of the physiological changes take place that affect your performance.
Many women, including myself, struggle to fight the fatigue that comes with the first trimester. Listen to your body and get adequate rest. However, keep your fitness a priority now, so that it is easier to maintain later on. You don’t need to run 10 miles a day or do 100 burpees every workout. Just make an effort to get in physical activity that elevates your heart rate throughout the week. That could be a brisk walk, mobility workouts, low-intensity resistance training, swimming, or anything else that you enjoy. Not only will your body and mind thank you afterwards, but you will get a little boost of energy from your workout.
For those days you just don’t feel like working out, try my Lazy Day Mobility Prenatal Workout. It’s short, sweet, and will help you wake up the body with some feel good movement.
Pregnancy Workout Plan – 2nd Trimester
Most of the modifications to your 9-month pregnancy workout plan will begin with the second trimester. Usually, that is when your uterus and baby are large enough to effect your range of motion and physiology. As pregnancy continues you will have an adjusted center of gravity and balance, a weakened core, looser joints, and reduced lung capacity.
You will still want to follow the recommended amount of weekly physical activity suggested above. However, you may need to begin adjusting elements of your workout design. These elements may include modifying intensity and/or movement patterns. To get the most out of your workout regimen as you modify, shift to an endurance (muscular and cardio) style training. This would include lower intensity with higher volume (total reps in a given workout).
At this point, you may find it unsafe or not comfortably possible to work at a high intensity. Endurance training will help you to maintain your muscular strength and aerobic capacity since you will no longer be in a phase of increasing your fitness.
The intensity of your workout is demonstrated in your heart rate and breathing rate. The more effort required, the higher your heart rate will be and the harder you will breathe. To reduce overheating and/or maintain proficient oxygen circulation during your workout, you may need to adjust your intensity. Reducing your intensity can be done by using lighter weights, doing low to non-impact exercise, slowing down your speed, and increasing rest length or frequency.
As pregnancy progresses, you may notice your range of motion is affected. Ballistic exercise, high impact moves, and quick changes in direction can lead to injury with looser joints. Be sure to always work in controlled movement patterns and ranges of motion.
Your expanding core will adjust the depth of your lower body exercises and support of your pelvic floor and posture. You may find it necessary to widen your stance (think sumo squats and deadlifts), use assistance (think chair push ups), and avoid exercises that compromise your core stability and support. It’s often unsafe to do deep back bends, hanging exercises (think pull ups), core twisting movements, or exercises that are done while laying on your belly or back (like supermans or crunches).
Pregnancy Workout Plan – 3rd Trimester
Not much will change from the 2nd to 3rd trimesters, except that you may need to modify more often. In the third trimester, continue to do cardio and resistance training as regularly as you can with an emphasis on pelvic floor and core strength.
Given a smaller aerobic capacity and being at a heavier weight, exercising can feel increasingly difficult these final months. I have found the The Best Prenatal Workout for Third Trimester Cardio is low-intensity, steady state exertion. This style of cardio is easiest on your joints and cardiovascular system while still providing great benefits. This can be as simple as walking.
In the third trimester, regular strength training will help you prepare for labor. Your focus should be on endurance and maintenance rather than growth. Remember, labor is a marathon not a sprint! Strength training will help to maintain joint and posture support as well as muscle tension as you approach your due date. You can join me for a 3rd Trimester Strength Workout I designed to prepare you for labor!
You also want to be sure to include consistent core and pelvic floor exercises to make labor easier. These muscle groups provide postural support and prepare women for the pushing and delivery phase of labor (NSCA 2012). Since these muscle groups will be supporting your baby, keeping them strong is key to a more comfortable pregnancy. Read my post to learn how to incorporate the best Pelvic Floor Exercises into your pregnancy!
Try my Prenatal Postural Correcting Workout if you want some more guidance!
As you get closer to your due date, you may wonder if it is safe to exercise in the 9th month of pregnancy. Unless specified by your doctor otherwise, you can continue to exercise.
General Prenatal Exercise FAQ’s
As with any exercise or fitness program during pregnancy, always get clearance from your physician before you begin.
Can I do cardio while pregnant?
Throughout your pregnancy, continue cardio exercise in any format you enjoy. Whether it is swimming, stationary machines, dancing, or an at home walking workout. Walking workouts are great exercise for all fitness levels in pregnancy, especially beginners. They are low intensity and improve aerobic endurance.
Can I lift weights while pregnant?
If you were already lifting weights before pregnancy, it’s usually safe to continue. You may need to reduce intensity (speed and/or weight used) and shift your strength training to a more muscular endurance focus (high rep/volume). Using light weights will still provide an effective workout while keeping you safe. Try my at home strength training workout to incorporate weight lifting in a pregnancy friendly format.
Can I workout my stomach while pregnant?
When done properly during pregnancy, ab exercise is beneficial as it helps to improve core strength and pelvic floor support. A strong and stable core will provide postural support and can minimize discomfort due to poor alignment and muscular imbalances. Improving strength and stability in your core and pelvic floor can also help for an easier labor and delivery. After you enter the second trimester (maybe even sooner) you will want to focus your ab workouts on the oblique and deep abdominal muscle groups. Read my post Best Pregnancy Ab Exercise Safe For Your Workouts to help you build core strength during pregnancy!
Stay MOTIVATED during your 9-month pregnancy workout plan
When you’re expecting, it’s normal to feel your energy and motivation to come and go. Whether it’s for health benefits, self-care, or to be proactive for your postpartum recovery, exercise should always be enjoyable and make you feel good. If you aren’t having fun or getting a mental boost from your workouts, chances are you won’t continue.
That’s why my first recommendation for staying motivated during pregnancy is to choose workouts that get you excited to move. Anything from walking in nature, to dancing around the house, to lifting weights, to cardio kickboxing, and anything in between. I have an entire playlist of prenatal safe workouts with a variety of formats so you can find something to get you moving that day.
Staying consistent in your activity is essential to maintaining your exercise routine. Especially the days you want to be a slug and lay around on the couch, it’s important that you do something to get up and move. In fact, I have an entire post on how to stay motivated on the days When You Can’t Find Energy to Exercise During Pregnancy.
I even made a Lazy Day Mobility Workout just for those kinds of days! Check it out and join me to boost circulation and your mood in less than 15 minutes without exerting all of your energy.
Motivation can be fleeting, so it’s important to stay focused by grounding yourself and fitness routine in a “why.” What is the ultimate motivating factor for why you want to maintain your health and fitness during pregnancy. If you’re like me and like to have a visual representation and reminder, download and print my FREE Accountability Chart to help you stay on track during your 9-month pregnancy workout plan!
Post-pregnancy workout plan
After you’ve had your baby and your doctor has cleared you for exercise, check back in and let me help you Regain Your Fitness After Baby. As much as I loved pregnancy, I couldn’t wait to feel “like myself” again after having each of my babies.
Having a properly designed post pregnancy workout plan is an opportunity to work towards a new goal and embrace the new challenges of improving your postpartum fitness.
As long as you listen to your body, take your time, and focus on the basics, getting in shape after baby can be done. Try my succussful postpartum fitness tips to guide you along the way. I also created a follow-along Postpartum Early Recovery Workout Program for new moms that want to ease back into fitness. I designed and recorded this program over 4 weeks while in my own postpartum early recovery. That way I could create workouts that are tailored to the needs and abilities of a new mom.
(2012). NSCA’s Essentials Of Personal Training (J. W. Coburn & M. H. Malek, Eds.; Second, pp. 477–479) [Review of NSCA’s Essentials Of Personal Training]. Human Kinetics. (Original work published 2004)
Exercise During Pregnancy. (n.d.). ACOG. https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/exercise-during-pregnancy
Physical Activity and Exercise During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period. (2020, April). Obstetrics & Gynecology, 135(4), e178–e188. https://doi.org/10.1097/aog.0000000000003772
How much water should I drink during pregnancy? (n.d.). ACOG. https://www.acog.org/womens-health/experts-and-stories/ask-acog/how-much-water-should-i-drink-during-pregnancy#:~:text=During%20pregnancy%20you%20should%20drink,helps%20waste%20leave%20the%20body.