Keeping a strong core during pregnancy is an essential to a (near) blissful pregnancy and postpartum recovery. In this 10-20 minute pregnancy safe ab workout I’ll show you how to gain and maintain core strength.
As a newly pregnant woman, I found it difficult to find pregnancy safe ab workouts and feared I would make diastasis recti (DR) worse or my hip pain worse, you can read about my struggle with hip pain here). I wish I would have had this workout circa 2018 when I was pregnant with my first! Since then, knowledge and information of DR has increased exponentially but not as much as it needs to be.
I hope this workout finds you and helps you. It can be paired after your regular weekly workouts 2-3 times a week for a well rounded fitness regime.
Is there such thing as pregnancy safe ab workouts?
Yes, yes there is!! Doing these ab exercises during pregnancy will improve the transverse abdominal muscles helping to reduce back pain that is common during pregnancy.
Can I do these exercises if I wasn’t exercising before pregnancy?
Yes! If you haven’t been exercising before pregnancy, it’s okay! You can still start now. Start out slowly and listen to your body. Exercise has so many benefits for mom and baby. Just because you weren’t before doesn’t mean you have to miss out on those benefits. Obviously, it would be best if everyone workouted before pregnancy as that would make for a pretty healthy society in general but it certainly doesn’t mean you can’t start now.
Nothing! Except for a mat if you have one or a soft surface like a rug or carpeted room. This workout can be done anywhere. Yay!!
Standing Pelvic Tilts
What it does: strengthens back and core, brings awareness to posture
How to do pelvic tilts
- Start by standing against a wall with your butt and hips touching the wall
- There will be a space between the small of your back and the wall (this is neutral)
- Engaging your core, pretend like you are trying to smoosh a bug with your back
- Return to neutral
- Repeat 15-20 times
TVA (Transverse Abdominis) Breathing
What it does: Targets the innermost abdominal muscles (transverse ab) which wraps around your entire trunk from ribs to pelvis like a girdle/corset.
The transverse abdominis is often weak in most people. This causes back and hip pain, especially during pregnancy. Getting these muscles working and strong is vital to any pregnancy safe ab workout.
How to do TVA Breathing
- First, start with your back against the wall like you did for pelvic tilts. The same motion will take place as before but this time we are adding deep belly breaths.
- Start by inhaling deeply into your belly letting it push out and your pelvic floor muscles relax. Try to inhale while expanding the belly for 10-15 seconds (this is something you can work towards).
- Exhale quickly as you draw your belly in while simultaneously tilting your pelvis forward. You’re almost trying to make your belly disappear (though it won’t because hello baby!). You should notice the bottom of your belly drawing up toward your chest, giving baby a big squeeze hug!
- Repeat for 10 breaths
What its for: Strengthens back, abs, glutes and shoulders.
Everyone can benefit from bird dog, not just women looking for pregnancy safe ab work. Progressions are endless to make this dynamic exercise harder but for this workout we will stick to the basic bird dog.
How to do bird dog
- Start on all fours with your shoulders in line with your elbows and wrist. Your knee should be in line with your hips.
- Next, take the right arm in front of you and the left leg straight behind you. Engage your core and your glutes. *if this is too challenging, start by only lifting the leg off the ground and working up to this*
- Do the same thing with your left arm and right leg. There should be no arching in the low back or overextending the arms and legs towards the ceiling. You can think of it like you are trying to reach to an imaginary wall in front of you and an imaginary wall behind you.
- Hold each rep for 5 seconds
- Repeat for 12 repetitions (6 for each side)
Bear Plank Hold
What it’s for: Deep core, rectus abdominis, oblique and back
The bear crawl hold is a great pregnancy safe ab exercise. It’s the closest thing you’ll get to a regular plank during pregnancy as full planks are not usually the best ab exercise in second and third trimester as they can put too much pressure on the sensitive linea alba.
How to do a bear crawl hold
- Start on your hands and knees like the previous bird dog.
- From this position, do a deep inhale belly breath like in the TVA hold
- As you exhale, engage the core and lift your knees off the ground holding for about 5-10 seconds
- Return to starting position
- Repeat for 10 repetitions
Side Plank (Regression and Progression)
What’s it for: Obliques, shoulder, outer thigh + glute
No pregnancy safe ab workout would be complete without the good ol’ side plank. Like mentioned earlier planks are one of the best ab exercises you can do and the side plank is no exception!
How to do a modified side plank
- Start by lying on your side with knees bent behind you at about 90 degrees while propped up on your elbow.
- From there, engage your core and lift your hips towards the sky stopping just passed neutral. Keep your belly drawn close to you.
- Hold for 20-60 seconds.
NOTE: As you head into third trimester side planks may need to be omitted as belly is so far forward. I stopped around 32 weeks because it started to feel bad. You may be different, you know your body best!
How to do a modified star side plank
This is for if a modified side plank is a little too easy but a full side plank is too challenging. Still a pregnancy safe ab exercise
- Follow the directions above
- Once you’re in the modified side plank, take your top leg up toward the ceiling
- Hold for 20-60 seconds.
Repeat this whole sequence 2-3 times through for a solid pregnancy safe ab workout. This workout is also diastasis recti safe for those first postpartum workouts.
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