Strength Training in Pregnancy (Workouts Included)

By Kara Simpson, Trainer at Milestone Fitness


Going through my 3rd pregnancy has been a really special time for me. Not only am I finally having a girl after 2 boys (whew), but I really feel good heading into my 31st week. Each pregnancy and post-partum period has been different for me in their unique ways, but one thing has always been consistent- my workouts.

I always aim to workout at least 2 strength sessions per week, 3 if I’m able. I’ve been dedicating at least 30 minutes to get these strength sessions in. What’s different this pregnancy, is that I’m really not pushing myself. I’m coming off of a back injury that has bothered me for a few months prior to pregnancy, so my fitness level wasn’t really where I normally like it to be anyways. This has allowed me to really focus on movements that feel good and will help keep me strong during and after pregnancy.

After recently taking a pre/postnatal certification the past few months, I’ve become even more passionate about helping moms regain their strength after birth. It amazes me that doctors don’t give their clients more guidance after their 6 week check up, other than to resume what they were doing and listen to their body. That body is not the same body as it was pre-pregnancy and it might never be again- WHICH IS OK!!


Many moms get caught up in “getting your body back” post pregnancy that they often times push themselves too hard and restrict their eating when it should be a time of nurturing and recovering. The standard 6 weeks to return to “normal” behaviors is mis-guided and can leave moms feeling rushed or incapable if they haven’t gotten back to their “pre-pregnancy weight.”

I truly believe there is a lot more to focus on besides getting the scale to a certain number. Being sure your muscles re-gain strength progressively as well as re-activating muscles that may have been underworked during pregnancy is so important. Not knowing what exercises to perform or what muscles to activate during movements can set you up for injury in the long run (it happened to me!).

Staying active throughout pregnancy is helpful to avoid common aches and pains as well as increasing energy levels when you’re often feeling tired. Some days when my hips or back are hurting, I do a few of the exercises below and I feel so much better.

There isn’t a lot of educated knowledge about strength training during pregnancy, which is why I’m sharing my favorite pregnancy activation and workout drills below to give you an idea of what exercises you can perform at any stage of pregnancy safely. Of course you should check with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.

Pregnancy Activation Exercises

1. Connection Breath- Keeping spine neutral either standing or sitting, inhale belly and diaphragm completely. On the exhale, lift up through the pelvic floor and engage the Transverse Abdominis (deepest layer of your core) by trying to pull your hip bones together. Do 5-10 breaths.

2. Clamshells- With or without a mini band above the knees, lie on your side with knees bent and feet behind you. Keeping feet together and hips stacked, open up the top knee without letting the top hip fall backwards. Perform 12-20 reps per side for 2 rounds.

3.  Bird Dog- Getting on hands and knees with hands under shoulders and knees under hips, engage the TvA then reach opposite arm and leg long without moving pelvis or spine. Perform 5-10 reps per side for 2 rounds.

Pregnancy Workout #1

1a. Glute Bridges (w/mini band)- Lying on back with feet under knees, bridge your hips up towards the ceiling while squeezing your butt and keeping your pelvis neutral. 10-15 reps

1b. Incline DB Bench Press- Lying on an incline bench, press the dumbbells over your chest while squeezing your pecs at the top. 10-12 reps

3 Rounds

2a. Goblet Squats- Holding a dumbbell or kettlebell at your chest with feet about hip distance, send your butt back and down to perform a squat. Inhale on the way down and exhale while engaging your pelvic floor and tva on the way up. 10-12 reps

2b. TRX Rows- Keeping your body in a straight line from head to toe, pull yourself up while squeezing your shoulder blades together and controlling yourself on the way down. 10-12 reps

3 Rounds

Pregnancy Workout #2

1a. Lateral Lunge to Bicep Curl- Holding a dumbbell in one hand, lunge to the opposite side while keeping the dumbbell inside your leg and sending your hips down and back. Push away with your foot to stand and perform a bicep curl. 10 per side.

1b. Incline Push Ups- With your hands on an elevated surface, be sure there is to increased abdominal pressure and engage your tva and pelvic floor. Pull yourself down to the bar and then push away keeping your body in a straight line. 10-12 reps.

3 Rounds

2a. Single Leg Hip Thrust- With your shoulders on an elevated bench, keep your feet underneath your knees. Lift one leg in the air and then perform a bridge with the foot that’s on the floor. Push through your whole foot and leave your heel on the ground as you get your hips in line with your chest. 10 reps per side.

2b. Dumbbell Squat to Press- Holding dumbbells at your shoulders, squat down and back. On the way up, press the dumbbells overhead without arching your back and keeping your ribs over hips. 10 reps.

3 Rounds

Pregnancy Finisher #1

1. Rope Waves 15 per side

2. Sled Push 1 Length

3. Single Arm Carry 1 Length/side

Pregnancy Finisher #2

1. 30s Bike

2. MedBall Push to Slam 10 reps

3. Kettlebell Cleans 10 reps

If you’re looking for some guided workouts pre or post-pregnancy then send us an email! We have 8 week post-natal training to help get you back into shape and ready for our group classes as well as monthly prenatal training to keep you strong throughout your pregnancy.

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