I often get this e-mail saying,“ Can I continue abs workout while pregnant?” The answer is YES as long as you do it smartly. We all know pregnancy is a tough phase for women. It becomes challenging to maintain muscle shapes when your body is experiencing continuous hormonal changes due to the pregnancy.
A study shows that abs exercises during pregnancy can strengthen your core muscles. By abs, I am not referring to the “6 Packs.” I am mentioning all the muscles that make your midsection strong. However, these workouts will help you to make the whole pregnancy journey and delivery easier.
In this article, you will get everything you need to know about abs workout during pregnancy.
What happens to the abs when you are pregnant?
It’s a common question people often ask that what happens to abs during pregnancy. Here I will try to give you the answer in the simplest way possible.
Your body goes through a lot of changes during pregnancy as it accommodates a safe place for the baby. For that reason, your abdominal muscles separate to a few degrees to make you feel comfortable. In simple words, the muscles attached to the abdominal get thin as your belly grows.
To be exact, these are the changes you will notice to your abs during your pregnancy:
📘 You will get a baby bump.
📘 The gap between the right and left side of your abdominal muscles will widen up as the baby grows inside.
Is it safe to do abs workout while pregnant?
This is a tricky question, and the answer depends on your health condition. If your doctor or practitioner permits you, it is safe to do exercises with proper modification. Doing workouts during pregnancy can benefit your body in various ways. Such as:
📘 Strengthening your abs during pregnancy will support your pelvic organs.
📘 Abs can lessen the pressure on your back.
📘 Strong abs help you to maintain a healthy posture.
📘 Lower back pain is common for all pregnant ladies. Proper abs workouts can reduce pain.
📘 Increasing your core strength will help you to control labour pain. Also, you will have a quick recovery after giving birth to a child.
Importance of abs workout during pregnancy
Researchers have said that pregnant women can do almost everything in their first 12 weeks. So, a routine abs workout is okay for them. But as time passes, pregnant ladies start going through different body complexions. It becomes hard for them to stick to the regular workout system.
Observing their health condition, the doctor or the practitioner can suggest some modified abs workouts. These exercises will help them improve their body posture and health conditions. For example:
🔹 Carrying a baby around 20 pounds in your front belly can cause you back pain. A regular abs workout can help you to combat the aching of your lower back.
🔹 Labour pain is a nightmare for pregnant ladies. Doing abs workout strengthens your core. It will make the labour journey less painful.
🔹 However, it takes time to recover after giving birth. But if you have strong abdominal muscles, it will help you repair your body.
Though doing abs workout while pregnant has various significance, it is not suitable for all. Many women go through severe changes during this period. And for them, working out can have a negative impact on their bodies and babies. So, always ask your doctor or practitioner before practising any physical exercises.
Can you do planks while pregnant?
Yes, you can. Planks are safer than most other abs exercises during pregnancy. It is a form of static, endurance-based workout and most experts find it ideal for expecting women.
Planks can strengthen both your back and abs. While dynamic exercises like crunches put so much pressure on your spine, this form of ab workout is less painful.
While doing planks, you have to be very careful. You can not perform a longer plank because of your body weight. So I suggest you hold your plank for 5 or 10 seconds and do several sets. If it becomes harder, you can bend your knees slightly or rest them against the floor.
Safe ab workouts during pregnancy
Here I will discuss all the ab workouts you can perform during your pregnancy. All these exercises are safe and will not harm you and your growing baby.
1. Sitting knee lifting with chairs:
This exercise strengthens your core muscle, quadriceps, and hamstrings. The quadriceps and hamstrings are respectively the front and back muscles of the thigh.
◾ Take a sturdy chair and sit on the edge of it.
◾ Sit comfortably, keeping your back straight.
◾ Place your feet flat on the floor and keep the legs apart.
◾ Keep your palms under your hips. Make sure the palms are facing downwards.
◾ Now slowly lift one leg keeping your knee bent. Try bringing your bent knee towards your chest.
◾ Slowly lower the leg down and go back to your neutral position.
◾ Repeat all the steps with another leg.
🔹 In your first trimester, you can perform two sets of 8 to 12 repetitions. You can also attach weight with your ankle if you want. The ideal weight is 1 to 3 pounds on each ankle, depending on your ability.
🔹 In your second and third trimester, you can perform two sets of 8 to 12 repetitions. Do not attach any extra weight on your ankle.
2. Lying side crunches:
This exercise is safer for pregnant ladies. You may find various types of side crunches, but here I will discuss the one that is suitable during pregnancy. This workout strengthens your internal and external oblique muscles. It also helps you to gain a strong side ab wall.
This exercise can be a great abs workout while pregnant as you can perform this exercise simply sitting on a chair.
◾ Lie down on the mat on your left side.
◾ Keep your knees together and slightly bent.
◾ Now try rolling your body to the right side so that knees rise from the floor.
◾ Make sure the back of your left body shoulder and shoulder blade support your body weight.
◾ Place both your hands behind your head. Let the fingertips touch each other.
◾ Try touching your right knee, curling your torso in an upward position.
◾ Simultaneously, raise your left hand above from the floor.
◾ Now curl the knees a bit higher by bringing the arms together.
◾ Get back to the original position and keep your hands behind your head.
◾ Do the same steps on your right side.
🔹 Performing one set of 6 repetitions will be enough, but if you want, you can do 12 repetitions.
3. Side plank:
The side plank can be done in various ways, and it has many health benefits for pregnant ladies. This is a balancing exercise, and it lessens the stress on the central abdominal muscles. Performing side planks will help pregnant ladies gain a good posture and a strong core balance.
◾ Lie down on the mat on your right side.
◾ Make sure your legs stick together and knees are bent.
◾ Position your right elbow under your shoulder and other hand on your waist.
◾ Keep your spine straight and directly in line with your head. Try concentrating on your core breathing.
◾ Start raising your hips while squeezing your hips. Make a straight line from the hip to head.
◾ Stay in that position for 20 to 30 seconds.
◾ Now repeat the steps for your left side.
🔹 Side plank is a safe abs workout while pregnant but do it under your practitioner’s observation.
🔹 You can also try another modified plank for pregnancy instead of this one.
4. Core breath:
This is the easiest ab workout while pregnant. Practising this workout will make you more relaxed and your core strong.
◾ Sit down on the floor. Relax your muscles and keep your back straight.
◾ Place your hands on your waist.
◾ Now take a deep relaxing breath. Try opening your ribs outward while taking a breath.
◾ Slowly exhale the air and bring your ribs back to the normal position.
◾ Relax all your muscles and repeat the steps.
🔹 You can practice this ab workout as many times you want.
🔹 Generally, I recommend doing it sitting on the floor. But if you are not comfortable, you can do the breathing exercise on a chair too.
5. Seated stability with ball:
This workout mainly focuses on stability, balance, and core strength. You will need a stability exercise ball for this ab workout. Depending on your health condition, you can take help from your friend or partner to gain balance on the ball. However, consult with your doctor before doing this abdominal exercise.
◾ Sit on the stability ball. Keep your posture straight and abs in.
◾ To maintain the balance, you can place your hands on the sides of the ball or behind your head. You can hold onto a wall if you are doing it for the first time.
◾ Inhale air from the core.
◾ Lift your right foot off the ground and stretch it out straight in the air for 5 seconds.
◾ While lifting your leg, raise your opposite arm over your head.
◾ Now, exhale air and return to the neutral position.
◾ Repeat the steps with your opposite side.
🔹 You can perform one set of 5 repetitions every day.
6. Standing bicycle:
Standing Bicycles is a wonderful abs workout while pregnant. It will enhance your core strength and improve your body balance. It is easy to perform, and you have less chance to hurt your lower back.
◾ Stand straight and keep your feet a little wide.
◾ Slightly bend your knees and keep your hands behind your head.
◾ Now start lifting your right knee towards your chest.
◾ Twist your body towards the right side in such a manner that your left elbow touches the right knee.
◾ Return to the neutral position.
◾ Repeat the step with your left knee and right elbow.
🔹 Depending on your health condition, you can do 10 to 20 repetitions.
🔹 If you face trouble touching your knee with your elbow, do not force it.
Kegels exercise can be beneficial to pregnant women. It strengthens the pelvic floor muscles. We know that PC muscles support our uterus, bladder, intestine, and rectum. So, doing this workout will help you in the following manners:
◾ It supports your growing baby.
◾ It can prevent hemorrhoids.
◾ It keeps the vagina muscles toned, which makes the labour more comfortable.
◾ Sit on your stability exercise ball.
◾ Relax your muscles and inhale a deep breath.
◾ Let your belly rise as it is filled in the air while you are breathing in.
◾ Now slowly exhale the air.
◾ You have to keep a balance between your inhalation and exhalation length.
◾ While you are exhaling, you have to try tightening your vaginal muscles. Pretend you are tightening your vagina around a tampon.
◾ You will feel a tight contraction only in your pelvic muscles. You can keep your face, neck, and shoulder relaxed.
◾ You have to hold the pose for 5 to 8 seconds. After that release the position slowly.
🔹 I recommend doing the kegel exercise at least 20 times per day. You can increase the number once you have mastered the techniques.
8. Standing crunch:
Standing crunch is similar to the regular crunches you do. But this version of crunches is more beneficial, and it reduces the chance of hurting your neck or lower back. This is the safest and easiest abs workout while pregnant.
◾ Stand straight and keep your feet apart.
◾ Keep the hips straight and slightly bend your knees.
◾ Position your hands behind your head. Keep the elbows pointing to the sides.
◾ Tuck your pelvis by sucking in the belly button closer to the spine.
◾ Now slowly crunch your upper body downward squeezing the abdominal muscles. Exhale air while doing this step.
◾ Return to the normal position.
🔹 Do standing crunches around 15 to 20 repetitions.
🔹 If you face trouble balancing your body, do it by standing against a wall.
I think squat is the favourite workout for most gym enthusiasts. This exercise benefits the leg muscles and increases core strength. For pregnant women, the squats become a big help during the time of delivery.
◾ Stand straight keeping your feet slightly wider than your hips.
◾ Keep your toes pointed 20 to 30 degrees outward.
◾ Raise your arms and position them in front of your chest.
◾ Keep your eyes straight. Find a spot on the front wall for your comfort.
◾ Now slowly squat down and keep your eyes on the spot the entire time. You have to press your heels while squatting. Also, try keeping the shoulder, back, and abs in your control. This way, you can feel pressure on these points.
◾ Slowly go back to the normal position.
🔹 Do two sets of 15 repetitions each.
🔹 If you can not keep your balance, take help from your friend or partner while performing a squat.
🔹 After the second trimester, the exercise will be challenging for you. So, you can continue with one set if you want. Many pregnant women avoid this abs workout while pregnant.
10. Scissor kicks:
Scissor kick is a great abs workout while pregnant. It focuses on your lower back, quadriceps, and abs.
◾ Lie down on your back.
◾ Position your hands under your hips. Keep them as flat as possible.
◾ Try keeping your lower back as flat as you can on the floor.
◾ Slowly raise your left leg about 45 degrees up from the ground. Keep the leg straight.
◾ Now lower the left leg while raising the right one.
🔹 Try performing 3 sets of 10 scissor kicks. You can take rest between each set.
🔹 The workout is recommended for the first trimester only. Do not practice it if you are in the second or third trimester.
11. Cat cow pose:
Cat cow pose is a combination of two famous yoga positions. This exercise can strengthen your core muscle and give more body flexibility. Experts find this pose very helpful for pregnant women.
◾ Get down on the floor on your hands and knees. Make sure your wrists are directly under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
◾ In the beginning, keep your spine straight and abs engaged.
◾ Now start looking upwards at the roof and inhale air. You have to arch your back while doing this.
◾ While exhaling, tuck your chin towards the chest. Keep pulling the belly button inward your spine. You have to engage your abs too.
◾ Now keep doing the breathing exercise with the rhythm of your movements,
🔹 Never perform this exercise for more than 2 minutes.
12. Bird dog:
Bird dog is a form of stability exercise that is beneficial to a pregnant woman in many ways. Such as:
◾ It can strengthen and stabilize the core.
◾ It supports the lower back.
◾ This exercise helps to balance the body.
◾ Lie down on the yoga mat on your knees. Before starting, make sure your knees are directly under your hips, and your wrists are under your shoulders.
◾ Keep your spine straight and muscles around the abdomen tight.
◾ Start raising your right leg above from the ground and extend it in a straight line.
◾ Lift your left hand and put it in a straight line in front of you while doing the step above.
◾ Hold the position for some time.
◾ Slowly get back to the previous position.
◾ Repeat the same steps for your opposite side.
🔹 Take your doctor’s permission before doing this workout.
Other core exercises while pregnant
Here is a list of some more ab workouts you can practice during your pregnancy.
✔ Single heel drop
✔ Hip hiker
✔ No crunch crunches
✔ Heel slides
✔ Standing pelvic tilt
✔ Standing toe touches
✔ Side-lying leg lifts
✔ Prone stretch and tuck
✔ Farmer’s carry
Safe ab workouts for each trimester:
Doing workouts during your pregnancy can help you lose stress and ease tension. We can divide the whole pregnancy period into three categories. Such as:
🔸 First trimester
🔸 Second trimester
🔸 Third trimester
Performing core or abs exercise gets harder when you are in your second and third trimester. So, here I will give you a list of safe ab workouts according to the trimester.
Ab exercises during pregnancy in the first trimester
◾ Standing pelvic tilts
◾ Cat cow pose
◾ Seated pelvic tilts
◾ Single leg kickboards
◾ Bird dog pose
◾ Glute bridge
Ab exercises while pregnant second trimester
◾ Cat cow pose
◾ Side lift plank
◾ Adapted push-ups
◾ Side leg lift
Pregnancy workouts third trimester
◾ Glute bridge
◾ Seated stability with ball
◾ Bird dog
Ab exercises to avoid during pregnancy
I have mentioned almost all the abs workouts you can perform during your pregnancy. There are some types of exercises that you must avoid at that time. For example:
🔸 Crunches (after the first trimester)
🔸 Full sit-ups
🔸 Double leg lifts
Now many of you may ask me why I am telling you to avoid these workouts. Let me explain it to you.
Working on a full sit up or double leg lifts can put too much pressure on your abdominal. The extra weight can harm your growing baby. However, doing crunches after your first trimester may compress the vena cava. A compressed vena cava will transfer less blood to your body, which will be bad for you and your baby.
Also, you have to avoid any exercise that includes heavyweight or bending backwards. These types of workouts are tiring and can mess with your oxygen limit.
Before getting into any abs workout while pregnant, always consider your body limit. Consult with your practitioner or personal trainer while selecting the exercises.
What happens to your abs after delivery?
If you have an uncomplicated pregnancy and delivery, you can start working on your abs after 24 hours. But obviously, you would need your doctor’s permission to do that. On the other hand, if you have had a C-section delivery, you need to wait a few weeks before getting back on the tracks. Once your practitioner gives you a green signal, you can start abs workouts.
If you have a complicated pregnancy, you have to wait for several months before getting back to core exercises. In all cases, practice or perform the workouts under your trainer’s observation.
Now you know how you can continue working on your abs even during pregnancy. Try following each step carefully and make sure your doctor and trainer give their approvals.