home exercises pregnant

10 Exercises you can do at home when pregnant

What a bizarre world we’re currently living in! For women who are pregnant, this can be a particularly emotional and stressful time. Taking some time for your own mental and physical health is very important and for most, this should include exercising. With current restrictions making daily exercise more challenging, we’ve put together a list of home exercises that are safe when pregnant.

Staying active is important during pregnancy

Finding ways to stay active during your pregnancy is important, both for you and your baby’s health. If you’re in lockdown, you may have found that your fitness routine has been impacted. Or perhaps you find yourself with some extra time on your hands and you want to start some new healthy habits! This blog will focus on some resistance training exercises that are safe for you to do while pregnant and can be easily done from home.

Before we dive in, there are a few tips and a little housekeeping to get out of the way…

Don’t hold your breath

While completing resistance training, avoid holding your breath. It’s recommended that you exhale when your muscles are contracting and inhale when they are relaxing. For example: when squatting – when you lower down into the squat, inhale. When you stand up, exhale.

Just remember, the most important thing is to breathe – so just go with whatever breath sequence works best for you!

Find the right intensity for you

We’re all different, and we all have good and bad days. For this reason, all of these exercises can be regressed or progressed. If you don’t have very much experience, take a few weeks to learn how to do the movements. Make sure you focus on the muscles that are working and squeeeeeeze as much as you can!

As you become more confidence with the movement you can progress in a few different ways:

  • Increasing repetitions: once you get to about 15, you can think about progressing the weight, slightly
  • Increasing weight: increase the weight so that you can only complete 8 repetitions, while maintaining great form. How can you add weight when I have no gym equipment?! Here are some creative ideas:
    • Soup cans
    • Filled water bottles
    • A backpack filled with books
  • Increase “time under tension”: this means…slow down. Increase the amount of time it takes to complete one repetition – yes, this will “burn” but that’s what we’re aiming for!
  • Reduce your resting time between sets: you might reduce your rest time from 90 seconds to 60 or 30 seconds. This will also challenge your endurance!

 

Learn more: Free home workout videos for all ages and fitness levels!

 

Listen to your body

If you only have 10 minutes to do a bit of exercise, just pick a few exercises to complete. Choose one or two for your upper body and one or two for your lower body! Also include your pelvic floor exercises.

You don’t need to make exercise complicated and shouldn’t feel guilty if you don’t have time or are just not “feeling” it. Again, these are strange times so if you are feeling more emotionally exhausted than usual, be kind to yourself. Move your body to celebrate what it can do and don’t feel ashamed if that isn’t up to your usual standards!

On the other hand, if you’re bursting with energy, add a few more exercises to your session. You can choose to either focus only on lower body or upper body during a single session or you can do a full body workout.

Resistance exercises for pregnancy

Now, here are some fantastic home exercises for you to try! Complete 2-3 sets of each.

1. Sit to stand
  • Place a chair behind you – make sure it is stable and isn’t going to move!
  • Take a small step away from your chair. Start with your feet slightly wider than hip width apart. You can adjust your stance to what feels most comfortable to you. Toes can point straight ahead or slightly out, again, depending on what is comfortable to you.
  • Keeping shoulders relaxed, put your arms out in front of you as a counter balance.
  • Start the movement by moving your hips back, reaching for the chair with your bottom.
  • Slowly bend your knees until your bottom touches the chair – don’t rest you weight on it. Just touch slightly.
  • When you stand up, push through your heels and squeeze your glutes (bottom muscle) at the top of the movement.
  • You should feel your glutes and thighs working.
  • Repeat for 8-10 repetitions.
  • Regression: Add a cushion to your seat so you don’t have to squat down so far.
  • Progression: Increase repetitions or use backpack filled with books as weight.

2. Static lunge

NOTE: If you have any pelvic girdle pain, avoid this exercise.

  • Use something to help steady you, such as a counter top or wall.
  • Take a big step forward, while keeping your feet as wide apart as your hips. You don’t want a narrow stance because it will make you unbalanced.
  • Your front leg will be doing a bit more work and your back leg will act as a stabiliser.
  • Dip your back knee towards the floor, while keeping your body nice and tall – no leaning forwards!
  • Press into the lead leg’s heel as you stand back up. Stay in your stance and lower back down immediately.
  • You should feel your glutes and thighs working.
  • Repeat for 8-10 repetitions. Switch feet position and repeat on other side!
  • Regression: Reduce the amount you drop your knee to the ground. A smaller range of motion will make this easier so you can focus on really squeezing your muscles through the movement.
  • Progression: Increase repetitions or use a backpack filled with books as weight.

lunge

3. Kick backs
  • Stand facing your counter or a wall for support.
  • Turn your tummy muscles on and do a pelvic tilt. This means tuck your tailbone under!
  • Squeeze your glute (bottom muscle) and with a straight leg, extend your leg back away from the wall.
  • This is a very small movement – too much as you will start to use your lower back. We just want to focus on using your glute muscles for this exercise!
  • Return to the start position and repeat for 10-12 repetitions. Then switch legs and repeat.
  • Regression: reduce the number of repetitions.
  • Progression: hold the squeeze for 3 seconds before releasing your leg to the start position.

kick back

4. Side lying leg raise
  • Place a yoga mat or towel on the floor for comfort. You can also perform on your bed, if easier!
  • Lie on your side and bend your bottom knee slightly, for stability. Roll forward just a bit so your top hip bone is slightly in front of the bottom hip bone.
  • Slowly raise your top leg, while keeping the knee straight. Squeeze your glute muscle, then slowly lower back down.
  • Repeat for 12-15 repetitions. Then flip to the other side and repeat with other leg.
  • Regression: do the same movement, but standing up (so you won’t be working against gravity).
  • Progression: hold the position for 3 seconds before slowly lowering back to the start position.

side raise

5. Hip thrust
  • You can do this off the edge of your couch or bed (couch is a bit better!)
  • Rest your mid back off the edge of the couch, with your feet out in front and knees bent. You can use your forearms to support your while you set your feet up.
  • Do a pelvic tilt then press through your heels and thrust your hips up to the ceiling.
  • Slowly lower back to the start position.
  • You should feel your glutes and the backs of your legs working. If you mainly feel your thighs working, think about pushing through your heels more when raising your hips!
  • Repeat for 8-10 repetitions.
  • Regression: Reduce the number of repetitions or how much you raise your hips (smaller range of motion will be easier).
  • Progression: Increase the number of repetitions or slightly stagger your feet (the foot closer to your bottom will be doing more work – make sure you switch feet position so both sides get a workout!)

hip thrust

6. Raised push-ups
  • Using a counter top, stand about 1m away. Place hands on the counter, shoulder width apart.
  • Start by doing a pelvic tilt and keep your glute muscles turned on through the push-up movement.
  • Keeping your elbows as close to your body as is comfortable, slowly lower your chest to the counter top. Then, push back to the starting position.
  • You should feel your chest muscles working on the way up and back muscles working on the way down.
  • Repeat for 8-10 reps.
  • Regression: Stand closer to the counter or perform against a wall.
  • Progression: Use a lower surface to push from, such as your bed or couch.

pushup

7. Wall slides/snow angels
  • With your back to a wall, stand about 30cm away it. Now lean against the wall.
  • Keep your arms by your side and with elbows against the wall, bend your elbows 90 degrees. Your wrists and the back of your hands should be flat against the wall.
  • Keeping elbows bent and wrists touching the wall (as best you can), slide your arms up the wall.
  • Raise them until your upper arm is parallel to the floor then slowly lower back to starting position.
  • Avoid arching your lower back, try to keep in it a neutral position.
  • You should feel your mid back muscles working.
  • Repeat for 10-12 repetitions.
  • Regression: Reduce the range of motion (don’t lift your arms so high).
  • Progression: Increase the number of repetitions or hold soup cans as weight.

wall angles

8. 4 -point arm raises
  • You can do this exercise on the floor using a towel and yoga mat or on your bed (if you use your bed, you’ll challenge your stability a bit more!).
  • Get onto your hands and knees and turn your tummy muscles on to help you stabilise.
  • Keeping your shoulders away from your ears, slowly raise one arm out in front of you. Keep your elbow straight and have your thumbs pointing to the ceiling.
  • You should feel like you are trying to stretch your fingers out so they can touch the nearest wall, without moving your body.
  • Slowly lower it back down.
  • You should feel your core muscles working to stabilise you and your back muscles working to raising your arm.
  • Repeat for 10-12 repetitions. Then switch arms and repeat on other side.
  • Regression: Reduce the number of repetitions.
  • Progression: Increase repetitions or hold soup cans as weight.

four point

9. Arm circles
  • Stand tall and keep your shoulders away from your ears during this exercise.
  • Raise both of your arms out to the side so they are parallel to the ground. Elbows need to stay straight.
  • Make small circles with your hands – forwards for 20 repetitions then backwards for 20 repetitions.
  • You should feel your shoulder muscles working and mid back muscles working to help stabilise.
  • Regression: Reduce the number of repetitions.
  • Progression: Increase repetitions or hold soup cans as weight.

Arm circles

10. Pelvic floor breathing exercise
  • Get in a relaxed seated position with legs uncrossed.
  • Place one hand on your chest on one hand on your stomach.
  • As you breathe in, feel you stomach and chest expand and your perineum relax.
  • As you breathe out, your rib cage and stomach will drop. Start to think about lifting your pelvic floor upwards. You will feel like you are pulling the walls of your vagina and anus inwards and upwards.
  • You can do one big squeeze first to make sure you are feeling the contraction, then only squeeze at 30% for the next 8-10 repetitions.
  • Make sure you take your time with each repetition – inhale for at least 4 seconds and exhale for at least 4 seconds.

pelvic floor

Getting the right advice

Most women are encouraged to participate in physical activity throughout pregnancy. However, there are some women who have conditions or circumstances that may need to be considered before they start an exercise program.

If you have a high-risk pregnancy (older maternal age, pre-existing health conditions, multiple births etc) or would like more guidance on how to exercise safely, it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment to see an Accredited Exercise Physiologist. There are some Accredited Exercise Physiologists who specialise in women’s health and many are starting to offer telehealth services online. To find one near you, click here.

Learn more: Free home workout videos for all ages and fitness levels!

read more blogs

Written by Julianna Dreger. Julianna is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist and research assistant who is passionate about women’s health.