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Congrats mama! Whether you recently found out you’re expecting or are 30 weeks in, you’ve probably wondered how this new experience will impact your workout routine. Luckily, if you’re healthy and your doctor gives the OK, staying active is completely safe and even encouraged for the numerous benefits it provides both mom and baby. While there are certain moves that should be avoided (we’ll get into that later), exercising is a great way to relieve all those aches and pains that come along with being pregnant.

To help you get started, we teamed up with Brooke Cates, a pre- and post-natal exercise specialist and founder of The Bloom Method, to create a 30-minute pregnancy workout. As part of her signature BirthPREP series, this circuit includes 13 compound exercises you can safely do during each trimester, whether you’re barely showing or about to pop. “The circuit is designed to help you mentally and physically train for birth,” Cates explains, by taking you through varying stages of rest and fatigue using moves you already know and love...or tolerate.

As always, be sure to consult your doctor before starting any new exercise program. Once you’ve got the go-ahead, grab your favorite maternity leggings and follow the video below, then read on for everything you need to know about exercising while pregnant.

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1. Alternating Reverse Lunges

*Works your glutes, quads, hamstrings and core.

Stand with your feet hip-width apart and step your left leg back and down until your knee hovers just above the ground. Make sure your right knee is stacked directly on top of your ankle as your thigh parallels the ground. Step your left foot forward and switch sides, lunging back with your right leg and continue flowing through this movement.

2. Weighted Squat to Reverse Lunge to Curtsy Lunge (left leg)

*Works your glutes, quads, hamstrings, core, calves and abductors.

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart holding one dumbbell in each hand. Lower your hips down into a squat and stand. Step back with your right leg and lower down into a lunge. Rise up and tap your right toes back toward the starting position. Then cross your right leg behind your left for a curtsy lunge. This is one rep. Return to the starting position and repeat, working your left side the whole time.

3. Static Single Leg Lunge Hold & Pulse (left leg)

*Works your glutes, quads, hamstrings and core.

Step back with your right leg and lower down into a lunge. Hold this position and then slowly begin to pulse. Keep the movements small and controlled.

4. Lateral Lunge to Forward Lunge (left leg)

*Works your glutes, quads, hamstrings, abductors, adductors and core.

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Using your left leg, take a big step to the side and lower until your left thigh is parallel to the floor. Keeping your right leg straight, push back up through your left side to return to the starting position. Next, step forward with the left leg and lower down into a forward lunge. Return to the starting position and continue to flow through this movement.

5. Lateral Lunge to Forward Lunge (right leg)

*Works your glutes, quads, hamstrings, abductors, adductors and core.

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Using your right leg, take a big step to the side and lower until your right thigh is parallel to the floor. Keeping your left leg straight, push back up through your right side to return to the starting position. Next, step forward with the right leg and lower down into a forward lunge. Return to the starting position and continue to flow through this movement.

6. Weighted Squat to Reverse Lunge to Curtsy Lunge (right leg)

*Works your glutes, quads, hamstrings, core, calves and abductors.

Stand with feet hip-width apart, one dumbbell in each hand. Lower your hips down into a squat and stand. Step back with your left leg and lower down into a lunge. Rise up and tap your left toes back toward the starting position. Then cross your left leg behind your right for a curtsy lunge. This is one rep. Return to the starting position and repeat, working your right side the whole time.

7. Static Single Leg Lunge Hold & Pulse (right leg)

*Works your glutes, quads, hamstrings and core.

Step back with your left leg and lower down into a lunge. Hold this position and then slowly begin to pulse when instructed. Keep the movements small and controlled.

8. Weighted Small Arm Circles

*Works your shoulders, triceps and biceps.

Stand with your arms extended out laterally at shoulder height with your palms facing down. Begin to make small forward circles, keeping your elbows straight (but not locked). Reverse the circles when instructed, all while keeping your shoulders down and core engaged. Incorporate small dumbbells for an added challenge.

9. Traveling Shoulder Raises

*Works your deltoid, serrates anterior, traps and biceps.

Stand with your arms at your sides with two small dumbbells in each hand. Slowly lift the weights out to the side until your arms are parallel with the floor, palms facing down. Bring your arms together in front of your body and lower down to the starting position. Repeat this movement in the opposite direction, beginning with a front raise and ending in a lateral raise.

10. W Shoulder Presses

*Works your deltoid, triceps, traps and upper chest.

Stand with your arms up, elbows in toward your waist and hands by your shoulders in the shape of a W. With a small dumbbell in each hand, extend through your elbows to press the weights straight up above your head. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat.

11. Goal Post Rotations

*Works your rotator cuff.

Holding a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing out, bend your arms and lift bringing your elbows in line with your shoulders to form a goal post position. Rotate your arms down, keeping your wrists and elbows aligned until your forearm is parallel with the floor. Rotate back and repeat.

12. Squat with Upper Cuts

*Works your glutes, quads, hamstrings, core, deltoid and biceps.

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart holding one dumbbell in each hand. Lower your hips down into a squat. As you stand, drive one arm up across the body towards the opposite shoulder in an uppercut movement with your palms facing up. Return your arm and lower back down into a squat. As you stand, drive the opposite arm up and across into an uppercut movement. Return to the starting position and repeat.

13. Static Squat with Hammer Curls

*Works your biceps, glutes, quads and core.

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart holding one dumbbell in each hand. Lower your hips down into a squat and hold. With your elbows at your sides and palms facing in, curl up toward your shoulders and lower, slow and controlled. Continue with this movement maintaining the squat position.

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What are the benefits of exercising while pregnant?

There’s no denying that exercise during pregnancy can be wildly beneficial for both you and your baby (thanks, science!). Even if you’re new to the fitness world, there are a ton of reasons to start upping your activity, whether it’s with a weekly prenatal yoga class or a walk around the block. Exercise alone can help boost your mood, reduce stress and even improve your quality of sleep. It can also help lower blood pressure, which tends to rise during pregnancy, to ward off problems associated with preeclampsia and hypertension.

If you’re hoping for a safe and healthy delivery, exercise has also been proven to help reduce complications and improve placenta health. “Studies show that the placentas of moms who exercise regularly through early- and mid-pregnancy tend to grow faster and function better,” Cates tells us. This 2017 study by The BMJ also shows that physical activity during pregnancy decreased gestational weight gain and the risk of diabetes, as well as the odds of having an unplanned or emergency C-section. Working out will also help train your body for the marathon that is labor. “Exercise and labor elicit the same pain-relieving hormones,” Cates explains. “Training the body to become accustomed to these hormones while exercising means greater ability and organization during labor.” Did we mention it could also help speed up your postnatal recovery? Childbirth is no small feat but according to this 2000 study published in The Journal of Perinatal Education, the fitter you are, the faster you’ll recover.

Of course, the benefits of pregnancy workouts don’t end there. Research has shown that exercise also has a huge impact on the baby, including boosting cognitive function and heart health. “Babies of women who exercise during pregnancy have higher Apgar scores immediately upon birth,” Cates explains. The Apgar test checks five key factors of a newborn’s health including skin color, heart rate, reflexes, muscle tone and breathing rate. Research has also shown that prenatal exercise can promote accelerated neuromotor development in infants, thus improving their physical coordination. This 2019 study published by Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that the babies whose moms had exercised regularly had more advanced motor skills, especially in girls. They were better able to grip, roll over and control their head movements, the baby equivalent of a triathlon. Researchers also noted that these findings suggest that exercising during pregnancy could reduce the risk of childhood obesity.

Are there any conditions that make exercising while pregnant unsafe?

Certain medical conditions, including anemia, heart disease, placenta previa and incompetent cervix can rule out exercise as a safe option during pregnancy, so be sure to consult your doctor before trying anything new. If you are able to stay active during term, it’s important to listen to your body and adjust your movements as needed. Your pelvic floor muscles will especially be affected as they work overtime to support the weight of your growing baby. “Learning how to properly tap into your inner core system throughout pregnancy can drastically decrease your chances of pelvic floor injuries or diastasis recti,” Cates explains.

How often should I exercise while pregnant?

This will vary from woman to woman, but the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. That’s about 30 minutes a day for five days a week where you’re moving enough to get your heart rate up but aren’t completely out of breath.

If you’re unsure where to start, stick to the amount of exercise you were doing pre-pregnancy. “Pregnancy isn’t an ideal time to increase your output or push yourself harder than you were before,” Cates warns. For a previously active individual, she suggests exercising three to five days a week, including active rest days. “Your rest days can focus on mobility, yoga or even a gentle walk or hike.” If you weren’t active pre-baby, gradually test the waters with five minutes of low-intensity training each day, then slowly build up as you gain strength. And remember, cleaning the house or gardening can burn just as many calories as a walk around the block, so keep track of your daily activities and monitor your output and energy levels.

What are the best cardio and strength exercises I can do while pregnant?

Luckily, most of the cardio options you engaged in pre-pregnancy are OK to continue doing now (hear that, runners?). “Just remember that these activities will feel different and might require a new approach as your body changes,” Cates advises. If you’re looking for a new form of cardio, stick to something that’s high intensity but low impact, like stationary cycling. You’ll get your heart rate up while minimizing the stress on your body. It’s also a great way for beginners to dip their toes into the fitness world. You’ll be able to optimize your fitness and safely challenge yourself without the threat of injury. Other great low impact options? Swimming and water aerobics. Even if you weren’t a swimmer before, this activity can help improve blood circulation and strengthen muscles while reducing the overall stress on your back and spine. Just be mindful of your core during certain strokes, Cates advises, since some might require more activation than others.

If you’re a loyal gym rat who frequents the weight rack, most strength exercises are perfectly safe to continue while pregnant, as long as you’re cautious and can maintain control of the added weight. Squats, lunges and deadlifts are all fair game as well as hammer curls, shoulder presses and arm circles. “Some of my favorite areas to focus on throughout pregnancy are the glutes, core, upper and middle back, shoulders, chest and biceps,” Cates says. Resistance bands can also be a great addition, upping the ante on any bodyweight move. Just be sure to steer clear of activities that involve excessive jumping as well as any movement that places too much demand on your abdomen (see ya, sit-ups). If you experience any unusual changes, like chest pain, dizziness, headaches, muscle weakness or vaginal bleeding, stop exercising and give your doctor a call.

Will my energy levels change during pregnancy?

As your body adjusts and hormones go haywire, you may notice that you’re more tired than usual (like, can-barely-keep-your-eyes-open kind of tired). And while it’s totally normal, especially in your first and third trimester, it can be debilitating. The best thing you can do is listen to your body. If you’re not feeling up for a run that day, skip it and try for a walk the following morning. Your energy levels are bound to change (you’re creating life!) and each day will be different. Luckily, these levels often shift in the early stages of the second trimester and you’ll be able to engage in more physical activity as you enter the fourth month.

Are there any exercises I should avoid while pregnant?

Anything that focuses too heavily on the core should be avoided. Cates suggests avoiding exercises like crunches, side crunches that target the obliques and any twisting movements like Russian twists or hip dips. Frontal planks should also be avoided once you can no longer manage the pressure on your abdomen. Activities that require excessive jumping, bouncing or jerky movements are also a no-go as well as any high-altitude or high-contact sports. After your first trimester, you’ll also want to avoid anything that involves lying flat on your back for an extended period of time, since the weight of your uterus could compress blood flow to you and your baby.

Another thing to be mindful of is your flexibility. Relaxin is a hormone that’s produced by the ovaries and placenta and is at an all-time high during your first trimester. To prep you for labor (as well as your growing belly) it’s responsible for relaxing the ligaments in your pelvis as well as inhibiting contractions in the uterus to prevent premature childbirth. The effects, however, don’t stop there as other ligaments in the body are also loosened resulting in more flexibility from head to toe. Because of this, injury caused by overstretching is a definite concern. “Be mindful of how deep you’re holding a stretch,” Cates warns. “Try to stay within a similar range of motion as you were pre-pregnancy or even back off just a hint to protect yourself.” Though flexibility workouts, like yoga, are great options for expecting moms, Cates suggests being mindful of your core and pelvic floor activation as well as avoiding backbends since they place extra pressure on the connective tissue along your abdominal midline.

Above all else, listen to your body, drink plenty of water, modify the movements as needed and then bookmark this mommy-and-me workout for when your new family member arrives.

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