People often ask me what my workout routine looks like. My weekly pregnancy workout schedule actually doesn’t look that much different than my “normal” workout schedule except when it comes down to exercise selection and intensity! What follows is an ideal outline of my week but since getting pregnant (twice!) and now having a toddler to chase after, I am realistic that sometimes the plan needs to change. So, here are some guidelines and workout samples to help you structure your pregnancy workout schedule!
During pregnancy, I aim for 2-3 strength training sessions per week. The exercises I choose help strengthen the body’s major muscle groups with a special emphasis on exercises that either help my body adapt to the changes of pregnancy or to prepare my body for labor or postpartum life.
For example, I see that a lot of online pregnancy fitness programs avoid doing any core work during pregnancy. While I agree that there are a lot of core exercises that are not appropriate or safe for pregnant women to do, maintaining and building core strength during pregnancy is super important to help support the weight of your growing belly and to adapt to changes in the shape of your spine. Core strengthening during pregnancy can help prevent and alleviate back pain! Pregnant or not, your core is still your body’s main stabilization and force transfer center so taking care of it is extremely important!
In addition to pregnancy-specific core exercises, I also focus on building strength in my glutes, hips, legs, back, and arms. I will need to be strong in each of these areas to be prepared for labor and for breastfeeding and carrying babies, toddlers and all their stuff! Not to mention that having a strong body overall is essential to looking and feeling your best! I make sure each workout is full-body so that I am not missing a major muscle or muscle group if I am only able to do 2 workouts instead of 3.
Sample Strength Training Pregnancy Workout:
A1) 3×10 Barbell Box Squat
A2) 3×10 Single Arm Dumbbell Incline Bench Press (each arm)
B1) 3x 50m Dumbbell Farmer’s Carry
B2) 3×10 Single Leg Lateral Step Up Weighted with Dumbbells (each leg)
B3) 3×15 Side-Lying Banded Clamshell
Perform A1 and A2 as a circuit resting 30s between movements and 60s after a complete set of each for 3 sets total. The Perform circuit B following the same pattern. 30s between exercises and 60s after completing one set of each movement before starting back at B1. Don’t forget to warm-up thoroughly before your pregnancy strength training workout!
HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training. What?!? High-intensity during pregnancy???? Yes, you read that right. Of course, high-intensity is completely relative. High-intensity during pregnancy will be less intense than when you are not pregnant. Also, intensity level will vary from person to person depending on their fitness level. But, yes you can safely exercise with some intensity during pregnancy if you were doing so before you got pregnant! (If you are new to exercise, please stick to the moderate intensity cardio and strength training) And the best part about interval training is that there is rest built in! This is why I love interval training so much more than the moderate intensity cardio (more on this one next).
HIIT workouts consist of short bursts of intense exercise followed by a period of rest. The work/rest periods can vary in length and you can use many, many different exercises and pieces of equipment. For pregnancy HIIT workouts, I like to use a 1:1 work rest ratio most of the time. This means that you rest for the same amount of time that you worked. So, if I was going to do 30 second intervals of kettlebell swings I would rest for 30 seconds in between intervals. You can use bodyweight exercises, dumbbell exercises, kettlebell exercises, cardio equipment…the possibilities are endless!
Pregnancy HIIT workouts online need to be between 5-20 minutes in length. You can perform a HIIT workout on its own or after a strength training workout. If I am doing a HIIT workout on it’s own, I go for 15-20 minutes. If I am doing a quick HIIT workout after a strength training workout, I will keep my HIIT to 5-10 minutes.
Sample HIIT Pregnancy Workout:
30 seconds kb swings
30 seconds rest
30 seconds dumbbell pushpress
30 seconds rest
30 seconds reverse lunges
30 seconds rest
Repeat this sequence 4-6 times depending on how long of a pregnancy HIIT workout you desire! During the work periods your intensity level should be about a 7-8 on a scale of 1-10. It should be difficult to speak and you can’t sustain the activity for long (good thing you don’t have to!). During the rest, your breathing and heart rate should recover to about a 4-6 range. If you feel like you hear rate and breathing aren’t coming down enough during the rest, then experiment with the interval length by either shortening the work periods and/or lengthening the rest.
Moderate Intensity Cardio
Finally, comes the cardio…my least favorite hahahaha. But this one is just as important because it helps you develop a strong cardiovascular system which keeps you healthy and fit overall. Moderate intensity cardio is exactly how it sounds: cardiovascular exercise performed at moderate intensity. So, this type of exercise is less intense that our HIIT training and you will perform it for a longer duration of time: about 20-40 minutes. Aim for about 4-6 on a scale of 1-10 for intensity. You should be breathing heavy but feel like you can sustain the activity for a long time.
Pregnancy Cardio Options:
bodyweight and/or resistance training exercises performed with moderate load and intensity
Heart rates can be misleading during pregnancy which is why the ACOG no longer gives an absolute maximum heart rate guideline for exercising during pregnancy. But, if you are looking for a ballpark, your heart rate will probably be between 120-140 bpm during moderate intensity cardio. But, listening to how you feel (in other words the 4-6 out of 10 on the intensity scale) will be more accurate than just your heart rate for letting you know if you can push it more or need to back off.
If you are looking for more personalized help in designing your own pregnancy or postpartum weekly workout schedule, please contact me! I do in person and online training please visit my Training and Nutrition Services Section for more details!