Are you a soon-to-be mama looking for ways to stay active? But need it to be quick? Our mommy blogger and Pilates instructor Morgan gave us a perfect and quick 15 minute prenatal workout that will have you feeling strong in no time.
Are you ready? This quick 15 minute prenatal workout is packed full of effective, safe and energizing exercises. I highly recommend that you learn these movements and use them often. Have less time? Break it up. More time? Make this a circuit workout and repeat once or twice if you are feelin’ fancy. (Sneak in some exercise snacks when you can.)
It’s worth noting that the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week (think brisk walk) for a healthy pregnancy. They also recommend pregnant women avoid exercises that involve lying on their back. The following exercises, when performed frequently, cover your bases.
Also, it never hurts to talk to your doctor about recommendations at any point during pregnancy. Something feels funny? Ask about it!
When I became the lucky winner of many (many) Braxton Hicks contractions during my pregnancy, I had to become even more selective with exercise choices. Per my doctor’s orders, I slowed down and got off my feet more often … this was not easy as a fitness instructor by trade. So this routine is boiled down to manage the energy you do have with the benefit of your workout routine.
At some point, the third trimester will hit, and wham, you have to really slow down. Choose effective movements with smooth transitions between exercises. This matters when you start to feel as big as a house! This quick workout will give you some solid bang for your buck during any trimester.
Cat/Cow Hands on Knees (At Least 5x)
Stand with feet as wide as comfortable. Place hands on knees with elbows out to the sides. Press hands down as you round your low back to the ceiling (angry cat). Press hands down, slide shoulder blades down and together, lift chest up and stick tail out. This is less about your lower back and more about lifting your chest. Work for fluid movement throughout the spine. Try performing this movement from the navel down and keep the upper spine elongated. This works wonders for your pelvis.
Squats (Aim for 10–20x)
This is the “mack daddy” of prenatal exercises. If you only do one of these exercises—let it be this. Stand feet wider than hips, slightly turned out (think 10 and 2). Keeping heels on the floor, lower your hips as low as possible while lifting your chest up. Inhale down and exhale up. This helps promote healthy pelvic floor function. The lower you go, the more stretch you get. Ride the rhythm of your breath.
Push Ups on Wall or Countertop (Aim for 15–30x)
Walk feet back and lift heels up to a plank position. Choose a hand placement (tricep push ups or regular ole push ups). Inhale as you lower and exhale to lift. Bring hips and baby along for the ride. Focus on slow, resisted movement in the arms, shoulders and shoulder blade muscles.
Lunges (Aim for 10x or More Each Leg)
Step feet into a lunge stance—perhaps lightly holding a counter or chair. Bend both knees into 90 degree angles, stand up, straighten back leg and squeeze bum. Lift abdominals in and up, and attempt for a light stretch for the hip flexors on the back leg.
Note: If lunges (or any motion) cause pubic bone pain, stick with squats or motions that involve symmetry in the legs. This can be indicative of a pubic symphysis dysfunction you will want to discuss with your doctor.
Single Leg Balance (Duration Exercise; Find Muscle Fatigue)
Stand on one leg. It doesn’t matter what you do with the other one, but press the floor down and pull abdominals in and up. Stand on that leg until you feel the muscles of your feet and hips working with intensity. This helps promote posture, foot, knee and hip health.
All 4’s Hip Circles (Until Things Feel Better)
Come down to all fours and circle hips around. Add any cat/cow motions that feel good. Play around with wrist and hand positioning. Add in a little opposite arm and leg extension. (Maybe just one arm; maybe just one leg.) Sit on one hip to transition to the next exercise.
Seated Pelvic Tilt (At Least 5–8x)
Press elbows into the floor and lift chest up. Curl tailbone to the sky and round low back on an exhale. Inhale and point tailbone to the floor, press the floor down and open your chest up to the sky. Sit on one hip and flip over to face up for the next exercise.
Reverse Plank Bridge/Triceps (Aim for 3–6x with a 5–10 second hold)
Place feet flat on the floor as wide as needed with hands on the floor behind your back (fingers forward or on knuckles if wrists are sensitive). Press hips up to the ceiling (think reverse push up position). Use arms, legs and bum with equal force. Bonus: This is a great vantage point to see how big your belly is getting (Shocking isn’t it?).
Modified Side Plank (Aim for 3–6x with a 5–10 second hold)
Sit on one hip with your elbow/forearm on the floor. With knees bent, press the floor down with elbow and shins, lift hips up. You can use your free hand for support. Any variation of side plank will do. This will often be a trimester dependent modification for balance and control. Do the same thing on both sides. Roll sideways to set up for the next exercise.
Butterfly Breathing with Kegel or Perineal Bulge (Aim for 10 Breaths)
Sit in a butterfly position. (You should do this during most of your pregnancy.) Inhale to relax pelvic floor, and exhale to Kegel. This helps connect you to your little wiggle worm, as well as your abdominals and deep core. During the last few weeks of pregnancy, trade out the Kegel for a perineal bulge technique. This helps prepare you and your breath to push. Watch this perineal bulge video from UT Southwestern for more information.
Fold Over For Triceps and Shoulder Blades (Duration Exercise; Find Muscle Fatigue)
Stand with feet hip distance apart, hinging at hips with a long spine. Do this in front of a mirror and make sure the tail isn’t tucked under and your upper back and neck are long on a diagonal line. With an open chest, lift straight arms up and back with as much muscular contraction around the shoulder blades, shoulders and triceps. Keep elbows straight. With resistance, lift and lower arms two inches up and down. Try and clap your hands together. Lift and lower arms slightly.
Malasana (At Least 3 Breaths)
Deep squat, elbows inside of knees, hands to prayer. Lift chest up, drop tail down, press thighs back and breathe as deeply down into the pelvis and hips as you can.
That’s it! You made it! Now you’re free to stand upright and go about your day. (You may opt to add a few more squats here as a nice bookend to your workout.)
Finally, I want to give a huge thank you to Kari, my beautiful friend, student and colleague pictured here at 32 weeks pregnant.
Good luck mamas!
Morgan Palmer Bolton has taught Pilates and fitness since 2008 for major industry leaders in New York, London and Dallas, including Equinox, Flywheel Sports, Physique 57 and Barrecore in the UK. She holds a BFA in Dance Performance from Southern Methodist University and is a PMA-CPT certified Pilates instructor. She is currently teaching classical Pilates at Pilates Methodology in Uptown Dallas, and is also an adjunct lecturer for the Division of Dance at SMU. Morgan is currently in the process to become a Lead Trainer for the esteemed Real Pilates Teacher Training program created by Alycea Ungaro out of New York City. You can reach Morgan through her website www.abeautifulstep.com and Instagram @abeautifulstep and @iammorganpb.
Photos courtesy of Morgan Palmer Bolton.