Core Exercises For Pregnancy

Core exercises for pregnancy, my 5 favorites!

Core exercises for pregnancy are notoriously more and more difficult as your belly gets bigger and bigger. The things you’ve done in the past to work your core may not feel good anymore or you simply cannot do them because baby is in the way. So, how can you work your core during pregnancy? You just need to get creative.

Read below for my 5 favorite core exercises for pregnancy – all you can do right up to your delivery!

Bird Dog Crunch

How to:

Start in all fours position – wrists under shoulders, knees under hips. Perform your deep abdominal contraction. Reach your arm in front if you and opposite leg behind you. Think about creating a long straight line between your foot and your hand, reach as long as you can. Check in with your hip pointers, make sure they are pointing straight to the ground like to head lights. With this subtle correction, you will feel your outside hip of the leg on the ground work harder and your core will be more challenge. If you feel unstable, consider resting your foot gently on the ground for some balance support. To finish the move, drive your elbow and knee together rounding your back to perform a modified crunch. Reach your arm and leg long again, drive your elbow and knee together.

Why I love this exercise:

  1. All fours position challenges the core in a different way than traditional core work.
  2. Requires considerable balance and muscular control to do the exercise correctly. (If this feels easy, you might be “cheating” – check that your hips are pointing down, your wrist in under your shoulder, you leg and arm are a straight line.)
  3. Coordination of arms and legs with core movement (much harder than a simple crunch).
image of pregnant woman performing bird dog crunch exercise

Side Plank

How to:

Start on your side, anchor your elbow/forearm and knee into the ground creating a straight line from your knee to your shoulder. Extend one leg long to help with balance or bend both knees for an added challenge.

Side plank can be done many, many different ways. These two variations are what feel best for me at 38 weeks pregnant – you can scale this exercise for your own comfort at any time during pregnancy. To make it harder, bring both legs out straight; to make it easier, bring your elbow onto an elevated surface.

Why I love this exercise:

  1. The side plank position has the highest deep abdominal muscle (transverse abdominus) activity.
  2. Side planks are great if you are concerned about diastasis recti during or after pregnancy, you should not see any doming or tenting with this exercise. It is a great first step when you want to do core work but are fearful of DR.
  3. Excellent for shoulder strength as you must bear weight through your shoulder.
  4. Countless modifications and progressions!
Image of pregnant woman performing 2 variations of side plank

Paloff Press

How to:

Start with one foot anchoring a resistance band, holding the other end in your hands. You can also do this exercise by tying a knot and securing the knot in a doorway, using a cable machine at the gym, or asking a friend to hold the band during a partner workout. Your hips should start facing forward, your chest and head start facing your side. Rotate bringing your chest and head in line with your hips. Press the band out keeping that same ribs over hips alignment. Bring the band back to your chest, rotate your chest and head to the side again. Continue to maintain your hips facing forward.

Why I love this exercise:

  1. Not many core exercises incorporate rotation against resistance and then holding against a rotational force – this is a unique exercise aimed to train you in a different way! Score!
  2. You are easily able to vary the resistance based on the tension in the band.
  3. If doing the half kneeling position, your down hip requires considerable strength to perform properly.
Image of pregnant woman performing paloff press

Standing Same Side Crunch

How to:

Reach one leg to the side and same arm overhead. Drive elbow and arm together. Return to starting position.

Why I love this exercise:

  1. BALANCE! During pregnancy, your balance (proprioception) is significantly altered because of all the weight in the front. This one is a balance challenge – that challenges your core, hips, quads, calf, and foot muscles.
  2. Easy to perform when your belly is huge.
  3. Can add a light weight to hand for even more strength (for the lats and deltoid).
Image of woman performing standing sam side crunch

Standing Cross Body Crunch

How to:

Start with one arm overhead and the opposite leg reaching to the side. Drive elbow and knee together. Return to starting position.

**This one is a bit harder when your belly gets big but still doable (I’m 38 weeks pregnant in this photo).

Why I love this exercise:

  1. BALANCE! Again, balance is key during pregnancy! So many changes to the body and we often don’t even realize that balance is part of that. AND, you will need to train balance after pregnancy when you want to return to running, HIIT classes, or anything that requires standing on one leg.
Image of woman performing standing cross body crunch

Figuring out the right core exercises for pregnancy may take some tweaking and modifications for each mom. Don’t give up just because you have to try something different. Modify the above exercises however you want to make your core workouts continue through pregnancy! Just don’t expect a 6 pack of abs right now… that’d be kind of weird looking.

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