First off, congratulations mama! Being pregnant is an amazing journey, but it can be difficult at times. Not only are you dealing with many changes—both physically and emotionally—but it can be overwhelming when it comes to navigating your new body and finding a safe and effective prenatal workout routine. Trust me, I get it. Even as a trainer, I remember feeling this way at the beginning of my first pregnancy. No need to worry mama, because I’ve got you covered with some exercises to avoid during pregnancy.
I’ve learned how to create a supportive and empowering prenatal routine for mamas-to-be and ensure they know exactly what to avoid to keep themselves feeling good and injury-free. (Note: Every woman and pregnancy is different, which is why you should always consult your doctor regarding what’s right for your body.)
Here are my top exercises to avoid during all trimesters of pregnancy. And if you’re looking for inspiration when it comes to prenatal-friendly workouts, check out my free 19-minute prenatal sculpt with optional 1-pound weights. All you have to do is register!
Traditional Core Work
The fact is that all pregnant women are going to get diastasis recti (DR), or abdominal separation, to some degree during pregnancy. This is caused by an excess build-up of intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) due to a growing baby and uterus. As the uterus expands, the abdominals separate, and the linea alba thins and stretches, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
While it’s totally normal and natural, it’s important to know when this IAP increases so you can regress your ab work. The biggest sign to look out for is the “alien” or “torpedo” popping out of your belly. This additional pressure can make your DR worse, which can result in a longer, more difficult recovery postpartum. Here are the forms of traditional ab exercises to avoid:
- Forearm plank
- Plank-like moves, in general, will need to be regressed over the course of your pregnancy. When in doubt, drop to your knees!
- Lying on your back (crunches, leg lifts, v-ups, etc.)
- Tabletop (crunches, heel taps, leg extensions, etc.)
Lying on your belly positions
Even without a big belly in your first trimester, you’ll want to avoid lying on your belly in positions like prone and bow poses for obvious reasons!
Next up in the exercises to avoid during pregnancy revolves around spinal extensions. Think of upward dog, backward bends (wheel pose), and cobra pose. This goes back to the increased IAP I mentioned above. While it might feel fine initially in the first trimester, eventually as you get closer to the second trimester, you’ll either see that “alien” popping out or feel an intense tightness in your stomach during these exercises, and it will be your sign to remove them from your routine.
Dissociation of hips and shoulders
Examples are easy twists and any twisting positions in yoga or workouts where your hips and shoulders are not in alignment. Again, while this is fine to do in your first trimester, you’ll want to stop doing it once the second trimester hits. Why? It will add more IAP in your abdomen, which can worsen DR. The best option is to adjust the twist so your hips are in line with your shoulders.
Takeaway: If something doesn’t feel good, stop doing it and speak to your doctor as soon as possible. It’s better to be safe than sorry!