Pregnancy Series: First Trimester Exercise

You’re pregnant! Woohoo – save the bubbly and drink the ginger ale 😉

Pregnancy is a crazy thing and can look different for everyone. When it comes to fitness, it is hard to know what you should be doing for your body. Is it healthy for you and the baby to continue your current fitness routine? Is this the time to start exercising?  What should I be doing?

In this series we are following along with and chronicling our Physical Therapist (and CEO), Tana’s journey through pregnancy to see how a PT approaches the physical change of pregnancy. Her biggest fitness-related tips include: 

  • Keep moving or get moving! Even if all you have the energy for is a walk or light stretching – stay active.
  • Yoga throughout the entire pregnancy.  Find a prenatal class or be sure to tell your yoga instructor you are pregnant so they can give you the appropriate modifications. Yoga has many benefits for mom and baby. 
  • It is so important that any activity you were doing prior to pregnancy is still happening with modifications as needed throughout pregnancy. This will help you through the pregnancy but more importantly with recovery. However, this is not the time to up the intensity of your workouts.
  • Body weight strength for the lower body is a great way to keep strength and mobility while ensuring you are not straining your low back or joints. 
  • Ask for help. This is a great time to enlist the help of a professional!

Now onto the first trimester… In the first trimester, Tana  is focusing on her core and hip strength.  As a PT, she has seen what the normal changes in posture pregnancy brings can do to these muscle groups. The curve in your back becomes more pronounced the farther along in the pregnancy you get (which makes sense since you are trying to balance the bump!).

Focusing on these muscles can help reduce the amount of pain you could experience later on, while also helping with the risk of diastis recti (where your abdominal muscles separate).

With these exercises, we are trying to prevent pain when you are further along in pregnancy. There does become a point in pregnancy where it becomes harder to treat pain once it starts as you cannot get into the positions necessary to address what’s causing the pain. If you are experiencing pain, we encourage you to check with both your doc and a physical therapist. Different exercises would be used to address pain. 


Single Leg Deadlift

Trains: stability, balance, and strength
Focus on keeping core braced and avoid arching low back. If you feel your hips opening to one side, double check that your core is braced.

  1. Start in a split stance with right knee soft and left leg back.
  2. Tip from the hips, keeping chest up and core braced.
  3. As you come back to standing, drive through your heel and squeeze your right butt cheek.
  4. Repeat other side. Do 8-10 reps on each leg.

* As your belly grows, your balance will change and hinging may become a little difficult – watch for second trimester exercises coming soon.



Trains: Glute and hip strength and mobility
Focus on isolating the hip motion with zero trunk movement

  1. Lay on your side with feet together, knees bent and pulled up towards hips. 
  2. Keeping feet together and hips stacked open your knees. Watch that your hips stay stacked – don’t roll top hip open. 
  3. Do 10 reps or so on each side. 


Reverse Lunge to Balance

Trains: Lower body strength and balance
Focus on  holding hips level while balancing

  1. Start in a lunge (split squat) stance. Front toes straight ahead, knee over ankle & pushed out to line up with middle toe, back leg bent (notice both knees are at or very close to 90 degree angle)
  2. Drive through front heel (use your butt!) to stand and pull back knee forward, thru, and up.
  3. Step leg back to start second rep or reset by placing foot on ground and then stepping back.
  4. Do 8-10 reps and then repeat other leg.

* This will challenge your balance  – use a sturdy object for support if needed – just be sure not to lean on it.


Supine Posterior Pelvic Tilt

Trains: core strength
Focus on using core muscles and not legs

  1. Lay on back, feet flat on floor. Hands can be behind your head or next to your torso.
  2. Draw your belly button in, tucking your pelvis in and tailbone under. Check that you aren’t clenching your butt cheeks.

* As you progress through your pregnancy, limit time spent on your back. This exercise can be done on all 4’s (table top position).

Remember it’s a good idea to talk to your doc about exercise and don’t push through pain – see a PT.