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Best Ab Workouts During Pregnancy [To Prevent A Pooch]

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Worried about doing ab exercises during pregnancy?

You’re definitely not alone!

Many expecting moms are unsure of what’s safe and what’s not when it comes to working their abs during pregnancy.

Diastasis Recti has become a hot topic in recent years and while this is mostly a good thing, it also comes with a lot of misunderstanding and fear. 

My hope is that by the end of this article, you will feel confident and excited to start incorporating these effective and safe core exercises into your prenatal workout routine.

Let’s start by debunking some common myths and misconceptions about ab exercises during pregnancy.

Common Myths About Ab Exercises During Pregnancy


Here are five misconceptions you have probably heard about your core during pregnancy.

Myth #1: It is unsafe to do any type of abdominal exercise during pregnancy.


This is probably the most common myth I hear.

It’s only natural to be a little cautious when it comes to working the very muscles that help support your growing baby. 

However, contrary to popular belief, prenatal exercise, including core strength training, is not only safe but recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in uncomplicated and healthy pregnancies. 

As long as you listen to your body and modify when needed, there are plenty of ab exercises that are perfectly safe during pregnancy.

In fact, many of these exercises can actually help alleviate common pregnancy discomforts like back pain, pelvic girdle pain, and round ligament pain.

Myth # 2: It’s not worth doing ab exercises during pregnancy because you’re just going to end up with a big belly anyway.


I’m sure you’ve heard this one before…

“Why bother working my abs during pregnancy when I’m just going to end up with a big belly anyway?

Even though you will inevitably gain some weight during pregnancy, that does not mean you have to let your abdominal muscles turn into mush.

In fact, keeping your abs strong during pregnancy acts as an internal corset or back brace prevent injury and ward off aches and pains.

Myth #3: You can’t do ab exercises after a certain point in your pregnancy.

As long as you’re feeling well and have the okay from your doctor, you can continue to do ab exercises until the end of your pregnancy.

Of course, as you get further along, you will need to make modifications to accommodate your baby bump.

But with this list of exercises, you can still keep your core strong right up until your due date.

Myth #4 You need to avoid all ab exercises if you have Diastasis Recti

I’m happy to report that this is another myth. 

Diastasis recti is a condition that occurs as a result of excess or abnormal stretching of the rectus abdominis muscles at the connective tissue called the “Linea Alba”.

If you already have diastasis recti, keeping your core strong during pregnancy can help minimize further stretching in subsequent pregnancies.

While it’s true that some ab exercises or movements can make this condition worse, there are still plenty of safe and effective exercises you can do to strengthen your core during pregnancy.

I’ll be sharing some of my favorite diastasis recti-safe ab exercises later on in this article. 

Myth #5- It’s impossible to get rid of my “mom pooch”


I’m sure you’ve seen countless articles and social media posts promising a “flat tummy after baby.”

While it is possible to get your pre-baby body back if that is your goal, it does takes time, dedication, and consistency. 

It took 9 months to grow another life, expect the same amount of time to heal your body.

That being said, there are certain exercises you can do during pregnancy that will help minimize the appearance of your mom pooch and make it easier to “bounce back” after baby if that is your goal.

Myth # 6 You shouldn’t do ab exercises if you’re pregnant with twins (or more)


There is no evidence to suggest that ab exercises are unsafe for moms carrying multiple babies.

In fact, many of the same precautions and modifications that apply to singleton pregnancies also apply to multiple pregnancies.

Of course, as with any pregnancy, it’s always a good idea to check with your healthcare provider before starting (or continuing) any type of exercise routine.

Now that we’ve debunked some of the most common myths about pregnancy ab exercises, let’s talk about how your abdominal muscles change during pregnancy.

Recap

1. Performing core exercises during pregnancy is not only safe, but recommended to prevent severe abdominal separation, back pain, pelvic pain and intcontinence.

2. You can continue doing core exercises up until the day you deliver as long as you feel well and have your doctors permission.

3. You do not need to avoid ab exercises during pregnancy if you have a preexisting diastasis recti. In fact, training your core and prevent it from worsening.

4. With the right exercises and knowledge, you are more than capable of reducing your “mom pooch” after pregnancy.

5. You can continue training your core during pregnancy even if you are carrying more than one baby.

What Are The “Ab” Muscles

The core is made up of about 29 different muscles that work together to:

  • protect organs
  • stabilize the spine and pelvis
  • maintain posture
  • give you the ability to do everyday movements such as getting out of bed in the morning or carrying groceries without falling over.

When people refer to the “ab muscles”, they are actually referring to four specific muscles.

These are the most superficial of the core muscles and give your core definition or a “flat stomach”.

Rectus Abdominis

Often referred to as the “6-pack muscles”.

These are the most superficial muscles on the abdominal wall and are responsible for spinal flexion such as a crunch or sitting up to get out of bed.

This pair of muscles runs vertically from ribs to tailbone and they are connected down the midline of your abdomen by a thin sheet of connective tissue.

Internal & External Obliques

These are often referred to as “Love Handles“.

They are located on each side of the rectus abdominis and run diagonally from the lower ribs to the hip bones.

These muscles help you twist and bend to the side.

Transverse Abdominis

These are your “corset muscles” because they have a “drawing in” effect when they are strengthened properly.

This is deepest abdominal muscle that wraps around your entire midsection like a corset.

This muscle is key for pelvic stabilization, anti-rotation movements and helping you maintain good posture. 

Recap

The core is made up of about 29 different muscles that work together however the “ab muscles” the most superficial core muscles that give the appearance of a “flat” or “toned” stomach.

Together, these muscles help you crunch forward, twist, bend side-to-side and prevent anti-rotation movements such as falling over when you carry groceries or a carseat on one side of your body.

When these core muscles lack coordination with one another, other muscles must compensate which can lead to things such as overuse injuries, incontinence and back pain.

What Happens To Your Abdominal Muscles During Pregnancy?


The combination of hormonal changes and the growth of the baby cause a stretching and weakening of the rectus abdominis (aka 6-pack muscles).

This stretching is possible due to a fibrous connective tissue called the, “Linea Alba”.

This tissue holds the two hemisphere’s of the rectus abdominis muscles together and as the baby grows, it stretches and thins out to make room for the baby.

pregnant mom looking down at her belly. she is wearing black and white striped sports bra and black leggings. next to her is a picture of abdominal separating during pregnancy

The degree of separation varies from woman to woman and can range from mild (less than two fingers width) to severe (more than four fingers width). 

Despite what you may have heard on social media or your Google search, this stretching and separation of the rectus muscles is completely normal and also not preventable. 

However, if there is excessive stretching of the connective tissue, you may develop a condition known as, “Diastasis Recti”. 

Recap

As your baby grows, the rectus abdominis muscles separate at the thin connective tissue called the “linea alba”.

This is not preventable but excess stretching can lead to a condition after pregnancy called “diastasis recti”.

What Is Diastasis Recti?


The misuse of a medical condition known as “diastasis recti” has provoked a lot of fear and confusion in moms.

Diastasis Recti is often the term used when someone is referring the “gap” or “hole” in the middle of their abdomen during or after pregnancy. 

And social media or Google will tell you that you can prevent it.

However, this is not entirely true.

Diastasis recti and abdominal separation are not entirely the same thing.

Abdominal separation is a normal and necessary part of pregnancy to accommodate your growing baby. 

Diastasis recti, on the other hand, is essentially an injury to the connective tissue (the linea alba) that connects the rectus abdominis muscles as a result of excess and/or abnormal abdominal separation during pregnancy. 

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While the degree of separation that leads to diastasis recti can be minimized with certain precautions during pregnancy, abdominal separation in itself is not preventable.

Recap

Diastasis recti and abdominal separation during pregnancy are not the same thing.

Diastasis recti occurs due to an injury to the linea alba a result of excess stretching of the rectus abdominis muscles during pregnancy.

Diastasis recti occurs when these muscles do not close on their own and rehabilitation exercises are needed to help heal the connective tissue.

Diastasis = an abnormal separation of body parts.

Recti= Plural for Rectus as in the rectus abdominal muscles.

Diastasis + Recti = Abnormal (degree of) separation of the abdominal muscles. 

How Can I Avoid Diastasis Recti During Pregnancy?


One Google search of, “How to prevent diastasis recti during pregnancy” and you’ll be bombarded with a ton of information that is often incorrect and or even harmful.

The truth is, there is no way to completely prevent diastasis recti during pregnancy because the muscles must separate to accommodate the growing baby. 

However, there are certain things that can be done to help minimize the degree of separation and maintain the integrity of the connective tissue and prevent excessive stretching. 

This includes:

Be cautious of weight gain

Excess weight gain is one of the most common contributing factors to diastasis recti. Gaining more weight than what is recommended for your specific body type and pregnancy can put added stress and pressure on the abdominal muscles, leading to a greater degree of stretch and separation. If you are unsure about how much weight you should gain during pregnancy, be sure to speak with your healthcare provider.

Support your belly

Wearing a supportive maternity band during pregnancy can help take the strain off of your lower back and provide added support to the abdominal muscles. You can also use a special Kinesiology tape to help provide support without being bulky.

pregnant mom showing how to use kinesiology tape to support her belly during pregnancy

Modify Exercises

Not all exercises are created equal during pregnancy, and some can actually make diastasis recti worse. Avoid any exercise that puts added strain on the abdominal wall such as sit-ups, double leg lifts, and crunches. Instead, opt for gentle core strengthening exercises that help support the integrity of the linea alba. (see below)

Avoid heavy lifting that your bod is not prepared for

Heavy lifting increases something called “intra-abdominal pressure”. If your core is not stronger enough to counter this excess pressure, it can cause excessive pressure on both the linea alba and the pelvic floor

Maintain an upright and straight posture:

Good posture helps prevent weak core muscles and helps take the strain off of your back. Avoid slouching, rounding your shoulders or standing with your belly sticking out. Instead, focus on keeping your shoulders back, your chin level with the ground, and engaging your deep abdominal muscles by pulling them up.

Don’t avoid core strengthening exercises

One the most effect ways to avoid diastasis recti is to stay active and keep your body strong, specifically your core. 

Recap

Despite what you have read on Google or social media, you can not prevent abdominal separation during pregnancy.

However, you can help minimize the degree of separation with certain precautions such as avoiding excess weight gain, proper lifting techniques and supportive belly bands.

What Ab Exercises Should I Avoid During Pregnancy?

This will vary from mom to mom.

However, there are a few movements and exercises that should be avoided as your baby bump grows.

These include sit-ups, double leg lifts, hanging leg raises and any exercise where you are lying on your back for extended periods of time.

These exercises can place too much pressure on the abdominal muscles and increase your risk of developing more sever separation.

Lying on you back for too long can cause you to feel dizzy, short of breath, nauseated and may even reduce blood flow to the uterus.

This is because the weight of the uterus can put too much pressure on the large vein, called the vena cava, that carries blood to the heart.

Now let’s get to the good stuff, the best ab exercises for pregnant women.

The Best Core Exercises For Pregnant Women


Now that we know what NOT to do, let’s talk about some of the best core exercises that you can do to keep your core strong and healthy during pregnancy.

These are generally very low impact exercises and incorporating them into your daily pregnancy routine will help provide the best support for your body, reduce common aches and pains and help you recover faster.

The first two exercises are the foundation for all prenatal and postnatal core exercises and will be used in conjunction with almost every exercise on this list.

Always consult with your healthcare provider prior to beginning or continuing any exercise program during pregnancy.

1. Diaphragmatic Breathing or Transverse Abdominis Breathing


As your baby grows and changes, so will your breathing patters.

These changes in breathing mechanics can place greater stress on the weekend abdominal muscles and the pelvic floor which can cause leaking and pain in your back or pelvic floor.

Simply learning how to breath correctly can make a world of difference for building a strong, functional core.

  • Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. You may also do this sitting on the edge of a chair or exercise ball.
  • Place one hand on your stomach and the other on your outer ribcage. Hand placement is important because it will help guide your breath.
  • Slowly inhale through your nose, allowing your ribcage to expand laterally against the hand that is resting on your ribcage.
  • As you continue taking a deep inhale, you should focus on allowing your pelvic floor and core to relax and expand.
  • Slowly begin exhaling, and “reversing” your breath. As your belly draws in and your rib cage sinks down, think about slowly contracting and lifting the pelvic floor muscles and engaging the core to press the air back up toward your ribcage.
  • Repeat for a total of at least ten breaths.

Exercise Tips

  • To get the most out of the relaxation benefits diaphragmatic breathing, inhale for 4 seconds and exhale for 8 seconds.
  • Close your eyes and visualize your pelvic floor opening like a flower blossoming and closing like you are lifting a blueberry with your pelvic floor.
Pregnant women sitting crossed legged with one hand over her chest and one hand on belly with eyes closed

2. Standing Pelvic Tilt


This is exercise is a great way to strengthen the core and prevent excess lordosis in the low back. It also helps to improve your posture and can be done almost anywhere.

  • Start by standing with your back against a wall and your feet shoulder-width apart. Your heels should be about 6-inches from the wall and maintain a slight bend in your knees.
  • Place your fingers in a diamond position around your belly button and imagine you are rolling a marble from the top of the diamond to the bottom by using your core muscles.
  • Inhale to relax you core and pelvic floor. Imagine the marble rolling to the bottom of your finger tips.
  • Slowly exhale while engaging your core to slowly tilt your pelvis under, so that your low back presses against the wall. Imagine rolling the marble to the tops of your thumbs
  • Hold for a count of five and on an inhale, slowly release the tilt and return to starting position.
  • This position with the marble at the top of your thumbs is what you want to be able to hold while performing other movements.

Exercise notes

  • If you struggle to feel your deep core muscles, you can place a small ball or pilates ball between your knees.
  • On your exhale, gently squeeze the ball between your knees as you tilt your pelvis. This will help activate your deep core muscles and pelvic floor.

Exercise Tips

  • Avoid arching your back or holding your breath.
  • Keep the movements small and controlled.
  • Think lifting your pelvic floor and drawing your navel up and slightly in.

3. Bird Dog and Reach and Curl


This is an excellent exercise to help improve posture, and spinal stability and help alleviate lower back pain.

  • Start in a tabletop position with your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees.
  • Inhale and on the exhale, engage your core and extend your right arm in front of you and your left leg straight behind you.
  • Maintain a flat back as you reach your arms and leg straight so that they are parallel to the floor. Avoid extending your arm and leg high than your back.
  • If your back begins to arch, lower your leg or rest your toes on the ground.
  • Hold for three slow counts then return to starting position. Repeat on the other side.

Exercise Tips

  • Use your core to prevent your hips from dropping side to side as you lift your arm and leg.
  • Engage your glute to hold your leg out straight.
  • Focus on preventing your lower back from arching as you extend your arm and leg.

Exercise progression

  • Once you feel strong and stable, perform a reach and curl.
  • On an exhale, slowly round your back as you use your core to draw your knee to elbow.
  • Inhale as you extend your arm and leg back so that they are parallel to the floor.
Safe ab exercises during pregnancy

4. Seated Knee Lifts on an Exercise Ball

  • Begin by sitting on an exercise ball with your feet flat on the ground and knees bent to 90 degrees.
  • Inhale and on the exhale, engage your core and slowly lift your right foot off the floor, using your abs to stabilize your body.
  • Hold for a count of two then slowly lower your foot to the ground.
  • Repeat on the left leg, alternating back and forth.

Exercise Notes:

  • The goal is to use your core to prevent movement in your hips. The instability of the exercise ball increases the involvement of the core muscles.
  • Focus on your breathing; inhale to relax the core and pelvic floor, and exhale to engage.

5. Seated Bicycles


This exercise is also done in a seated position and will strengthen your lower abs, hip flexors, and oblique muscles.

  • Begin by sitting tall on an exercise ball and place your hands behind your head. Keep your elbows facing out laterally to avoid pulling on your neck.
  • Engage your core and slowly lift your left foot off the floor while simultaneously rotating your body to bring your opposite shoulder toward your lifted knee.
  • Slowly lower and recenter then repeat on the opposite side.
  • Continue alternating back and forth for the duration of the exercise.

Exercise notes:

  • Avoid pulling on your neck as you twist.
  • Use your core to maintain your balance and prevent excess movement of the ball.
  • Focus on your breathing, inhale to relax the core and pelvic floor, and exhale to engage.

6. Side Plank or Modified Side Plank


Side plank is an excellent exercise for strengthening the obliques and the deep core muscles.

  • Begin by lying on your right side with your elbow bent and under your shoulder.
  • Stack your legs on top of one another and use your forearm to prop your upper body.
  • On an exhale, engage your core and slowly lift your hips off the floor, keeping your body in a straight line from head to toe. As you lift your hips, also think about lifting your pelvic floor
  • Hold for 5-8 seconds then slowly lower back to starting position.
  • Complete 3-4 repetitions and switch sides.

Exercise modification:

  • Bend your bottom knee or both knees for a more stable foundation.
  • Place a pilates ball between your knees. On an exhale, gently squeeze the ball to help “turn on” the TA muscles as you lift your hips up off the floor and press them slightly forward to get the maximum contraction of the obliques and TA muscles.
  • Use a chair for an incline side plank.

Exercise tips:

  • Focus on keeping your body in a straight line from head to toe.
  • Engage your obliques to help lift your hips and prevent them from sagging.
  • Avoid scrunching your shoulders to your ears by drawing your shoulder blades down your back.
  • Don’t hold your breath; exhale as you lift your hips off the floor, and inhale as you lower.

Related: How To Get Rid Of Love Handles During Pregnancy [5 Best Exercises]

7. Incline Plank (Modified Plank)


Traditional planks may be a no-go during pregnancy, but when done with certain modifications, they can be a great exercise to strengthen the core and relieve low back pain.

  • Begin by placing your palms on an elevated surface such as a kitchen counter, the edge of a couch, a chair or a workout bench.
  • On an exhale, engage your core and step back into a plank position with your body in a straight line from head to toe.
  • Press your hands firmly into the surface and draw your shoulders down away from your ears.
  • Engage your core and hold this position for 20-40.
  • Imagine hugging and lifting your baby with your core muscles.

Exercise Tips:

  • The incline takes some pressure off the core and low back while still allowing you to work your core muscles.
  • To make this exercise more challenging, lift one leg at a time or alternate lifting each arm while maintaining a level pelvis. If you lift your legs, avoid arching your back.

8. Elevated Shoulder Taps


The goal of this exercise is to use your core muscles to prevent your hips from shifting once you lift your hand from the surface.

  • From the elevated plank position, lift your right hand and slowly touch your left shoulder.
  • Place your hand back onto the surface and repeat with your left hand to right shoulder.
  • Continue alternating back and forth for the duration of the exercise.

Exercise Tips

  • If you struggle with maintaining your balance when you lift your hand, try taking a wider stance for a more stable foundation. As you get stronger, bring your feet closer together.

9. Elevated Mountain Climbers

  • Begin in the elevated plank position with your hands on a counter, chair or sturdy bench.
  • Engage your core and slowly drive your right knee toward your chest then step it back.
  • Repeat on the left side, alternating back and forth for the duration of the exercise.

10. Cat/Cow

  • Start on all fours with your wrists stacked over your shoulders and knees under your hips.
  • On an inhale, lower your belly toward the floor while simultaneously looking up toward the ceiling. Let your core and pelvic floor soften and focus on preventing your shoulders from scrunching up toward your ears.
  • As you exhale, slowly engage your core and imagine you are using your ab muscles to push your back up toward the sky. As you round your back, tuck your chin to your chest.
  • Continue alternating back and forth for the duration of the exercise.

Exercise Tips:


  • Avoid passively moving through the exercise by using your breath to guide your movements.
  • Do not hold your breath; exhale as you arch your spine, inhale as you round it.

11. Farmers Carry


This exercise works your core by stabilizing your body as you carry the weight. You will also get your heart pumping for some cardio.

  • Start by standing tall with a weight in each hand, palms facing your thighs.
  • Exhale to engage your core and keep your back straight. Avoid allowing your shoulders to rise up towards your ears.
  • Take about 15-20 steps in one direction then turn and walk back the other direction for 15-20 steps.
  • Carefully lower the weights to the ground, rest then repeat for 2-3 sets.

Exercise Tips


  • Chose a weight heavy enough to feel your core working but not so heavy that you cannot carry them for the duration of the exercise.

12. Suitcase Carry/Racked Suitcase Carry


This exercises mimics everyday tasks such as carrying a baby on your hip, a carseat or heavy groceries.
It helps strengthen the core to reduce back pain and improve both posture and balance.

  • Start by standing tall with feet hip-width apart and a dumbbell or kettle bell in your right hand. Rest your left hand resting by your side.
  • On an exhale, engage your core, pull your shoulder blades down your back to maintain an upright posture.
  • Begin walking forward while carrying the weight in one hand.
  • Take slow and controlled steps while focusing on maintaining a tight core and straight posture. Use your core to resist the pull for the weight in your right hand.
  • Continue walking for the duration of the exercise then repeat on the opposite side.

Exercise tips

  • Do not allow your body to twist or lean to one side as you walk.
  • To make this exercise more challenging, you can increase the weight of the dumbbell or kettlebell.
  • You can also bring the weight to shoulder height to give your core an extra challenge.

13. Seated Lean Backs


This is a great exercise to help improve mind-muscle connection to help you “feel” your core muscles working.

  • Begin by sitting on the edge of a chair, preferably without a back.
  • On an exhale, engage your core and slowly lean back as far as you can without losing core connection.
  • Only lean as far back as you can without experiencing pressure on the linea alba, pelvic floor or experience back discomfort or leaking.
  • Hold for 3-5 seconds and repeat.

Exercise progression:

  • If this exercise feels easy and you can maintain core engagement, try doing it on the floor. As you lean back, hold the position and slowly lift one foot at a time, alternating back and forth.

Exercise Tips

  • The activation and engagement of your transverse abdominis (corset muscles) and rectus abdominis (6-pack muscles) prevents you from falling backward.
  • If you are having trouble feeling your core muscles, place a small yoga ball between your knees and gently squeeze the ball as you lower. This helps to activate the TVA muscles.
  • If you have discomfort in your back, slightly crunch forward to round your back. This activates more of the rectus abdominis muscles.

14. Kneeling Lean Backs

  • Perform the same exercise as a seated lean back but on your knees.
    To keep your pelvis neutral, place your fingers in a diamond around your belly button.
  • On an exhale, engage the core and imagine rolling the marble toward the top of the diamond. Hold this position then slowly lower.

Exercise Tips:

  • If you feel any discomfort in your low back, try not leaning back as far and focus on better alignment.

15. Reverse Planks


This is a great exercise to improve posture, balance and mind-muscle connection with the transverse abdominis.

  • Begin by sitting on the floor with your legs extended straight in front of your body.
  • Place your palms on the ground sightly behind your hips.
  • On an exhale, engage your core and press through your palms to lift your hips and torso off the ground toward the ceiling.
  • Your body should form a straight line from your heals to your head.
  • Use your core to tilt your hip bones toward your chin and squeeze your glutes.
  • Hold for 15-30 seconds then slowly lower to the starting position.

Exercise tips:

  • Keep your gaze straight in front of you or slightly down to avoid straining your neck.
  • Your fingers can either be facing toward your body or behind you.
  • Draw your shoulder blades down and together to avoid scrunching in your neck.

16. Pallof Press


The Pallof press is an anti-rotation exercise that is great for developing a strong, stable core that can resist the forces of twisting and turning.

  • Begin by standing with your feet hip-width apart and holding the handles of an exercise band. You can also do this with a cable machine at the gym.
  • Place both hands in front of your chest and step away from the anchor point to create resistance on the band or cable.
  • On an exhale, engage your core and press the band or handle with both hands straight out in front of your body.
  • Use your core to resist the pull of the cable and not allowing your torso to rotate toward the anchor point.
  • Hold for 5-10 seconds then slowly bring the handles back toward your chest.
  • Complete all your reps then repeat on the other side.

Exercise Tips

  • If you are using an exercise band, start with a lighter resistance band then progress to a heavier one.
  • If you struggle to maintain balance, take a wider stance.
  • To make it more challenging, move your feet closer together to increase the amount of resistance on your core.

17. Table Top Zippers (aka Bear Hovers)


Finding and feeling your transverse abdominis muscles can take some practice.

It is a good idea to practice engaging the core in different positions and this is a great option to help improve mind-muscle connection.

  • Start on your hands and knees with your shoulders over your wrists and hips over your knees.
  • Keep a neutral spine and on an exhale, engage your core muscles and imagine zipping up your core from navel to rib cage as lift your knees about an inch off the ground.
  • Hold this position for 5-10 seconds then slowly lower back to the starting position.
  • Repeat for 12-15 reps

Exercise Tips

  • If you are having trouble feeling your transverse abdominis muscle, try placing a small yoga ball between your knees and gently squeeze the ball as you lift your knees off the ground.

18. Table Cross Body Pull


The goal of this exercise is to be able to use your core to prevent rotation in the hips when you add cross body movement to the bear hover exercise.


  • Begin in the table top position with a very light weight on the outside of your right hand.
  • Engage your core and reach your left hand under your body to grab the weight and drag it to the outside of your left hand.
  • If you feel any pressure or discomfort on the midline of your belly, try practicing the movement with no weight then gradually add weight. Even just a small can of soup can be enough.
  • Once the weight is on the outside of your left hand, relax and reengage your core, sweep your right hand under body and drag it back to your right side.
  • Continue alternating back and forth, focusing on keeping your hips level and not dipping side to side.

Exercise tips


  • To add a little challenge to this exercise, engage your core to lift your knees off the floor as you drag the weight. Only do this if you are able to maintain core engagement

19. Glute Bridge 

  • Being on your back with your feet flat on the ground. If you are in your second or third trimester, you can prop yourself up on a pillow for comfort. Place your knees shoulder width apart.
  • Place your hands in a diamond around your belly button and imagine using your core to roll a marble to the top of the diamond.
  • Engage your core (think rolling the marble) and press your heels through the floor while squeezing your glutes to peel one vertebrae off the floor at a time to lift your hips toward the ceiling.
  • Hold at the top for 5 seconds, then slowly lower.
  • Make sure to keep your core engaged through the entire movement to prevent hyperextending your hips or low back pain. 

Exercise Tips

  • If you feel this in your low back, your core is likely not supporting your back or you are over extending your hips. Reset the exercise and avoid lifting your hips too high. You body should form a straight line.
  • If you have a hard time feeling your transverse abdominals working during the glute bridge, place a pilates ball or pillow between your knees. Squeeze the ball as you lift your hips off the ground. This helps “turn on” the TVA muscles. 
Safe Prenatal exercises for butt

20. Glute Bridge with Adduction

  • Perform a glute bridge but place a resistance band around your knees.
  • As you lift your kips off the ground, slightly press your knees against the band. This helps strengthen your hips as well as strengthen your core to resist intra abdominal pressure.
    

21. Marching Glute Bridge

  • Start on your back with your feet flat on the ground, knees shoulder width apart. 
  • Engage your core (think pelvic tilt), press your heels through the floor while squeezing your glutes to lift your hips toward the ceiling. 
  • Now engage your right glute to keep your pelvis straight and lift your left foot off the ground and bring your knee toward your chest.
  • If you can’t keep your pelvis straight, only lift your foot as high as you can without movement. 
  • Lower your leg and repeat on the opposite side.
  • Continue marching back and forth for 30-45 seconds. 
  • Focus on keeping your core tight and opposite glute engaged as you bring your knee up.

22. Anti-Rotation Glute Bridge

  • Attach a resistance band to something sturdy.
  • See exercise set-up in image below. You can bring your hands to your chest if it is too difficult to hold your arms straight.
  • Lie on your back or slightly propped with your back on a pillow in a glute bridge position. Feet flat on the floor and knees at a 90 angle.
  • Inhale to relax core and pelvic floor.
  • On the exhale, engage your transverse muscles and lift your pelvic floor as you simultaneously lift your hips up toward the ceiling. 
  • Use your core muscles to resist the pull of the resistance band toward the anchor.
  • Inhale and slowly lower. 

23. Donkey Kicks

The focus of this exercise is on engaging you glute to lift your leg behind you while engaging your core to prevent arching your back.

  • Begin on your hands and knees in a table top position. 
  • Engage your core and gently lift your pelvic floor. 
  • With your core engaged, press your foot up toward the ceiling behind you while maintaining a 90 degree angle in you knee. 

Exercise Notes: 

  • If you feel any discomfort in your low back, begin by not lifting your leg as high. Once your core gets strong to maintain a flat back, you will be able to lift your leg a little higher.

24. Fire Hydrants

This exercises uses core engagement to prevent your pelvis from moving or arching your back.

  1. Being in the table top position with your shoulders over your wrists and knees over you ankles.
  2. On an exhale, engage your core and glute muscle to lift your left leg out and away from your body while keeping your knee bent at a 90-degree angle.
  3. Give your glute a little extra squeeze at the top then slowly lower.
  4. Repeat all reps before switching sides.

Exercise Tips

  • Can you move your leg without losing core engagement? That is the goal!
  • Keep your foot flexed and initiate the movement with your glute muscle.

25. Sumo Squat Crunch

This is a more advanced exercise. Make sure you are able to hold a pelvic tilt and keep your core engaged.

  • Begin standing in a sumo squat position with your feet slightly wider than hip width apart and toes pointing out.
  • Place your finger tips behind your head and bend your knees to lower int a squat position.
  • Focus on keeping your back straight and knees pressing out to prevent them from caving in.
  • Lower until your thighs are about parallel to the ground or slightly higher.
  • As you stand, lift your right foot off the ground to bring your knee toward your right elbow to perform a side crunch.
  • Lower your right leg and drop back into the sumo squat position. Repeat the side crunch on the left side.
  • Continue alternating back and forth for the duration of the exercise.

Exercise tips:

  • This exercise requires you to keep your core and glutes strong to maintain your balance. If you struggle with balance, perform all your reps on one side while holding onto something for support.
  • Focus on using your oblique muscles to bring your elbow and knees together.

26. Wall Squat With Pelvic Tilt

  • Begin in the standing pelvic tilt position
  • Engage your core and lower yourself into a squat position by walking your feet out and sinking your hips towards the floor.
  • Lower until your thighs are parallel to the ground or slightly higher.
  • Maintain this pelvic tilt by keeping your core engaged, your back pressing against the wall, glutes squeezed and breathing through your diaphragm.

Most Frequently Asked Questions About Core Training During Pregnancy


Below are some frequently asked questions about ab exercises during pregnancy.

What are the benefits of strong abs during pregnancy?

A strong core during pregnancy can mitigate some of this weakness caused by the stretching of the abdominal muscles and provide more support to reduce common complaints such as back pain or incontinence.

Related: How Do I Know If I Have Diastasis Recti After Pregnancy?

How often should I do ab exercises during pregnancy?


I recommend doing some sort of core engagement and breathing exercises daily or as often as possible.

Start with one or two exercises from each category per day and add more as you feel comfortable.

Remember, the key is to listen to your body and only do what feels good.

If an exercise doesn’t feel right, then don’t do it.

And always consult with your doctor before starting any new exercise program.

Will doing ab exercises during pregnancy harm my baby?


The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) states that in the absence of health complications, exercise during pregnancy is not only safe but recommended. This includes core exercises.

The most important thing is to listen to your body and only do what feels comfortable.

Is It Safe To Do Ab Exercises on Your Back During Pregnancy? 


It is recommended to avoid exercises in the supine position (lying on your back) for extended periods of time after the first trimester.

The weight of the uterus can put too much pressure on the vena cava. This is the large vein that carries blood to the heart.

This can cause you to feel dizzy, short of breath, nauseated and possibly reduce blood flow to the uterus. 

Can you do crunches during pregnancy? 


Sit-ups or crunches are generally not recommended during pregnancy as they can put too much pressure or strain on the connective tissue that supports the rectus abdominis muscles.

Are Planks Safe During Pregnancy


I would not recommend performing a traditional plank past your second trimester.

As your belly grows, you will need to modify the plank position by placing your hands on an elevated surface which helps to place less pressure on the abdominal wall.

The point in your pregnancy in which you should stop doing planks will vary based on your pre-pregnancy fitness level, how far along you are in your pregnancy, the number of pregnancies you have had, and if you have any medical complications. 

Related: Planks During Pregnancy: 10 Variations For Every Trimester

Final Thoughts on Ab Exercises During Pregnancy


So there you have it – a comprehensive guide to the best ab exercises during pregnancy.

I hope this article has helped remove any fear you have about exercising your core during pregnancy.

Maintaining core strength during pregnancy can help alleviate common pregnancy discomforts, improve your posture, decrease the likelihood of developing diastasis recti, may expedite your delivery and improve postpartum recovery

If you have any questions, I am only one email away!

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Rachel

Thursday 24th of December 2020

Hi Brooke,

I know this post is older so not sure if you are still responding to comments, but worth a shot! This is a fantastic post and I truly am so happy to have found it! I am pregnant with my first and luckily I found this early on. My question is, how often do you recommend doing this 6 workout series? I try to do the pelvic tilts once a day, but what about the rest?

Thanks! Rachel

Laura Zeno

Sunday 17th of January 2021

@Brooke Cavalla B.S.- Exercise Science. Pre/Postnatal Exercise Specialist,

Hi! The one exercise above - the reverse plank - this is ok to do pregnant? I thought the weight of the belly can sometimes suppress airflow if we are on our backs. First time pregnant and just want to be sure.

Brooke Cavalla B.S.- Exercise Science. Pre/Postnatal Exercise Specialist

Saturday 9th of January 2021

Hi Rachel! Yes, I am still responding to comments or even email if thats easier for you =) Congratulations on your pregnancy! I would recommend doing these exercises 2-3 times a week alone or as a warm up to other workouts. I am planning on updating this post very soon so be sure to keep your eye out for it =)

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