Prenatal Core Workout (safe ab exercises for all 3 trimesters)

Hi Beauties!

Today is the official kickoff of the Prenatal Pilates Series: a 5 week series for a strong, healthy pregnancy.

We’re kicking things off with a safe, effective core workout because I’ve found that “ab exercises” are the most misunderstood when it comes to pregnancy and the postpartum period.

I can’t even begin to tell you how many misconceptions there are out there. I’ve heard everything from “it’s not safe to do ab work while pregnant” to “you can do all ab exercises during pregnancy.”

One search on Youtube will pull up a wide range of “pregnancy safe” ab workouts – many of which I would strongly disagree with.

So let’s set the record straight shall we?

Is ab work safe during pregnancy?

Absolutely! It’s smart and important to incorporate exercises that strengthen the abdominal muscles into your routine while pregnant. But rather than just focusing on the abs, it’s important to focus on “the core” as whole which includes the pelvic floor, gluts, back, hip flexors and other accessory muscles that affect the stability of the entire body.

Are ALL ab exercises safe during pregnancy?

No. After the first trimester I recommend avoiding exercises that include lying on your back and flexing the spine forward (i.e. sit ups, crunches, the hundred, etc.).

I also recommend skipping anything that puts too much pressure on the abdominal wall – so this will vary from person to person. Someone who is experienced in Pilates and in-tune with how to properly engage the “TA” may feel more comfortable with certain exercises while someone who does not have a lot of core strength to begin with or isn’t experienced in activating specific muscle groups may end up doing more harm than good.

The plank is a perfect example: I do planks throughout my pregnancy but make sure to focus on the pelvic floor and “TA” working together to support my baby and lower back. If I wasn’t sure how to do that effectively there is a good chance that I would allow my lower back to sway, push forward in my abs (increasing the risk of Diastasis Recti) and completely ignore role of the pelvic floor.

So that being said, not all ab exercises are safe during pregnancy and the recommendations vary woman to woman.

As a general rule, avoid exercises that mimic a “crunching” motion and anything that pushes you to the point of strain or loss of control. When in doubt keep movements small and controlled.

What kind of ab work is best during pregnancy?

With myself and my clients I focus on core stability. Exercises that challenge the stability of the core as a whole are fantastic for pregnancy. This can be as simple as sitting upright in a chair and practicing “cinching the waist”, drawing in from 360 degrees and lifting the pelvic floor to more advanced exercises such as using a light spring on a moving reformer carriage.

How will core work help me during pregnancy?

In so many ways! Maintaining/building a strong core during pregnancy will help you to avoid back pain, hip pain, sciatica, and pelvic floor issues throughout your 9 months. During labor and delivery it will provide you with strength and stamina to endure the contractions and deliver your baby with more ease. In addition, you’ll likely have a quicker, easier recovery….who doesn’t want that? 🙂

In conclusion, strengthening your core may be one of the most important things you do during your pregnancy to encourage a healthy pregnancy, labor, delivery and recovery.

So without further ado, let’s dive into this week’s workout…

Prenatal Core Strength (safe ab exercises for all 3 trimesters)

If you are unable to view the embedded video above please click here.

Questions about today’s prenatal core workout? Post them in the comments! 🙂



PS – I would love for you to share this post with friends who are expecting or hope to be soon!

PPS – You may also enjoy Pilates & Diastasis Recti (a must-read for the postpartum period) and how to exercise with a baby.

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  1. Ariel 6 years ago

    Hey! I LOVED the first workout!!! I super excited to continue with these the next five weeks. How many times a week do you recommend doing this first workout?

    Congrats on the new baby!!!

    • Robin Long 6 years ago

      Hi Ariel! Glad you enjoyed it. If you are not used to exercising much I would recommend doing this video 3x per week. If you are used to exercise and you don’t feel too sore or tired after doing it I’d aim for 4-5x. That being said, if you feel good it is also safe to do every day! 🙂

  2. Emma 6 years ago

    Hi Robin!
    Thank you so much for making these, I’m so excited to follow your routines for the next 5 weeks. I loved the core work in the video! Do you have any other prenatal plans to follow? In addition to walking everyday I plan on doing yoga and pilates throughout my entire pregnancy and your program is the 1st one i’ve found that I really like. Thanks for everything!

  3. Kim T 6 years ago

    I loved this workout, thank you! I’ve been doing your first prenatal program through my pregnancy and this is a nice change of pace! I have five weeks to go, so I should hopefully get to try each of your new ones. Thanks again!

  4. Elyse 4 years ago

    Hi Robin,
    I really enjoyed your video. I regularly workout and incorporate core exercises into my routine, so keeping up with core is important to me as baby and I grow together (especially since I am about 20+ pounds overweight and was on track to drop it before becoming pregnant, but ‘surprise!’…the universe has different plans for me).
    I found your video while searching for safe ways to keep up with core workouts while pregnant. I love that we can still do planks while pregnant! I love planks. I followed your side planks (unmodified) and your regular (but prenatal version) plank. My question to you is~ Is it safe to hold a “regular” plank as I would if I were not pregnant? It is still very early for me and I feel well enough to still keep up with all of my typical routine.

  5. leah vogels 2 years ago

    I would love to have these exercises to check out!

    • Elisabeth Callahan 2 years ago

      Hi Leah! Click on the workout above and you can watch these exercises in the video on this page or on YouTube. 🙂

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