Welcome to part 2 of my 3-part “Staying Fit in Pregnancy” series! Last time, we focused on WHY it’s important to stay active in pregnancy. Today, we’ll focus on what you can do for your lower half as the rest of your body works hard to grow that little baby. All of these exercises can be done in all 3 trimesters of pregnancy, but as always, consult your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.
Each of these can also be modified as needed, which I will both explain and demonstrate. As your belly grows, you probably won’t be able to go as deep in the squat or lunge, and you may also need to modify your feet or hip placement. Either way, you’re still getting a great workout!
Aim for 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps of each (10-15 on each leg where applicable). Scale back if you need to. Exercise in pregnancy is about a healthy baby, NOT smashing your own goals. There is plenty of time for that later!
There are three ways I like to do squats in pregnancy. You have the traditional squat in which your feet are parallel, just about hip width apart. Keep your knees over your toes and go as low as you can. Keep your weight back in your heels. You’ll feel this in your booty and quads.
As your belly grows though, the traditional squat gets more challenging. This is when you can switch to a plie squat. Turn your feet out (think ballerina), and keep your knees over your toes as you did before. This type of squat is especially great because you can really engage the inner thighs and glute muscles; as you come up from the squat, feel like you’re pushing your inner thighs forward as much as you can.
For some women, the third trimester can make all squats difficult. Your back is sore and strained, your knees hurt, heck your whole body is taking a beating! At this point, it can be valuable to use a stability ball as back support. Use the ball against the wall to do regular squats, going as low as your bump will allow. You can do plie squats this way too.
Oh, lunges! The thought alone probably makes you tired (if the thought of squats didn’t already do that). What’s nice about lunges in pregnancy is that you really don’t have to modify them much in order to get the benefit. In a basic lunge, you can hold weights or not – it’s up to you. The main thing is to keep your front leg at a 90 degree angle; you don’t want your knee going out past your toes. You can do these stepping forward and alternating legs or stepping back and alternating legs. You could also do them walking if you wanted.
Another lunge that I really like comes from Chalene Johnson’s PiYo workout. They’re called bowler lunges because you look like you just rolled a bowling ball when you do them. They really target the outside of the glutes as well as the quads, so if you’re looking to tighten up that booty, give these a try!
The best way to modify any lunge is to simply not go as keep. As long as you keep good form, you and baby will benefit. Go as low as feels comfortable, but not TOO comfortable – you don’t want to be so careful you don’t feel anything at all! If something hurts in the bad way, stop. You know your body, so listen to it.
While squats and lunges work your booty as you work your quads and inner thighs, there are some other exercises that specifically target the flutes and hamstrings. If you’re looking for that separation between your butt and thighs, which I’m pretty sure you are (after baby at least), then do these exercises now. You may not see the same results as you would when not pregnant, but recovery and getting your body back will be MUCH easier if you do some prep work now.
One of my favorite booty exercises also works the ab muscles because you have to stabilize your body. You don’t have as many ab muscles while pregnant, of course, but I firmly believe that continuing to work them as much as possible is key to getting them back after pregnancy.
Start on all fours, with hands under the shoulders, and lift one leg up as high as you can and then touch your toe to the floor. You can do this with your leg turned in (parallel) or turned out (think ballerina). Switch legs and do the same number of reps.
A similar exercise, but one that uses gravity even more, is to be in a low plank position resting on your forearms but still on your knees. Raise one leg up and out, keeping the rest of your body still. Bring the knee in toward your chest (really, toward your belly), and repeat. Holy burn!
I encourage you to take all of these exercises and create your own mini circuit! Throw in some light cardio like jogging in place (you can do this with very minimal impact and bouncing) between each move, and you’ll get a fantastic workout that benefits both you and baby.
IF YOU MISSED PARTS 1 AND 3 OF THE BALLET FIT SERIES, YOU CAN FIND THEM HERE: