Best Exercise for the first trimester of pregnancy
Safe prenatal exercises during early pregnancy
You’re pregnant! Most likely googling what you should do now- what vitamins should you take, what things should you now avoid, and what exercises you should (and shouldn’t) do. You may be feeling a new level of tired that you have never experienced and anything from slight nausea to “should I even leave the bathroom, this is going on all day why do they call it morning sickness?!”
The best things you can do to counteract nausea and fatigue is:
- Listen to your body and rest
- Exercise! It sounds strange to tell someone to exercise when they are feeling fatigue, but it actually give you more energy and even minimize nausea for many. It also helps to set a good habit for pregnancy.
A lot of people are eager to prepare for birth and ask us if it’s too early to do prenatal exercises routines in the first trimester. The first trimester is the perfect time to begin! It is much easier to prevent pregnancy-related aches and pains than to eliminate them once they have popped up. We find that when people begin prenatal specific work in the first trimester, they may be able to prevent and minimize issues such as hip pain and core and pelvic floor concerns. For example, building stability in the hip musculature may help prevent the hip and back pain that is so common during pregnancy. Once the pain is there, it can be harder to work on it because movements that used to be available- now cause pain.
Below is our list of prenatal exercises that you should begin in your first trimester
1. Candles Breath, core activation strategy
Candles is the basis for core engagement in the One Strong Mama world. We at OSM strongly believe that no one should ever be walking around with their core engaged all the time. That is known as core tension and not core strength. However, we do teach our clients to use candles whenever they need support: picking up something heavy or another child, twisting and reaching for things, leaning forward to clean up, pulling open a heavy door. Anything that requires support. The default for many folks for these moves is to “let go” –which means to not engage, to bear down, bulge, brace– to default to a non-supportive pattern. To do this exercise, stand or sit and imagine that there is a birthday cake with 100 candles on it in in front of you and you need to slowly blow out the candles – feeling how your core tightens and pulls in as you do that. That is candles. As you blow out the candles, you can and should gently help your core by pulling it in as you blow. Your core should feel very tight and engaged at the end of that exhale.
2. Hip Hinge/ Deadlift
This is a great prenatal exercise for learning how to move your pelvis! So often, we round our spine, rather than hinge at the hips in activities of daily life. Learning to hinge at the hips will help to create more active mobility of the pelvis and take the strain off the back. Place your fingers on your ASIS (anterior superior iliac spines- two bony knobs in the front of your pelvis) and feel them move as you hinge. It is helpful to do this the first several times in front of a mirror. Notice when the curve of the back starts to flatten, which will indicate that the pelvis has stopped moving and the back has begun to flex. If you are having a hard time with this, place a broomstick on your back and feel how the back shape does not change as you move forward through the motion. To rise, exhale, press into heels. This exercise is foundational and should be understood prior to moving onto the squat, which starts with a hip hinge. Holding weights or a kettlebell in the hands is another great option for the hip hinge.
3. Aligned squats
This exercise is great for creating space in the pelvic floor. As the body squats the hamstrings lengthen and the pelvic floor gets an eccentric (lengthening) load. We encourage clients to door squat daily during pregnancy. Grab onto either the two handles of an open door, a TRX band, or anything sturdy that can support body weight. Hinge at the hips, and booty moves back like it’s looking for a chair to sit on. Stop before the butt tucks under, indicating the max range of the hamstrings at that moment in time. If there is low back pain, try not excessively pushing the booty out to go down farther without tucking pelvis. To stand, exhale with candles deep core engagement and press into heels. Common cheat is to either overarch the low back or excessively thrust the ribs.
4. Open twist
People, especially when pregnant, can become very rigid in their chest and rib muscles. When the chest and ribs do not move so well, we get added pressure in the abs and core so this move really helps to load these much neglected muscles. This exercise also doubles up as a core exercise. The common cheat here is to twist the pelvis and not the ribs and chest. Keeping the pelvis totally immobile can cause SIJ gapping and instability so a small amount of pelvic twist is fine. The issue is if they can ONLY twist by initiating from their pelvis. This can be done seated on a stool or a chair as well.
While it sounds simple, walking is one of the best exercises you can do during pregnancy. Get in the habit of going for a daily walk, or walking to places you would normally drive to but technically could walk. And no, you cannot replace your daily walking with running… it’s a completely different movement. If it helps, consider tracking your steps to see how many you can get in a day.
6. Consider your alignment
As pregnancy progresses, the center of gravity and alignment may shift. Ideally, we want to be able to maintain a hips over feet, ribs over pelvis alignment pattern as much as possible, as this can help the core, pelvic floor and whole body function optimally. It is easier to consider shifting into a better alignment pattern before the belly grows, so the first trimester is the perfect time to work on this!
Try relaxing (not forcing or muscling!) the rib cage down. Often we are taught that ribs lifted in “good posture,” but in reality it is compressing the spine and pulling the core out of alignment.
For more information on exercises that are appropriate for the first trimester and throughout the entire pregnancy and postpartum time, check out the One Strong Mama program. Many moms join our One Strong Mama program in their first trimester. They love that it allows for them to just hit play and follow along and not have to think so hard about what moves are best for their pregnancy, their body and their birth. They also love that they get extra education about how to do each exercise so they are getting the most benefit. OSM is truly a ‘one stop shop’ for prenatal (and postnatal!) exercise and takes the guesswork out of the equation.