Advanced search

Pregnant? See how your baby develops, your body changes, and what you can expect during each week of your pregnancy with the Mumsnet Pregnancy Calendar.

Advice needed please. When (if at all ) is it safe to do abdominal exercise during pregnancy? .

(32 Posts)
bigfatpieceofchocolate Sun 13-Jul-08 19:56:22


I am only 8 weeks pregant but I started doing a rowing course before finding out - which I love. Rowing uses your abdominal muscles a lot and I am concerned about damage but I had thought that it was ok to use your abdominals until the point where they 'part' . Does anyone have any idea or does anyone have any experience of doing abdominal exercise in the first trimester? If I risk doing permanent damaage then I'll stop but if I am ok for a bit I would really love to carry on.

LobstersLass Sun 13-Jul-08 22:26:27

I would also love to know the answer to this.

I'm not planning on doing any rowing, but perhaps a few sit-ups.

My stomach is dreadful enough before children! I hate to thing how bad it will be post baby!

I've put it off for the last 10 years because I'm lazy, now I'm also putting off because it could be dangerous! If this is just an excuse and I should be getting on with it, then let me know!

hatcam Sun 13-Jul-08 22:36:04


I'm a personal trainer specialising in pre and post natal fitness, run a local outdoor fitness programme called Buggyfit for mums and babies....also 28 weeks pregnant with #2 child, so you'd hope I know what's what! smile

It's perfectly possible and safe to keep doing abdominal work while you're pregnant, no problems at all. Certainly in the first trimester you can continue with most exercises perfectly normally - the exceptions being contact sports. The key thing is really not to start something new i.e. if you're a regular runner there's no reason you shouldn't carry on, while you feel comfortable and able to do so, but it's not the time to decide to get your running shoes on and go for a jog.

With the rowing, you'll probably find it gets uncomfortable fairly quickly - although of course everyone's different. If you were my client, my advice would be to stop by the start of your 2nd trimester and switch to something else.

There are lots of abs exercises you can do in pregnancy if you want examples....I am an exercise geek so always happy to oblige!

There are also some basic rules for exercising in pregnancy that am happy to list here if it helps?

Also by way of reassurance at 28 weeks pregnant I'm still teaching 4 x classes/week, occasional running and training all my private clients. I get some very shocked looks from passers by when I'm training outdoors, but not sure if that's for my bump or my comedy-huge knockers!!!

eandz Sun 13-Jul-08 22:46:00

hatcam, where are you located and what do you charge?

i've gained 7 stone in my first pregnancy (currently 31 weeks) and my husband wants to give me a personal trainer to get my body back as a gift for bearing his child. i want my body back really badly. you can look at pictures of me pre baby (but they aren't great pictures) and i think i'm only going to get bigger. (am very scared)

dinny Sun 13-Jul-08 22:48:50

hatcam, what abdominal exercises can you recommend? (I am 6 wks, so v early)

annoyingly, can't do my usual ashtanga till over 13 weeks, so need something else.

also, is X-trainer sufficient for cardio (usually run but never feel "right" running when pg)

sorry for hijack and thanks!

greenlawn Mon 14-Jul-08 08:40:51

eandz, just wanted to reassure you that its possible to lose all that weight safely and even end up fitter and healthier than you started out!

I put on well over 5 stone first time round - twins, huge amounts of fluid, and was virtually unable to move let alone exercise from about 28 weeks. I lost it all and then some after the birth and went from a bmi of 35 at my 12 week appointment to one of 22. It took over a year but was so worth it.

No magic formula, just healthy eating, exercise, and I'm convinced bf helped shift that last half a stone.

Good luck! I'm on no. 4 now so the weight is creeping up, but I know I can do it again.

hatcam Mon 14-Jul-08 09:02:25


eandz - I'm in Windsor/Ascot - cost depends on distance/travel times but anywhere between £40 - £60 per session. I train most of my clients at home, although also have a private studio available. Most clients train with their babies, it works better than you'd expect (!) the babies often nap if they're little, if not they think it's v. entertaining to see their mums leaping about/boxing etc. Some exercises the babies can 'join in' and I'm always v. happy to hold the babies and sing in my usual tuneless fashion. Some clients train once a fortnight, most once a week and some up to 3 x week. I always give 'homework' so even if someone is training less frequently they've got a proper workout to do in between sessions. Very welcome to contact me for qualifications, cv, references, insurance details and if I'm NOWHERE near your area, I'd be v. happy to help you find a more local trainer!

Also want to reiterate what greenlawn is saying, I've seen lots of women who end up fitter and healthier after their babies, also lots of women with better posture and abdominals after they've had their babies. Promise! smile.

Dinny, for now I would continue with abdominal exercises - anything that you already do, you know you're doing correctly and feels comfortable. The only exception to this is to cut right back on exercises that involve twisting the abdominals. If it doesn't feel 'right' then stop. By the 2nd trimester you'll need to change. In any case, I'd recommend fewer crunches and more work that uses your abdominals without curling your torso (just because it's not great for your posture and can feel uncomfortable sooner than anything else). So an exercise like the plank (and the billion variations of the plank) would be perfect, with the caveat that you do NOT hold your breath as it'll send your blood pressure up. If you need proper instructions for a plank let me know and I'll post them here. Also an exercise similar to the 'boat' yoga position is really good (can post instructions too if needed) and a modified press up - which will work your abs as much as your upper body (knees down, toes off floor, body in a straight line from knees through hips to shoulders). I'm not a great fan of crunches as I'm not convinced that they give a good shape, but as your bump grows you can still do a modified crunch using the swiss ball which works really well.

Happy to post the exercises in more detail for anyone but don't want to give a lecture here! (too early on a Monday morning.....)

thomasina1 Mon 14-Jul-08 11:49:06

Hi Hatcam, no, please don't worry about giving a lecture - I'd love more detail! I was doing a range of abs exercises pre-preg and in 1st trimester and am now 22 wks and want to know what I can do! So I will do plank (just front or is side OK too), and I have a swiss ball - what exactly can I do with that?

LuP Mon 14-Jul-08 12:33:11

Hi All

Came on here to post this very question so how brilliant it's here already.

hatcam, if you don't mind, I'd really appreciate a lecture on what ab exercises are OK for 2nd trimester (I'm 15 weeks). I run regularly, in fact did my PB for 10k last weekend (as thought it was my last chance!) and will continue to do so whilst I can. I'm by no means a runner, more a jogger but I think it's toned my abs up quite a lot anyway. Plank advice much appreciated as is whether I can do modified press-up and how to do the boat would be much appreciated.

Thanks so much.

Lu grin

MKG Mon 14-Jul-08 13:01:48

I did a belly dancing video while pregnant with ds2 and will do the same with this baby.

whiteorchid Mon 14-Jul-08 15:54:20

LuP, a PB at 15 weeks?!! Golly, the only PB I was doing at 15 weeks was between the bed and the toilet seat grin

On hatcam's brilliant advice, I'm now doing an incline plank, which has been great as I've got bigger. Basically, instead of my hands being on the floor, I lean on a couple of steps so my body is at angle, IYSWIM. Pelvic tilts are good too.

Hatcam - quick question about squats. Should I be widening my stance now (26 weeks), ie have feet wider than hips? Finding it tricky to keep my balance otherwise, but not sure this is right.

eandz Mon 14-Jul-08 17:14:16

i'm in st johns wood (central london sort of) so i guess you would be a little far. i used to have a personal trainer when i was back in the states so i have some what of a routine, it's just that i'm not sure if it'll still work post baby?

do you know anyone good and relatively well priced out in this part of town?

hatcam Mon 14-Jul-08 20:01:50

evening all

just finished work phew, must eat promise will post some abs exercises later on!

LuP Mon 14-Jul-08 20:33:10

Don't be too impressed, whiteorchid, my PB is a lot of people's 'bad run' time. wink I felt like a bit of a show-off putting that in but was determined to break an hour and after being convinced I'd stuffed it up made a break for it and finished in 59mins 40sec so am mighty proud of myself! My midwife, whilst lovely, seems utterly ignorant of all matters regarding exercise whilst pregnant and is clearly utterly baffled by me wanting to run (or jog, to be clear) do ab exercises or anything like that so I need hatcam's advice.

hatcam Mon 14-Jul-08 22:16:03

evening all

if you've been jogging for a while, there's no reason you can't carry on - as long as you're enjoying it, you feel comfortable and it doesn't feel weird. I've just knocked running on the head at 29 weeks, it just doesn't feel right any my knockers are just too massive! blush

There are some basic rules on exercising in pregnancy:

Don't get too hot, drink plenty of fluids
No holding your breath (raises blood pressure)
No lying on your back for any length of time 2nd trimester onwards
Minimise rotational movements 2nd trimester onwards
Careful of your balance as it changes considerably
Try to monitor how hard you're working - if 1/10 in effort is sitting on the sofa eating a pie, and 10/10 is sprinting for a bus you should aim to not go beyond a 7/10.
It's fine to be out of breath when you're pregnant, but you want to still be able to talk!
Some stretching required, but don't hold stretches for more than a few seconds as the relaxin that allows your pelvic ligaments to relax to help the baby come out (phew, lucky) also affects the rest of the body, so you don't want to over-stretch
Fine to still use weights but the advice is not to lift weights above your head (can make you dizzy and can put strain on your back). I get my clients to push weights above their heads but do it one handed (works core a little harder/minimises dizziness) and do it seated i.e. on a swiss ball.
Pregnancy is a time for maintaining a reasonable level of fitness, you shouldn't expect to be getting super-fit while pregnant.
There are some conditions that mean you should be extra vigilant and certainly get sign-off from your midwife before exercising - these include if you're having twins or more, have a history of incompetent cervix, placenta praevia, history of pre-eclampsia, have had bleeding after 6th week of pregnancy.
Oh and enjoy being pregnant, there's nothing wrong with lying on the sofa and eating lovely food too smile

Abs exercises for 2nd trimester onwards....

Plank - start on hands and knees, drop down so forearms on floor, elbows directly under shoulders. Extend one leg behind you and then the other so you're supported on your toes and your hands. You're looking to make a straight line from shoulders, through hips to knees and toes i.e. no btm sticking in the air. This is a tough ex for your abs and your lower back, so if you need to hold it a few seconds then drop down on to your knees, relax and go again then no problem. Breathe throughout. As your bump gets bigger you can do the same exercise but on your hands not forearms/elbows and/or on an incline to make it a little more comfortable - i.e. hands resting on a raised surface like a bench.
Press ups - start hands and knees. Hands approx 1.5 x wider than shoulders. You may need to walk your hands out so that you can get your body in a straight line from your shoulders through your hips to your knees. Cross your feet at your ankles and lift off the floor so that you're supported by your knees and your hands. Bend at elbows, but keep body solid to do your press up.
Boat/'v-sit' - sit on your bum, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Sit up tall, chest forward to lengthen spine. Breathe deep and allow the small of your back to drop down towards the floor, gradually leaning your upper body back so you can feel your abs begin to take on the work. Keep your hands at your knees so that you have some support. Hold the position for a few secs, breathing deeply before sitting up tall again. This is quite an advanced exercise....

If you're not used to doing abs exercises, then I would stick to good but easier work like pelvic tilts (safe throughout pregnancy), you can do them standing/seated on a swiss ball or in a semi-squat position - you're just aiming to tuck your bottom under and tilt your pelvis forward and then back, sticking your bottom out. Also hip hitches are good - sitting up tall on a swiss ball and trying to hitch one hip up as if towards your lowest rib. As your bump gets bigger, try and actively draw your baby in towards your spine - if you do this in front of a mirror you'll see how it really changes the shape of your bump and the muscles are really working. These exercises are safe but will be effective if you do them regularly and frequently.

For those keen on crunches and doing them already, you can avoid the problem of not being able to lie on your back by doing half crunches on a swiss ball - sit up on the ball, then roll yourself out a little so you're semi-reclined on the ball, i.e. supported in your mid to lower back, with knees bent. Your bottom should be lower than your mid to lower back and lower than your knees so you're not trying to get a 'bridge' position (if you see what I mean). From here you can safely do a small crunch movement which will focus mainly on the upper abdominals. Bit hard to explain without pictures. Babyfit is a useful website with some good demos of exercises

Do pelvic floor exercises every day too - deepest abdominal support muscles, really important to health but also to getting back in shape after the baby comes. Cannnot emphasise enough how important it is to do your pelvic floor all my clients roll their eyes at me on this as I am so boring about it, but it's just got to be done - whether you think you need to or not, do them every day, for the rest of your life amen.

That felt like a lecture, sorry....always happy to help, I am an exercise GEEK and love my job! Also apologies if I've missed anything out, pretty snoozy now.

PussinJimmyChoos Mon 14-Jul-08 22:17:30

<hijack to wave to Hatcam with smaller bye bye wings grin >

Btw - if I want to TTC at some point - I can still do Billy can't I??! A friend told me I couldn't! hmm

hatcam Mon 14-Jul-08 22:23:10

PussinJimmyChoos (waves) I barely saw your bye bye wings move when you waved! Good work girl!

Doing Billy and trying to conceive in one sentence just sounds rude blush

It won't be a problem, if you were a client I would suggest you don't want to be training like a demon when TTC as basically you want your body's energies going into TTC, not being super-fit-bird. Go for a healthy balance of doing regular exercise you enjoy (e.g. Billy), eat good proper food, rest and relax. Oh and drink wine and do the obvious!!!!!!!

PussinJimmyChoos Mon 14-Jul-08 22:45:21

I wouldn't mind doing Billy!! wink

I'm teetotal....<polishes halo> So, I can carry on with Billy then.....will TTC as soon as the farking smear results get back!! 5 weeks on Wed and counting...twats....

<hi-jack over>

hatcam Mon 14-Jul-08 22:51:36

polish halo indeed, go forth and multiply (and carry on with Billy)

blimmin NHS, have been ranting elsewhere on MN about how long it takes anything to get done, including not being able to get a midwife appointment for love nor money or the fact that I asked for a possible referral for pregnancy related hip/pelvic joint pain and was told the waiting list was 10-12 weeks ha ha I'm 29 weeks pregnant.....

PussinJimmyChoos Mon 14-Jul-08 22:54:30

Oh poor you - are you in much pain? I can remember being in a lot of discomfort with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and asked the midwife for help:

Well, we can refer you to a physiotherapist..but by the time you get the appointment you would have had the baby...


hatcam Tue 15-Jul-08 13:04:03

oooh and squat stance answer for white orchid....

go for a comfortable stance, usually feet just outside hip width toes possibly pointing slightly outwards. Make sure you try and use your abs to support your baby bump and your back. Your weight should be through your heels (not toes) so at the lowest point of your squat, you should be able to wiggle your toes. Make sure that your knees do not drop inwards, so your knees should be pointing in the same direction as your toes (not knock-kneed!). Some people find it uncomfortable to do a full squat (depends usually on position of the baby), go with what is right for you and if you can only do a half squat that's fine.

strong core, thighs and butt are v. important in labour - I found the most weird positions comfortable in labour that gave me a good thigh workout just staying upright!!

whiteorchid Tue 15-Jul-08 15:03:07

Thanks so much, hatcam. I'm keeping my weight through my heels, but on a couple of occasions over the last week or two have nearly toppled backwards mid-squat. I guess it's a case of getting used to shifting centre of gravity, and perhaps I should consider half-squats. I saw someone doing squats using a swiss ball the other day, ie with swiss ball between their back and the wall. Is that another option?

Hope your hip's not giving you too much pain.

hatcam Tue 15-Jul-08 17:53:07

Squats using a swiss ball v. good option, good support for your lower back. Make sure you get the curve into the ball into the curve of your lower back, lean properly on to the ball otherwise it will move about too much, roll down the wall letting the ball roll up your spine as you bend zee knees. Make sure that your feet are far enough out from the wall so that when you roll down your back is well supported, and your knees are not sticking out further forward than your feet - do you see what I mean?

Definitely need to get used to shifting centre of gravity - from boobs and bump! Go steady and if you're still losing balance definitely change to ball squats. You could also try doing your squats over a bench so that if you do lose your balance you only sit your bum down on the bench, rather than hit the deck!

ArrietyClock Tue 15-Jul-08 18:25:00


Pleeeeeease can I hijack and ask about post-baby stuff. In fact very post baby. 17 months to be precise.

'Tis the stomach again. It used to be flat. And taut. And about the only good bit of me. And now it's crap. And floppy. And with a diastasis, although only a finger or two's worth. And I think sit ups make it worse don't they? And I don't know what to do about it (except a lot of holding in). Oh, and I am currently so unfit I would die if I ever had to run for a bus.

Do you have pearls of wisdom for people like me???

hatcam Tue 15-Jul-08 21:43:47

arrietyclock - evening - as said before, am exercise GEEK so don't mind.

don't worry about your tummy, honestly - bet it's not half as crap as you think it is! A finger or two's worth of diastasis is not too much to worry about, have seen a lot worse. You're dead right though, sit ups won't do you any good, waste of time!

A good pilates class will probably work wonders - emphasise finding a good one as it is possible to qualify as a 'pilates' teacher in a gym in a weekend's course. Crazy.

Did you have any physio earlier on for the diastasis and did anyone help with it - do you ever get any back pain?

Firstly, two really boring bits of advice (sorry) - you should do your pelvic floor exercises every day without fail (even if you don't think you need to) as it provides a good solid foundation for the rest of your abs. Also, remind yourself as often as poss to bring your tummy button in towards your spine to flatten your tummy down. Muscles have a memory, just like other cells in the body, so you need to get them in a habit of working in a certain way. When you lean over to do nappies (for instance) you can often feel the effects of gravity on your that's the perfect time to bring your tummy button up towards your spine.

Boring, but floor lying pelvic tilts while concentrating on the same tummy button in towards your spine. Also the plank (see earlier description). Straight leg curl ups would be good too, so lying flat on your back, point your toes (so your legs are tensed a little), arms in the air but just above your pelvis/hip bones, try and raise your head, neck and shoulders up off the floor looking directly towards your toes. Repeat x 15, hold the last one for 5-10 seconds. Do as often as you can (with a 17 month old around, not as often as you'd like I'm guessing plus if you're anything like me, if you lie on the floor you just think about sleeeeeeeep smile)

No side abdominals work until you feel your abs are a bit stronger, this is a no-no for diastasis recti.

Don't take this the wrong way, but straight up do you think you're carrying any excess weight/fat around your stomach, or is it loose skin, or muscle that needs strengthening? You should probably add some cardio in as well, so brisk walking/jogging/cycling etc - 20-30 mins, 3 x week to start, enough to get you out of puff but still able to talk, just not in long sentences. Loose skin is a much tougher one and I wish I had a magic answer to this one, but sadly I don't......

Wish I had a magic answer to the whole thing, I really do but basically it comes down to the fact that if something promises you a flatter stomach/lose a stone in 5 mins without getting up off the sofa then it's only going to disappoint - you really do have to break a sweat and puff a bit to get some results!

(retires to sofa clutching not at all flat/taut 29 week belly, while thinking all the time about CAKE)

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, watch threads, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now »

Already registered? Log in with: