Basic Exercise Recommendations Per Trimester

In my research and real life application, it’s not so much what is ‘safe per trimester’ it’s more of a ‘how do we modify per trimester’. Women are amazingly capable of a lot of movement through pregnancy because movement is what we’ve done for million of years! It should strongly be encouraged they continue doing what they have been. If women haven’t been active, it is still highly recommended they begin weight lifting/strength training with a competent trainer to prepare their bodies for the extra weight of pregnancy and the very hard work of labor and motherhood!

Trimester 1

All activities and exercises are safe.

A large concern for doctors/midwives is heart rate. They are not up-to-date on research and constantly tell women to keep their HR under 140, which was taken off the ACOG recommendations in 1994. This study proves that heart rate is lower through pregnancy cycling when compared to the post partum control. Maximal heart rate during bicycle exercise was on average 4 +/- 1 beats/min (2%) lower throughout pregnancy compared with the postpartum control value of 178 +/- 2 beats/min.

Also, [The] “study confirms earlier observations (6,13) that ventilation is increased during pregnancy as a result of an increase in tidal volume without a change in frequency… The increase in ventilatory equivalent in pregnancy could be a hormonal effect, in particular due to the high circulating levels of progesterone (6, 13).” (This means a woman’s increased tidal volume or increased blood/plasma doesn’t change her ability to exchange gases at higher heart rates.) ‘Ventiliation’ is the exchange of gases, oxygen and carbon dioxide, which naturally increases as activity increases.

Avoidance of activity in the first trimester rests on how the woman is feeling. Many women feel extremely tired, nauseas or light headed. It’s recommended women listen to their bodies and rest when tired. Exercise will help fight fatigue but don’t push it. The body is undergoing major internal growth in the first trimester so high protein, continued intake of calories (even if nauseas) and proper hydration are necessary to fuel this expansion.

Trimester 2

Everything is safe with modifications to back laying movements only if woman feels dizzy because pressure from uterus is pressing on Inferior Vena Cava, which returns blood to heart. (Usually an issue later in 2nd, possibly in 3rd, depending on the woman and weight of her uterus).

Recommended to avoid/make substitutions for: kipping, bar muscle ups, sit ups, any movement that puts woman at increased risk of falling or hard object hitting her stomach. This includes box jumps, sparring, soccer, softball.

Trimester 3

Modifications to Olympic lifting where bar is lifted from ground to over needs to start at the ‘hang’ position or hip level. Or replace the bar with dumb bells, kettle bells.

Running may be uncomfortable so support belts and proper use can be used while exercising (The Tummy Team link)

Recommended to avoid/make substitutions for: same as second trimester and Olympic pulls from the floor.


Here’s a little somethin’ somethin’ about what Adam and I created and where to find more info:

Colleen Flaherty, CSCS and Adam Cristantello, ATC created the Pre and Post Functional Strength Guides for Coaches and Women. The Guide is the first research backed, expert compiled guideline for coaches and women to continue moderate to high strength and conditioning through pregnancy and postpartum. Whether it’s in a box or strength facility, these outline upper and lower thresholds, modifications and substitutions to empower activity with coaches who trust and know how to care for the changing pregnant and new mom body. Visit for dates or to be a host!



Exercise Through Pregnancy – A Practical Approach