Guide to Exercising: Second Trimester

Guide to Exercising: Second Trimester

The second trimester often brings relief and renewed energy for many pregnant women. This is due in part to some combination of reduced nausea, boosted energy, reduced chance for miscarriage and increased social support as parents start to share the news. (1)

This can also mean a renewed desire to get back to an active routine! You have energy, you don’t feel sick, and your hormones are making you feel like a GD warrior goddess, so bring on the training right?

The goals of training through the second trimester are to build strength and stamina, keep feeling awesome, reduce the risk of injury, and find movement you enjoy!

The second trimester typically also comes with the most obvious physiological changes. The debut of that baby-bump means that some movements will be off the table for a while. Things like cleans, snatches, and ground to overhead barbell movements will be impacted by baby bump. But don’t fret— there are options to keep these moves and skills in your repertoire!

While you have may experience more energy and a desire to take that training up a notch, check-in with that mindset: move with the body you have today!

Second Trimester Training Focus:

Keep moving

  • Incorporate moderate intensity cardio work 4-5 days per week. Choose movements that are lower impact on your body. Jumping may start to feel uncomfortable at this point and puts unnecessary strain on your pelvic floor. Running may cause similar discomfort. If you do choose to continue running, be sure to pay attention to your stride. Compensatory movements (like heel striking) are more common, again due to changing weight distribution and can make you more prone to injury.

  • Movements to try instead: box step-ups, hiking, walking, rowing, squats, medball slams, bear crawls, cycling, sled pushes, step-ups or other bodyweight movements you enjoy!

  • If a movement causes a feeling of heaviness in the pelvic floor or you experience any pain or leaking, that is your cue that this move may not be best suited for you right now.


Connect with Breath & Pelvic Floor

  • So much of postpartum training is rehabbing the pelvic floor and reconnecting with breath, but if we can start building awareness of this connection early on in pregnancy propensity for injury and lengthy recovery is reduced.

  • Begin each workout with diaphragmatic breathing activate glutes, core and stabilizing muscles throughout your workout.

  • Incorporating breathing exercises in your warm-up may reduce the instance of stress induced incontinece both during pregnancy and postpartum. (1)

Build Strength

  • Strength train 2-3 days per week. This could be part of your cardio training too!

  • My favorite strength routines include all of the following:

    • Push

    • Pull

    • Squat

    • Hinging movement

    • Carry

  • Stick to lifts in the 6-8 rep range at a weight where you know you could do at least 3-4 more reps each set.

  • While we want to build strength and muscle mass, pregnancy is not the time for 1 rep maxes or heavy lifts. You should be able to breathe through all your lifts.

“Women who continue regular weight-bearing exercise throughout pregnancy tend to have easier, shorter, and less complicated labors” (2)

Shift Your Mindset

Pregnancy, postpartum and parenting are challenging (and wonderful). Many women just want to be able to workout or run or maintain their same routine throughout all of pregnancy. I totally get that feeling and much of your training can look similar, but probably not the exact same. BIRTHFIT talks about training for birth-- and this is a mindset I work with many of my clients on. (3) 

Rather than training for that local crossfit comp, setting PRs or hunting down a certain physique, we are training for birth and I’d argue we are also training for faster postpartum recovery.

So ask yourself: is this workout helping me get stronger for birth? Is it supporting my ability to move through this pregnancy without injury? Is it strengthening my breath and pelvic floor connection so I can recover more quickly postpartum? What is the intent behind the movement? Is there another move that can meet that same intent, without compromising my training goals?

Connect with your body

  • Do you need to sleep? Sleep! Adjust your training schedule without guilt.

  • Do you need to eat? EAT. Calorie and nutrient needs shift during pregnancy and look different for everyone. Eat to support your workouts and pregnancy with plenty of nutrient dense whole foods.

  • Do you need to just relax and gain some brain space? DO IT. Shut the door, turn off your phone, hide away for a bit. Set a timer. Give yourself 15 minutes or an hour or a night, whatever you need.

Try one of these workouts!

AMRAP 20 Minutes

  • 4 Dumbbell Hang Power Cleans

  • 6 Dumbbell Push Press

  • 12 Dumbbell Lateral Box Step-Ups

3 Rounds

  • 500 M Row

  • 12 Sumo Deadlifts

  • 21 Box Step-Ups, 20"

Alternating EMOM 27
5 Deadlifts
5 Bench Press
5 Front Squats

Things to keep in mind during Second Trimester

Rely on how you feel pre and post workout rather than tracking your heart rate. Heart rate isn’t a great measurement for exertion because it varies based of people’s athletic ability. You should leave each workout feeling better than you started. If you’re completely exhausted and fried well after your workout is done, then you know you pushed too hard.

Pay attention to that bar path and load. The bump has more than likely arrived. Accommodating your belly by moving the bar around it will affect your technique both during pregnancy and postpartum and can increase your propensity for injury! Thanks no! During this trimester, while you have more energy, you may find yourself needing to a big lighter in load. This is completely normal. Hormone changes, especially the increase of relaxin, and weight gain are putting strain on your core and impact your ability to generate the same amount of power as pre-pregnancy.

Dizzy or light-headed lying down? Exercises in a supine position (lying on your back) may become uncomfortable, with the increased anterior load of baby. If you notice you’re dizzy, lightheaded or nauseas lying on your back, shift that position to a slight incline. Incline benches are helpful here.

Watch for bulging or coning of the midline. 100% of women will experience some degree of abdominal separation (or diastases recti) by the end of pregnancy. However, you don’t want to put unnecessary strain on these core muscles. Watch for bulging along the linea alba (straight down the center of your abdomen) during movements like dead bugs, strict pull-ups, ring rows, and other moves that require effort of that abdominal musculature. If you see bulging or coning, modify the movement so it is less strenuous. For example, during dead bugs, you can shorten the range of motion or when doing ring rows you can decrease the incline of your pull.

Did you know that baby and mom start to prepare positionally for birth as early as 27 weeks? Incorporating plenty of squats and quadruped moves like bear crawls, and cat-cow can help get baby into optimal position.

Want more guidance?

Contact me for private training, online training and group class options! 



  1. Kollias, H., PhD, Hart, M., & Thomas, J. (2017) et al. Pre- & Postnatal Coaching Certification Manual. Coaching and Training Women Academy.

  2. Clapp, J. F., & Cram, C. (2012). Exercising Through Your Pregnancy. Omaha, Neb.: Addicus Books.

  3. Empowering Mothers | Motherhood Transition | Prenatal & Postpartum Online Programs. (n.d.). Retrieved from