LEP Fitness


Which Prenatal exercises can you do during your first trimester?

Which Prenatal exercises can you do during your first trimester

Firstly, congratulations are in order! 

I want to send you my best wishes during your pregnancy.

In this article, I want to help you, but first…

Who am I?  

Nick Screeton - LEP Fitness

Hi, I’m Nick, a personal trainer based in Sheffield (UK), who has completed over 12,000 x 1-1 coaching sessions. I’ve also coached lots of women through pregnancy – helping women to:

  • Improve/maintain fitness
  • Keep all of the right muscle groups strong 
  • Improve mobility in the right areas
  • Promote healthy habits 

Prenatal Exercise…

Prenatal Exercise tips

Exercise can play a crucial role during pregnancy, and there are lots of things to consider, plenty of ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’. 

In this article, I want to focus on the ‘first trimester’ – which, as I’m sure you already know, are the first 1-12 weeks of pregnancy. 

Before we go any further…

WARNING – before following any of the advice/guidelines in this post, please consult with your doctor and medical provider. When it comes to prenatal exercises, there’s no one size fits all approach… 

It will depend on your current starting position, previous/ current health conditions, medications, to name but a few. So, to be safe, please consult your GP and seek professional guidance throughout your pregnancy. 

Did you workout before you got pregnant? 

Did you exercise, and if so, what did you do?

  • Running
  • Weight training
  • Walking
  • Sports
  • Swimming

This is important because, as a general rule of thumb, it’s okay to continue to do what you were doing before you got pregnant, especially for the first 1-12 weeks…

That’s unless you play contact sports or do high-risk activities such as skiing, rock climbing, etc. – again, please seek professional advice beforehand. 

As you get into the 2nd and 3rd trimesters, you will need to gradually change your training approach accordingly (but that’s a post for another day). 

What muscles do you need to work on during pregnancy? 

Again, it can be case-specific, but something I’ve seen with most pregnant women I’ve coached is…

  1. Weak and tight glutes
  2. Weak and tight hamstrings 
  3. Tight hip flexor muscles 
  4. Weak core 
  5. Painful lower back 
  6. Tight front shoulders 

If you think about it…

Throughout pregnancy, your bump is going to get bigger. The bump pulls your body weight forward, meaning your body has to counterbalance the force to stay upright when standing or sat down…

This will place extra stress on your lower back (because your stomach pulls your forward). It can also lead to sciatica and other body problems due to your body being out of alignment. 

How do we improve/correct these issues? 

Let’s look at them one by one…

#1 Weak and tight glutes

To strengthen the glutes, here are some exercises I’ve used with clients…

Floor glute raise (both legs)

Single leg glute raise

Resistance band split squats

To stretch tight glutes, here are some exercises…

Glute stretch on bench or chair

Glute pigeon stretch

#2 Weak and tight hamstrings 

To strengthen the hamstrings, I like to use something like a dumbbell RDL

To stretch the hamstrings, I like to do the following exercises…

Standing hamstring stretch

Hamstring stretch on bench or chair

#3 Tight Hip Flexor Muscles 

Here is my favourite hip flexor stretch…

#4 Weak Core

You have to be careful with the core, and while some experts say that crunches are okay during the first trimester, I prefer not to do them. I will instead opt for exercises such as the:


#5 Painful lower back 

Strengthening the glutes and hamstrings (see point 1) can often stop or reduce lower back pain. Another thing you can do is mobilize the lower back by doing exercises such as:

You may also want to consider getting a pregnancy massage from somebody who specializes in pregnancy massages. A massage can help relax tight muscles and help you unwind from mental and physical stress during your pregnancy. 

#6 Tight front shoulders

If you are sat down at a desk all day, you will likely get tight pecs (chest muscle) and front shoulders. Most people (men and women) are internally rotated, which means the shoulders are pulled forward. 

This places extra stress on the rear of the body to counterbalance the weight going forwards. I would recommend stretching out the chest, shoulders, and triceps. Here are the exercises I’ve used for previous clients…

Banded overheads

Chest stretch

Cardio during your first trimester 

Cardio exercise can help you during your first 1-12 weeks of pregnancy. There are differences in opinions on what cardio can/can’t be done. Again it is often case-specific, so please discuss it with your GP. 

I always like to opt for safer exercise, such as walking, swimming, stationary cycling, etc. I would advise not to run outdoors or do certain activities where there’s always a chance of slipping, falling, or causing serious damage to your body. However, it is just my opinion, and lots of women still run during pregnancy. 

Supplements during your first trimester 

I’m going to repeat it…please check with your doctor before taking supplements. Popular supplements taken during the first trimester are:

Getting extra help…

You can also seek help from a qualified personal trainer, dietician, physio, and other health care professionals alongside your GP and midwife. 

Make-sure to take care of yourself during the nine months of your pregnancy, and if you have any doubts or concerns, speak to somebody you trust and who is qualified to help you. 

Thanks for reading,

Nick Screeton – LEP Fitness