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7 common exercises you may need to modify during pregnancy

7 common exercises you may need to modify during pregnancy
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LloydsPharmacy is delighted to partner with The Bump Room to provide expert led pregnancy and postnatal care for women.

We all know it’s not possible to keep exercising at the same intensity and frequency for the entire pregnancy. There comes a point in every woman’s pregnancy that she would start to modify, for some women it may be just slight changes and for others it can be significant depending on what is going on for them during the pregnancy.

Physical Changes

Firstly, it is important to acknowledge the physical changes that occur, there are some we don’t notice so much from the outside including:

  • Decreased ability to provide oxygen in response to demand. (Explains the breathlessness that can occur when going upstairs).
  • Increased respiratory rate.
  • Increased in Cardiac output (30 to 50%), increased heart rate, increased blood volume (avg is 45%).
  • Increase in insulin resistance
  • Basal metabolic rate is raised
  • Heat is transferred from the baby to the mother, this together with the vasodilation normal in pregnancy, tends to make the mother feel warmer.
  • Hormonal influences from 6 weeks gestation can result in joint laxity and increased extensibility of all ligaments.

In the Bump Room some of common aches and pains that occur due to musculoskeletal changes include:

  • Back Pain
  • Pelvic Girdle Pain /Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Round Ligament Pain
  • Rib Pain
  • Diastasis Recti

I describe to women in our classes, that pregnancy is like a stress test on the body: areas of weakness tend to show up during this time. Conditions that can arise include:

  • Gastro-intestinal issues
  • Varicose Veins/ vulvar varicosities
  • Oedema (swelling)
  • Urinary Incontinence
  • Leg Cramps
  • Haemorrhoids
  • Urinary tract infections

Considering all of the above it is not surprising that exercises or movements, at some point in the pregnancy may need to be modified.

Here, I will go through the 7 common exercises that we modify in the Bump Room pregnancy fitness classes.


Lunges are challenging and can become more challenging with pelvic girdle pain/bump getting in the way/cardiovascular demand. Modifications we suggest are to do reverse lunges instead of forward lunges. Also when completing one set do one side only as opposed to alternating between each rep. Static reverse lunges are also an option, where the bottom leg could be slightly elevated on a weight plate or do more shallow lunges. We also add the gym ball to help with balance and it can be leaned through to reduce the work on the legs.


Planks can increase intrabdominal pressure so many pregnant women would not feel comfortable doing these. This can be modified by doing reverse planks. There is a variety of reverse planks you can do to make them easier (shorten the legs) or more challenging (weight shifting) or different (rotate feet outwards). Forward planks can also be done on a table/wall. In our classes, we do wall planks and add in leg lifts with or without heel raises.


Some women are used to doing deadlifts with bars and plates, usually, they may start by reducing the weight on the bar as the pregnancy progresses. Sometimes the bump starts to get in the way. Modifications that can be used are to switch to dumbbells or if using a bar to bring the ground up to meet you by using blocks to rest the plates/bar on. In our classes we do deadlifts with light weights and make more challenging by adding arm reaches.


Walking may become challenging particularly when dealing with pelvic girdle pain. A cross-trainer or elliptical is a great alternative to walking. This works because it reduces the weight shifting from one side of the pelvis to the other side. Many women with mild to moderate pelvic girdle pain would describe not being able to walk for 10 minutes but can stay on a cross-trainer for 30 minutes.


A challenging exercise at the best of times. In our classes we modify the press-up by doing it at the wall, we add in heel raises and alter the hand position.

Side bridge

Another challenging exercise that can be modified by dropping to the knees in side lying. It can be done with a short arm or long arm, adding in arm reaches/hip dips/lengthening out the top leg.

Not lying on belly

Obviously, there are no more exercises lying on the belly once the baby is up and out of the pelvic rim. Exercises on your belly are usually great for strengthening the back. In our classes, we modify with lots of different exercises on our hands and knees. Below would be one of the more challenging, leg and opposite arm, we build up with arm reach and leg reach alone first.

More information

Repeatedly what many women find surprising about our classes is that they are challenging. It is totally possible to have a great workout when pregnant, it’s all about tuning into your body and modifying when needed. If you would like to learn more or access some classes for free, the Bump Room has free classes available on their website here