Get advice from a physical therapist on the topic of ab exercises during pregnancy. Find out if ab workouts while pregnant are safe or harmful to you and your baby.

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.



You are pregnant and a bit confused on whether or not you are allowed to do ab exercises while pregnant. This is a very common misconception amongst first time moms.

You might think that doing ab exercises may harm your baby or may cause diastasis recti during pregnancy. But I want to explain to you why ab exercises can be done during pregnancy.

I am a physical therapist and a mom of 4, and in this article I will help answer all your questions about ab exercises during pregnancy. 

Can I Do Ab Exercises While Pregnant?

If you are wanting the answer to the question, “Can I do ab exercises during pregnancy?”, the answer is YES! 

Yes, you can do ab exercises while pregnant, and I actually highly recommend it as a physical therapist. There is a wide variety of ab exercises, so be sure to continue reading to find out which ab exercises are safe and unsafe. Some ab exercises can be harmful to your baby and to you so be sure you are doing the right ones.

The reason why I recommend doing ab exercises during pregnancy is because you need to maintain a strong core throughout your pregnancy in order to withstand the weight gain in your core region. As your belly grows, the increased weight will cause strain and pull on your spine. With a strong core, your spine is less likely to be affected by this weight gain.

However, if your core muscles are weak throughout your pregnancy, you are more likely to develop back pain from the added pressure and weight that is pulling on your spine. 

Related: 37 Exercises and Activities to Avoid While Pregnant

Doing ab exercises, specifically those ab exercises that target the core as a unit, will ultimately help your pregnancy to be one that is more comfortable and pain free.


Doing ab exercises, specifically those ab exercises that target the core as a unit, will ultimately help your pregnancy.

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    How Can I Strengthen My Core During Pregnancy?


    The best way to strengthen your core during pregnancy is to choose ab exercises that are not straining to your core.

    You want to avoid ab exercises that may put you at risk of injuring yourself due to high stress or heavy loads.

    Your body has increased relaxin, a pregnancy hormone, that increases the risk of injury. Due to this, it’s important that you choose ab exercises that do not cause straining to your core muscles.

    The best way to strengthen your core during pregnancy is with small, isometric movements. An isometric exercise is a form of exercise involving the static contraction of a muscle without any visible movement in the angle of the joint. The great thing about an isometric exercise is that it can be done with little to no movement at all.

    By contracting and isolating your abs in just the right way, you can safely strengthen your abs without the risk of injuring yourself or your baby. The best ab exercise for pregnancy is the abdominal brace exercise.

    Can I Do Crunches In The First Trimester


    If you are interested in doing crunches during the first trimester since your belly hasn’t grown so much yet, my recommendation would be to continue doing them only if you were doing crunches before you conceived.

    For example, if you were an avid fitness enthusiast prior to pregnancy and you were used to doing crunches 3-6 days a week, I would recommend continuing with crunches throughout the first trimester as long as you are comfortable.

    Once your belly begins to grow, I recommend stopping the crunches due to the changes in your body mechanics. I also recommend stopping at any time if you experience pain doing crunches. (Be sure to check with your doctor for approval before beginning any new exercise routine while pregnant)

    However, if you just found out your are pregnant and you want to start a workout routine for the first time that includes crunches, something you had never done before, I would advise you to hold off on doing crunches since this is not an exercise your body has been accustomed to. You are more likely to sustain an injury during pregnancy which is something you obviously want to avoid.

    Can I Do Sit Ups While Pregnant


    Along the same lines of crunches, which are smaller movements compared to a full sit up, I would advise you to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine while pregnant.

    If sit ups are an exercise that you have been doing for several months before becoming pregnant, then it is safe to continue throughout the first trimester as long as your belly is not beginning to show.

    If you have never done sit ups prior to pregnancy, please don’t start now as this can be straining to your abdominal muscles during pregnancy. 

    Can I Tighten My Abs During Pregnancy


    Can I Tighten My Abs During Pregnancy


    If you have never done ab exercises prior to pregnancy but you are finally ready to get your health under control now that you are pregnant and you are growing a tiny baby inside of you, then great!!

    You can still do ab exercises while pregnant. 

    I recommend doing ab tightening exercises.

    The best exercise for this is abdominal bracing.

    It’s a simple movement that requires you to isolate the deeper muscles of your core. It’s a safe exercise to do throughout pregnancy during the first, second and third trimester. You can see how to do this ab exercise here.

    Can I Do Burpees While Pregnant


    Burpees are a high intensity crossfit type of exercises that is definitely popular for those who take exercise seriously.

    If you are used to doing burpees prior to pregnancy, I will give you the green light to keep doing them throughout the first trimester; however, you will need to modify this exercise during the second and third trimester due to the jarring and jumping movements.

    The way you modify this exercise during the second and third trimester is by using a wall as your surface instead of the floor. 

    1. Stand in front of your wall with your toes slightly pointed out.
    2. Perform a squat, keeping your weight in your heels and your knees pointed out
    3. As you begin to rise from the squat, put your arms up against the wall to get into a push-up position
    4. Perform a push up against the wall and then repeat
    5. Perform 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps

    Remember to consult a doctor before performing any new exercises during pregnancy. 

    Are Planks Safe While Pregnant


    This is another popular ab exercise that poses a lot of questions during pregnancy.

    It is known that planks and other ab exercises in which your belly is prone (face down) can increase strain and cause diastasis recti during pregnancy (the separation and gapping of the abdominal muscles). For this reason, it is important that you avoid plank exercises while pregnant during the second and third trimester. 

    Related: How To Test For Diastasis Recti

    If you are trained in planks prior to pregnancy and your muscles are strong enough to hold that position, planks are safe to perform during the first trimester. Please consult with a doctor before beginning any new exercises during pregnancy. 

    The Bottom Line About Ab Exercises During Pregnancy


    It is safe to tighten your abs during pregnancy. In fact, it is recommend by physical therapists to strengthen the core during pregnancy to improve your strength and prevent back injury.

    However, you want to consult with a doctor before beginning any new workouts during pregnancy. Do not attempt ab exercises for the first time if you are pregnant.

    If you are trained in ab exercises prior to pregnancy, you are safe to continue with those particular ab exercises during the first trimester, but these exercises will need to be modified or put on hold during the second and third trimesters. 

    You are at risk of diastasis recti, a common abdominal injury that occurs during pregnancy. To learn more about diastasis recti and how to test for abdominal separation, continue reading this article which includes a step-by-step instructional video. 

    This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

    *It is important to always consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program and get medical clearance. Always warm up thoroughly and stretch after all workouts. and Jena Bradley will be not be responsible or liable for any injury sustained while exercising at home, gym or elsewhere. Perform exercises at your own risk.

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