Could Resistance Exercise Be the Best Pregnancy Workout?

New research has found that resistance exercises during pregnancy have a whole host of benefits, from improving your overall well-being to staving nausea and pain.

Resistance Exercise the Best Pregnancy Workout antoniodiaz/Shutterstock

If you're a regular visitor to this website, you've heard us talk about the many health benefits of exercising throughout pregnancy (less weight gain, easier delivery, more energy, etc.) but a recent study suggests that women who engaged in resistance exercise specifically experienced improved well-being, and a relief of pregnancy discomfort—including poor posture, fatigue, headache, nausea, insomnia and back pain—as well as a greater sense of control. Karolina Petrov Fieril's Ph.D. thesis for Sahlgrenska Academy at the Health Sciences at University of Gothenburg in Sweden examined the effects of resistance exercise during pregnancy through interviews and quantitative studies. Her research suggests that moderate resistance exercise (in addition to cardio exercise) throughout pregnancy is beneficial for mom.

Feel the burn

We talked to Manhattan-based personal trainers and new moms Anja Pierre and Melissa Paris for their prenatal fitness tips when it comes to getting started with resistance exercises.

Related: The Pregnant Woman's Guide to the Gym

Resistance bands, the TRX suspension system, body-weight exercises, Bosu ball, and stability ball, are a few great resistance training exercises for pregnancy. "As long as they are done with correct form and you're performing exercises through a pain-free and safe range of motion, it's beneficial to strengthen throughout pregnancy using these tools," Paris tells Fit Pregnancy.

Both women also agree that doing strength training throughout each trimester helped speed their recovery after delivery. "Motherhood requires lots of lifting and tons of stamina, which is something that our fitness foundations helped prepare us for," Pierre says.

Four simple resistance exercises

Here are a few resistance exercises Paris and Pierre say are safe to perform while pregnant if you're doctor gives you the thumbs' up:

Wide-leg Squats: Place feet outside the width of shoulders, keep heels and toes on the ground, then lower your butt towards the floor. The key here is to keep your butt back, relax your shoulders, and look forward. Squat until thighs are nearly parallel to the floor, sticking your butt out as if you're sitting in a chair. Hold onto the back of a chair for balance if you need to.

Wall Sits: Stand with your back and shoulders against a wall, positioning feet about 2 feet out in front of you. Lower your butt towards the floor until knees are about 90 degrees and hold the position for as long as you can (aim for 15 to 30 seconds!) keeping heels and toes on the floor the entire time.

Lunges: Stepping forward with the right leg, bend both knees to about 90 degree angles or to the comfort level of the belly. Push back up through front foot and step forward with left leg and repeat. Keep your head up, shoulders back, and continue forward keeping your weight in your front heel.

Dips: Using a sturdy bench, place hands on the bench behind you, just outside of your butt, fingers facing butt, knees bent and feet on floor. Then lower your butt towards the floor. Your elbows should bend at 90 degrees and then push back up, while looking forward to work your triceps muscles on the backs of your arms.

How often you should do resistance training depends on what you were doing before pregnancy. "We suggest building up very slowly and things can change on a daily basis in your workout program based on how the mother feels," Pierre says.