Exercise Modifications for the Third Trimester

MilliGFunk 31 Weeks Pregnant

Happy Valentine’s Day Weekend!

31 Week Bumpdate

As our little baby boy grows, his movements are (just as the pregnancy books and blogs promise) becoming less cute and more painful. I find myself shifting positions really often now when I’m working at my computer or sitting on our couch. Getting comfortable in bed at night is challenging, too, so I’m waking up tired most mornings.

My iron deficiency has yet to be defeated, so I got the “eat more steak” lecture from my doctor this week, much to my father-in-law’s envy. 😉 My heartburn is pretty awful, so even with several doses per day of heartburn medication, I’m still not really able to eat much or enjoy much of what I eat.

My old friend Dizziness, who I spent a lot of time with during my pregnancy with Small Shaw, has come back now, too. I spent a good portion of every day feeling at least a little bit light-headed, but so far I’ve not blacked out or passed out like I did with Small Shaw, so I’m glad for that.

Otherwise, though, everything is going well. The OB says things look good, and as long as the baby’s healthy, I can deal with the general aches, pains, and inconveniences of pregnancy. Just nine weeks to go!

Blessed by the Discomforts of Pregnancy

On a somber note, I just learned today that an old friend and his wife lost their baby in the womb at 23 weeks, and it nearly broke my heart. I’m taking an extra minute today to rub my growing belly, and to relish in the kicks that are growing stronger each day.

That belly and all of these little discomforts I’ve been feeling are signs that our little boy is continuing to grow strong and healthy, and I feel so lucky to be his momma, already. Every last symptom of pregnancy is a blessing because it means that my body is doing exactly what it needs to do to make room for his.

One of the little joys of being pregnant with a boy is that my husband has shared stories here and there with me lately about what he was like as a kid. He was an ornery little bugger, to be sure, so I think he’s trying to warn me that if Bavarian Baby Boy is anything like he was, I might be in for a whole new kind of parenting adventure starting in a few weeks. 🙂

Pregnancy Fitness at 31 Weeks

As this pregnancy progresses, my workouts have definitely been impacted. I’m slowing down now, going to the gym less frequently and taking it easier when I do. One way to take things easier during pregnancy is to modify workout moves to accomodate a growing belly, changing hormones, and adjusted pelvis and spine.

I’m doing so many more modifications now than I was doing even a month ago! These modifications for exercise during the third trimester have really been on my mind this week, so I thought it would be a perfect time to share some of them with you.

Exercise Modifications for Third Trimester


I’ve been modifying all forms of twists for several weeks now. Pretty early on in my pregnancy, I started taking it easy on deep twists: when my yoga class would do a deep twist, I would simply twist gently, following the same basic form as the rest of the class.

As my pregnancy has progressed, though, I’ve begun fully modifying all twisting poses. Here are a few examples of how I modify twists during my power yoga classes.

In chair position, if the yoga instructor suggests a twist, I simply remain facing forward:

Chair Position Twist Modification for Third Trimester
For warrior post and lunge twists, the key is to twist in the direction your legs are opening, rather than twisting back over your front leg. You can see here that my spine is still in alignment, and that my belly isn’t under any strain:

Warrior Twist Modification for Third Trimester
When the instructor tells the class to do a seated twist, I gently turn in the same direction my legs are opening to — not across my body (just like in warrior or lunge poses). My right arm stays with my right leg so that my abdomen isn’t strained.

The rest of the class, by comparison, will have their legs in this same position, but will twist their bodies in the opposite direction, looking over their right shoulder.

Seated Twist Modification for Third Trimester

FittaMamma has a free downloadable PDF that highlights some helpful information about practicing yoga during pregnancy. If you’re at all interested in keeping up your yoga practice now that you’re expecting, you can get the booklet here (you’ll need to provide your name and email address).

FittaMamma Guide to Pregnancy Yoga


I’ll be honest with you that my upper body has never been exceptionally strong. When I’m not pregnant, I’ve got good form for pushups through about 15 reps. After that, my form starts to get lousy. Early on in this pregnancy, I did pretty well with pushups, but by the third trimester, the weight and size of my belly has just destroyed me.

Several weeks ago, I started modifying my pushups so that I do them from my knees instead of having my feet planted on the floor. Now, I’m even starting to struggle a bit with that modification, so it might be wall push-ups for me from here on out.

Here’s an example of modified pregnancy push-ups in case you’re curious how you can keep up this traditional move through your own pregnancy:

Modified Pregnancy Push-Ups


At this stage in the game, I either omit or modify core exercises pretty heavily. I can still do crunches, boat pose, and plank pose, but that doesn’t mean I do them. From what I’ve read, it’s safe to do core workouts in pregnancy as long as they work both the interior and exterior walls of the abdominal muscles.

I generally follow the “listen to your body” rule of thumb. If I ever feel pulling, strain, or balance impairment while doing core, I immediately stop or modify. My philosophy is that no workout is worth risking my baby’s (or my own) well-being.

When my yoga class does crunches, I either stretch gently or do boat pose. When they do plank, I do side plank, stretches, or boat. In Body Pump classes, I do similar modifications. I’m not too proud to sit and stretch a bit while the class does core, and I often stick with side plank or boat when the class does moves that put an uncomfortable strain on my side body or belly.

FittaMamma has a really good compilation video, taught by a fitness expert who’s in her third trimester, of core exercises you can do during pregnancy. Check it out here:

Core Workouts for Pregnancy

Up-Dog Is a No-Go

At some point over the last few weeks, upward facing dog became a total no-go for me. One of the body changes you’ll notice as your pregnancy progresses is that you simply can’t arch your back very far.

When you do try to arch your back, you’ll feel two things: first, that your back just isn’t as flexible as it used to be (a result of the way your pelvis tilts forward to make room for baby) and second, that there’s an uncomfortable pulling in your belly.

Rather than doing a full chaturanga in my yoga practice (which includes a plank, pushup, and up-dog, both), I go to my hands and knees for an easy cat-cow pose. When the class goes back to down-dog, I follow. The cat-cow combo feels good on my belly and low back, whereas a modified chaturanga feels really awkward.

Learn more about yoga poses that need to be practiced with extra care during pregnancy right here.

Anything Lying Flat on My Back

During my first pregnancy I was more or less okay lying on my back for short periods of time. Not so much this time around. This time, I get lightheaded almost immediately when I lie on my back, which has really made me notice how much time is dedicated to exercises done on the back during my regular fitness classes.

In Body Pump, an entire circuit is devoted to bench presses and other back-lying arm exercises. I modify by doing a few reps at a time, then sitting up to give myself some relief. It’s not that my arms can’t handle the weight — it’s that lying flat on my back on bench cuts off circulation to my brain! 😉

In yoga, I avoid or modify the back-lying poses and back-lying core exercises my instructor teaches. In addition, I take a seated savasana at the end of the class, even though almost everyone else enjoys their savasana in corpse pose (for you non-yogis, savasana is a relaxation period at the end of the class, and in corpse pose you lie flat on your back kind of like you’re dead).

Forward Bends

Oh, the belly! I adore my baby boy bump, but dang, does he get in the way of forward bends. For standing forward bends, I just open my legs up as wide as I need to in order to accommodate my belly. For seated forward bends, I keep my legs together, but can’t bend over nearly as far as I used to.

Seated Forward Bend Modification for Third Trimester Forward Bend Modification for Third Trimester

Dead Row & Clean and Press

I don’t have to modify these exercises too much, but if I forget for a moment that I’m pregnant, I bump my belly with the bar. My only real modification, then, is to be more aware than I usually am of where my bump is in relationship to the weight of the bar.

Not familiar with this move? Check out the Les Mills Body Pump website to “learn the moves:”

Clean and Press Third Trimester


I’ve personally not had any issues yet with squats, but some women do. During pregnancy, your hamstrings are weakened, and your balance is affected. Deep squats use your hamstrings, and in order to keep good form, you need to keep your body balanced.

If you have any doubt about doing squats later in pregnancy, chair squats are a great alternative. This video from FittaMamma shows you exactly how chair squats work. I love that the model is in her third trimester, too!

How to do chair squats in pregnancy from FittaMamma.com
Have you found that modifications to traditional exercises have helped you to stay active through the final weeks of your pregnancy? Are there any modifications I missed? Leave a comment today! Your encouragement won’t just be for me, it’ll be for other moms and moms-to-be who are trying to stay healthy and active through their pregnancies, too.

Fittamamma Logo Move Nurture Support-page-001FittaMamma has been an incredible partner for me through this active pregnancy, offering me several sets of fantastic maternity workout clothes in exchange for me writing blog posts that document my healthy and active pregnancy. You can find their entire line of supportive maternity workout clothes in the FittaMamma Shop.

I’m grateful for the ongoing opportunity as a blogger to work with such a fantastic brand. Come back every Friday to follow my second pregnancy with my #FittaMammaFriday posts!

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by FittaMamma, who has graciously outfitted me with maternity activewear for my active pregnancy. FittaMamma supports active mammas by offering exercise tips, recipes, and maternity activewear that holds and supports your baby bump!

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One Comment

  1. Great post! It’s hard to believe that you are at 31 weeks. I’m sure this pregnancy has gone faster for us here in Mo. than it has for you, but seems Bavarian Boy pregnancy is moving faster than Small Shaw did. Maybe because it was our first grandchild? Anyway, loved your post!

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