Kayla Itsines just shared an exclusive pregnancy workout with us, and it's perfect for nixing aches and pains

·8-min read

Back in July, Sweat co-founder and Head Trainer Kayla Itsines shared the news exclusively with Women’s Health UK that she was pregnant with her second child, due early 2023. Since then, she’s launched a brand new pregnancy training programme on the Sweat app and, in even better news, she’s put together an exclusive pregnancy workout just for you. As loyal WH UK readers, any expectant mums can give this 12-15 minute upper-body strength and posture session a go.

‘This workout is designed to help reduce postural issues, as well as strengthen certain muscle groups that can be weakened during pregnancy,’ Kayla tells us. ‘It’s suitable for all trimesters and all you’ll need is a pair of dumbbells. Remember that every woman’s pregnancy is individual, so be sure to talk to your GP regarding what type of exercise might be right for you. This will depend very much on your strength and fitness level prior to pregnancy.’

For Kayla, this means ‘lots of walks’ and ‘getting her steps up’ as much as she can. ‘During my first pregnancy I had morning sickness and nausea until about 26 weeks so I wasn’t able to train much at all,’ she tells us. ‘But in this pregnancy, thankfully, the nausea stopped at about week 9 and I’ve been feeling much better ever since. I’ve found that exercise not only helps me stay connected to my body during pregnancy, it also helps me prioritise my “me time” and puts me in a positive headspace.’

We know, however, that for some of you it might feel safer to stop exercising altogether than to run the risk of doing something wrong. ‘I get it,’ Kayla says. ‘It’s hard to know what you can and can’t do and the unknown can feel daunting. Each pregnancy is unique and the most important thing is that you work closely with your GP/midwife to determine what type of exercise is suitable for you. If you’re cleared to train, low-impact strength training can be a great way to maintain your general strength, health and mental wellbeing throughout pregnancy and into your postpartum journey. The best thing you can do is to work with your healthcare professional and listen to your body – no one knows your body better than you do.’

Ready to give it a go? Read on to watch Kayla’s demos of each exercise, including instructions for each.

The workout

  • Workout format: 1 mobility warm-up + 1 strength circuit + 1 endurance circuit + 1 postural circuit

  • Who is it for?: ‘This workout is suitable for women in all trimesters of pregnancy,’ Kayla says. But remember to make the workout your own – if you want to do fewer reps and heavier weights, do that. Or go lighter and do more reps.

  • Duration: 12-15 minutes.

  • Equipment needed: 1 pair of dumbbells (‘choose a weight that’s challenging but won’t cause strain or push you to work to failure,’ Kayla advises), 1 exercise mat.

  • Targets: Upper body.

  • Benefits: Builds upper body strength and improves posture.

  • How to make it easier: ‘Reduce the weights you’re using, slow down the speed you’re performing each exercise with, increase your rest time at the end of each lap, or reduce the number of laps you do in total,’ Kayla says.

  • How often should I do this workout?: ‘Providing you have clearance from your healthcare professional, I’d recommend doing this once a week, as part of a training programme that also includes lower and full-body sessions. Low-intensity steady state cardio and recovery sessions focused on lower back, hip, upper back and neck mobility would also compliment this workout.’

Warm-up

  • 3-5 minutes of dynamic stretches — such as arm swings and cat-cows.

Workout

Mobility circuit

Perform the following exercises back-to-back, and repeat the whole thing 3 times.

1.Shoulder rotations, 30 secs

  1. With your arms extended out to either side of your body at shoulder-height, plant both feet on the floor hip-width apart. This is your starting position.

  2. Gently rotate both arms forwards in a small circle before returning to the starting position, inhaling for four repetitions and exhaling for four repetitions.

2. Alternating lat stretch, 30 secs

  1. Plant both feet on the floor hip-width apart. Inhale. Stand up tall and extend your right arm directly above your head.

  2. Exhale. Reach your right arm over to your left side to lengthen the right side of your body. Hold this position for the specified amount of time, breathing deeply throughout. Each time that you exhale, reach further over to your left side to increase the stretch. Repeat this stretch on the other side.

Strength circuit

Perform the following exercises back-to-back, and repeat the whole thing 3 times, then take 30 secs rest.

1.Dumbbell curl and press x 15 reps

  1. Holding a dumbbell in each hand in a neutral grip (palms facing inwards) with arms extended on either side of your body, plant both feet on the floor shoulder-width apart. This is your starting position.

  2. Inhale. Bend your elbows to bring the dumbbells in towards your chest, ensuring that your elbows remain in close contact with the sides of your body.

  3. Exhale. Using the muscles in both your shoulders and arms, extend your elbows and press dumbbells up above your head, ensuring that arms are in line with your ears on either side of your head.

  4. Inhale. Extend your elbows to lower the dumbbells and return to the starting position.

2. Dumbbell bent-over row x 12 reps

  1. Holding a dumbbell in each hand with a neutral grip (palms facing inwards), plant both feet on the floor shoulder-width apart. While maintaining a slight bend in your knees, hinge forward from your hips so that your torso is parallel to the floor. Extend your arms directly below your chest. This is your starting position. Inhale.

  2. Exhale. Bend your elbows to bring the dumbbells in towards your body, ensuring your elbows remain in close contact with the sides of your body. You should feel a small squeeze between your shoulder blades.

  3. Inhale. Extend your elbows to lower the dumbbells and return to the starting position.

Endurance circuit

Perform the following exercises back-to-back, and repeat the whole thing 2 times, then take 30 secs rest.

1.Dumbbell lateral raise x 12 reps

  1. Holding a dumbbell in each hand in a neutral grip (palms facing inwards) and arms extended by your sides, plant both feet on the floor shoulder-width apart. This is your starting position. Inhale.

  2. Exhale. While maintaining a slight bend in your elbows, raise the dumbbells outwards and upwards to shoulder height, ensuring that you draw your shoulder blades down and back.

  3. Inhale. Lower the dumbbells to return to the starting position.

2. Dumbbell overhead tricep extension x 12 reps

  1. Holding a single dumbbell with both hands, plant both feet on the floor shoulder-width apart.

  2. Extend your arms above your head, ensuring that they are on either side of your ears. This is your starting position.

  3. Inhale. While keeping your shoulders as still as possible, bend your elbows to lower the dumbbell behind your head.

  4. Exhale. Using your triceps, extend your elbows to return to the starting position, ensuring that your shoulders, elbows and wrists remain in line with one another at all times.

3. Dumbbell arnold press x 12 reps

  1. Holding two dumbbells with an underhand grip (palms facing towards your body) directly in front of your chest, plant both feet on the floor slightly further than shoulder-width apart. This is your starting position. Inhale.

  2. Exhale. Using the muscles in both your shoulders and arms, extend your elbows to press the dumbbells above your head, rotating your wrists outwards (internal rotation) to turn your palms away from your body. Your arms should be in line with your ears on either side of your head.

  3. Inhale. Once your arms are fully extended, bend your elbows to lower the dumbbells into your chest and rotate your wrists inwards (external rotation) to return to the starting position.

Postural circuit

Perform the following exercises back-to-back just the once, then take 30 secs rest.

1.Dumbbell bent-over reverse fly, 30 secs

  1. Holding one dumbbell in each hand, plant both feet on the floor shoulder-width apart.

  2. Hinge forwards from your hips so that your torso is parallel to the floor. Bend your knees slightly and extend your arms to hold the dumbbells directly below your chest. This is your starting position.

  3. Inhale. Exhale. While maintaining a slight bend in your elbows, raise the dumbbells outwards and upwards from below your chest until they reach shoulder height. You should feel a small squeeze between your shoulder blades.

  4. Inhale. Gently lower the dumbbells to return to the starting position.

2. Dumbbell four-point row, 30 secs

  1. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, start on all fours on a yoga mat, ensuring that your knees are below your hips and your hands are below your shoulders. Set your spine in a neutral position and draw your shoulder blades down and back. Gently draw your ribs to your hips to engage your core. This is your starting position.

  2. Inhale. Exhale as you bend your right elbow to draw the dumbbell in towards you, ensuring that your elbow remains in close contact with the right side of your body. You should feel a small squeeze between your shoulder blades. Extend your right elbow to return to the starting position.

  3. Alternate between sides for the specified number of repetitions or time.

Cool-down

  • 3-5 minutes of walking or static stretching.

Finished? Check out Kayla's full pregnancy programme on the Sweat app.

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