Is It Safe to Do Planks While Pregnant?

pregnant woman doing plank exercise

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Planks are a great way to maintain your core strength during pregnancy, but you may want to switch to a modified version when you are further along. That's because although it's generally safe to do planks while pregnant, it can become more difficult and contribute to problems like diastasis recti.

What to Know About Planks During Pregnancy

As long as your doctor gives you the OK, planks are generally safe to do while pregnant. In fact, abdominal work has several benefits for pregnant women including:

  • Support for your pelvic floor muscles, preventing issues like frequent urination during pregnancy and postpartum.
  • Increased lower back support, improving back pain caused by the pull of your baby bump.
  • An easier labor and postpartum recovery

Even though planks are technically safe to do throughout pregnancy, they may not always be practical. During the first trimester, you may feel more tired than usual and not want to exercise. Or, as your pregnancy progresses, your baby bump might make planks too cumbersome.

In addition, planks and other abdominal exercises that cause your abs to bulge out when you do them can cause or contribute to diastasis recti.

What Is Diastasis Recti?

Diastasis recti is the separation of your rectus abdominus (your ab muscles) at the midline. It is very common during and after pregnancy. The separation may be partial or complete.

During pregnancy, increased levels of the hormones relaxin and progesterone relax your muscles and loosen your ligaments and joints. This allows your organs to shift position and your muscles and skin stretch out to accommodate your growing baby.

All women will experience some degree of separation along the midline when carrying pregnancy. If the separation is on the wider side or if you have a complete separation, it can last for a long time and be difficult to reverse.

Although strengthening your abs will reduce the chance of diastasis recti during pregnancy, there are some abdominal exercise that can actually cause or exacerbate it.

Planks and other exercises that cause your abs to bulge out or that stretch your abs open at the midline can be modified to avoid this.

How to Do a Modified Plank

Peloton yoga instructor and Verywell Family Review Board member Kristin McGee says "it's good to modify planks during pregnancy to avoid overstretching the abdominals or causing any intra-abdominal pressure which can lead to diastasis."

McGee suggests dropping your knees for a modified plank. So, instead of supporting your weight on your hands and toes, let your knees hit the ground. She also suggested swapping out planks for other core-strengthening exercises.

Another way to modify your planks during pregnancy is by doing an incline plank. This exercise is done standing, while supporting yourself with your elbows on a table or countertop.

McGee pointed out that all pregnant people are different, and not all will need to modify their planks during pregnancy.

"If a woman has strong transverse abdominals, she may be OK," she says. "But I always think it's best to err on the side of safety and just drop the knees for a modified version or do other types of safe core strengthening exercises."

Whether or not you choose to modify your planks, consciously pull your ab muscles together towards the midline whenever you exercise them. If you want to avoid or reduce diastasis recti, stay focused on tightening your abs and bringing them together rather than letting them splay or bulge.

Core Exercises to Avoid During Pregnancy

Although planks won't cause danger to yourself or your baby during pregnancy, there are some types of core exercises you should avoid.

While pregnant, avoid any exercises that involve:

  • Twisting or crunching
  • Laying on your stomach
  • Laying on your back. This can compress the vena cava, the main vein that carries blood from your lower body back to your heart.

Planks in the Postpartum Period

During the months following birth, it's best to follow the same guidelines for planks as you did during pregnancy. Ab work will continue to benefit your body overall during this time.

If you experienced diastasis recti during your pregnancy, continue to modify your planks until the separation between your abs closes enough so that you cannot put one to two fingers between it.

1 Source
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  1. Piper, Timothy & Jacobs, Emily & Haiduke, Mike & Waller, Mike & McMillan, Cathy. (2012). Core Training Exercise Selection During Pregnancy. Strength and Conditioning Journal. 34. 55-62. 10.1519/SSC.0b013e318232c412. 

By Elisa Cinelli
Elisa is a well-known parenting writer who is passionate about providing research-based content to help parents make the best decisions for their families. She has written for well-known sites including POPSUGAR and Scary Mommy, among others.