Upper Body Strength & Cardio Circuits
Often I have often overlooked circuit training in my own regime, because I focus so much on building muscle and symmetry. While that has proven to work, there is nothing about circuit training that is easy, and it is a great way to look lean, maintain muscle and SAVE TIME.
During my pregnancy, getting to the gym hasn’t always been the easiest. I always want to go, but with low energy and all the different phases of feeling good and not feeling good, it has been very hard to stay consistent. So, doing a weight training workout plus cardiovascular workouts PLUS yoga would really not be possible—at least not for me.
First & Second Trimester Circuit Training
In my first trimester, I still lifted in a more traditional style like I always had (straight sets, giant sets, etc.). Once I started feeling less nauseous (around 13 weeks), I began incorporating more circuit-style training. My energy was still low, so I did not move very quickly between circuits, but it worked and kept me going to the gym!
An example of a circuit I would do in my first & second trimesters:
Light weight / perfect form – 1 set x 15 reps
Moderate weight – 1 set x 10-12 reps
Holding 15 lb dumbbells – 1 set x 15 reps each leg
Moderate weight – 1 set x 10-12 reps
Triple drop-set (lowering the weight 2x during 1 set) – 1 set x 25 reps
Once you have done 1 set of the above exercises with 30-60 seconds rest in-between each movement, rest 2 minutes and repeat the entire circuit 2-3 more times.
Circuit Training At The Beginning Of The 3rd Trimester
Now that I am in my 3rd trimester (30 weeks), I feel a total blast of energy and feel great! I’m taking full advantage of it (since you never know how long it may last) and having some more fun with my circuit training by incorporating some more high-energy exercises.
I had incorporated all of these exercises into my conditioning workouts prior to becoming pregnant, so my body is used to them and I have clearance from my doctor to perform them. If you have never done these type of exercises prior to becoming pregnant, I suggest you wait until you’re getting back in shape after your baby arrives to try these out.
I performed this circuit with minimal equipment – and so can you!
TRX bicep curls – 1 set x 12-15 reps
Hook the cables up to something high and grasp each handle with your palms facing upward. As you lean back and pull the cables so they have no slack—keep your entire body in a perfect straight line from head to feet. (While pregnant, I feel a bit more comfortable with a slight bend in my knees). Keep in mind that the angle of your body to the ground affects the degree of difficulty: More upright = easier, more horizontal = harder.
Bend your arms at the elbows and curl your body up to the handles. The goal during this bicep curl is to keep your elbows and upper arms in one spot the entire movement while keeping your upper arms at a 90-degree angle to your body.
Boxing bag dumbbell punches – 1 set x 30 seconds
Harder than it looks! I am using 8 lb dumbbells here and could hardly keep my arms up toward the end. You’ll want to make sure you use dumbbells large enough so that your bare knuckles aren’t rubbing against the bag. Or, wrap your hands to protect your knuckles. Eight pound dumbbells worked great, and my knuckles didn’t hit the bag. Try to keep your arms up and your hands near your chin the entire 30 seconds!
TRX rows – 1 set 12-15 reps
The TRX row mainly works your lats and upper back, but is so great for your core, shoulders and overall strength. This exercise has a similar set-up to our TRX biceps curls – you want to lean back and keep your body in a straight line (it’s okay here to have a slight bend in your knees again). Your grip will have your palms facing each other. Start the movement by activating your back and shoulder blades and keeping your elbows close to your sides as you pull your body toward your hands. Again, more upright = easier, more horizontal = harder.
Rope slams – 1 set x 20 seconds
I tried this both with alternating arms and with both arms moving simultaneously. I felt more comfortable with alternating arms, as I feel I had more control over my belly this way and wasn’t bouncing my upper body around so much. Make sure you do what feels comfortable to you. You can workout with these ropes in any direction: alternating arms, criss-cross, both arms simultaneously and more!
Stand with your feet shoulder-width or wider with your knees bent into a ¼ squat position. This exercise works your arms, shoulders, back, core and legs so make sure to think about engaging all of those muscles while you work (instead of just swinging your arms around).
Once you have done 1 set of the above exercises with 30-60 seconds rest between each, rest 2 minutes and repeat the entire circuit 2-3 more times for a great workout! And, remember, all pregnancies are different, so if you feel like you need to shorten up the workout or rest more – TAKE IT.