Exercise guidelines can get tricky when discussing prenatal fitness. Each individual handles her pregnancy uniquely. Additionally, we all have different fitness backgrounds, so one general guideline for an entire population seems a bit silly, no?
Why should prenatal fitness be in a one-size-fits-all package?
In my recent Reader Questions post, I discussed the outdated 140 bpm heart rate guideline. Many doctors still suggest this to their patients without taking into account one’s exercise history. The same can be said for advising a set weight lifting limit. For example, “Don’t lift more than 25 lbs…”
Pregnancy Myth: Don’t Lift Heavy Weights
Strength training during pregnancy can benefit both mom and baby. I don’t know about you, but I want to maintain as much core strength as possible while my abdomen is expanding. I really don’t want my lower back doing all the work of supporting a growing belly–> hello, back pain anyone?
And, my legs better remain strong as they adapt to carrying more weight!
Strength training during pregnancy can be an asset–if you pay attention to form and quality. This is not the time to space out, especially when balance is becoming more challenging. Our center of gravity shifts with weight gain which makes some lifts more challenging. Certainly as your pregnancy progresses.
You likely will have to reduce the amount of weight you lift. It’s important to listen to your body throughout pregnancy and know it’s okay to back off. No need to find that 1RM right now! However, that doesn’t mean you have to drastically reduce the weight you can comfortably lift.
No more bench press. Supine exercises after the first trimester can affect the return of blood to your heart. So, find substitutes like incline press or push-ups.
Joint pain. An increase of relaxin in the system, causes your joints to be less stable. Eventually, our body is preparing for a watermelon to exit through a hole the size of a lemon, so something has to give! Accordingly, deep, heavy squats might need to be taken off the menu if they cause excessive pain in your hips or knees. Again, everyone is different, so adjust accordingly.
No more room. An expanding belly may get in the way of squats and dead lifts, so you likely will have to use sumo squats and sumo dead lifts (think knees wide, toes at 45*) or lunges to continue to strength train the lower body.
Here is my most recent workout at 38.5 weeks pregnant using a 35 lbs kettlebell and a set of 10 pound dumbbells.
15 kettlebell swingsv(eye-level)
15 bicep curl to shoulder press
15 sumo dead lifts
I took breaks in between rounds and didn’t feel overly exerted. If I needed to rest, I did. Listen to your body.
Lifting weights during pregnancy (correctly) can help you maintain strength and support your changing body. Additionally, it likely will help you during labor and delivery. Bonus! And, how about recovery after giving birth? Might as well keep as much of that lean muscle as you can while you’re carrying your baby for 40 weeks! Ultimately, listen to your body. If it feels right, keep doing it. If you become uncomfortable, that’s your signal to modify or stop. If you’re uncertain about certain lifts or proper technique, make sure you seek a qualified trainer.
Blue Buds Winner:
No. 222 Britt, “I will use them at the gym and when running outside.” Congrats! Please shoot me an email at blondeponytail [at] hotmail [dot] com with your name, address, & phone number.
Do you have a favorite lift? – My favorite lift is the hang clean.
*Disclaimer: Although I am a NSCA-CSCS, you should consult a physician before starting any exercise program or diet plan. If you choose to do any of the workouts featured on this website, you do so at your own risk.