Working out when pregnant: The Do’s and Don’ts

Jeroen van Duijn

Training when you’re pregnant seems like a guessing game at best. You’ll likely receive conflicting advice from your doctors and friends to the point that you’re scared to do anything!

It seems that figuring out what you should do at the gym when you’re pregnant IS more of an art than a science—partly because every pregnant woman has a different pregnancy experience.

That being said, when you survey a dozen moms with healthy children like one of the coaches from CrossFit Vancouver (Canada) did—women who all continued to workout during pretty much their entire pregnancy—you’ll get to know some general trends and advice about what works and what doesn’t when you’re growing your baby.

Here’s is what 12 fit moms said about working out during their pregnancies:

 Pregnancy Dont

1. Kipping movements

This means kipping pull-ups, kipping toes-to-bar, kipping muscle-ups, kipping handstand push-ups etc…

Why is kipping not the best idea for a pregnant woman?

Because your body is producing the relaxing hormone (http://www.yourhormones.info/hormones/relaxin.aspx) to prepare it for birth, so you’re bendier and less stable than normal. As a result, your joints likely aren’t as equipped to able to handle ferocious kipping gymnastics movements.

Just because you aren’t kipping, though, doesn’t mean you can’t continue to build strength during this time. Use these months to train your strict strength instead (see pregnancy Do’s for more).

2. Squat below parallel after 30 weeks

While this differs from woman to woman, once you’re 30 weeks in, mothers say you tend to feel less stable at the bottom of a squat. That being said, while some women stopped squatting at 30 weeks, others said they were able to continue to do air squats below parallel until eight months.

As a general rule, though, deep squats are best to be avoided in the later pregnancy months.

3. Ignore your body

Whatever advice people tell you, your body knows best! Period. If a movement doesn’t hurt but you’re in pain later on, stop doing it. If you feel great jogging or skipping, go for it. Just ease the pace and be conscious of how you feel.

4. Movements from the sit-up family

Sit-ups, crunches, toes-to-bar, rope climbs, glute ham sit-ups: All come with a risk of separating abdominal muscles (http://www.kidspot.com.au/birth/pregnancy/pregnancy-health/how-to-avoid-abdominal-separation-during-pregnancy). As you’ll see in the pregnancy Do’s, you can still work on your core. You just need to avoid crunching! For the sake of keeping your abs safe.

 

Pregnancy Dos

All hope is not lost. There are lots of things you CAN do when pregnant.

1. Continue working out

Workout as usual. Just be aware of your intensity level. A good rule is to keep your conditioning to a “conversational pace,” especially in the third trimester—meaning you’re not so out of breath you can’t talk while you’re working out.

2. Perfect movements

Pregnancy is the perfect opportunity to scale your weights or movements back guilt-free in the name of working on perfect form.

And once you can no longer do a movement perfectly—because of your baby bump or because it just doesn’t feel right—switch tools and find new movements that work for you. For example: Move from a barbell clean to DB cleans, or move from a shoulder press to a seated DB shoulder press.

3. Core movements

Though crunches and sit-ups are to be avoided, there are plenty of movements women who have been through a pregnancy or two say worked well for them. Namely:

A). Paloff Press and Paloff holds (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=STIxg1EY0G4)

B). Planks – prone and side planks

C). Chinese planks – prone and supine (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Byb0bniTtkM)

D). Goblet Squats (light goblet squats and front squats are a great way to ensure you’re engaging your core)

4. Accessory Work Galore

What a perfect time to stay strong via accessory work! Here are a list of pregnant women-approved accessory work movements:

A). Posterior Chain movements: Sled pushes, sled pulls, single-leg box step-ups, KB RDLs, farmer carries, glute bridge variations (glute bridge holds, banded glute bridges), banded clam shells (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QjKyGqrAaP4)

B). Pulling movements: Ring rows, banded lat pulldowns, banded pull aparts, chin-over-the-bar isometric holds, chest-to-ring isometric hold, bent over rows, penally rows, chinese rows (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ivcuGJ_bDnY)

C). Pushing: Box push-ups, banded shoulder press, seated DB shoulder press

D). Squats: Box squats, tempo box squats, goblet squats

I can’t reiterate enough, though, that the above is just a guide. Another woman who worked out throughout her entire pregnancy, who has a healthier 10-month year-old, daughter right now, said this:

“I couldn’t do any core exercises after the 6-month mark, not even holds. My abs felt like they were going to separate even when doing push-ups from a box,” she said. On top of this, jumping of any kind didn’t feel right, nor did doing any movements while laying on her back.

On the other hand, she was able to continue to do barbell cleans until well into her third trimester, she said.

“Lifting weights felt best for me. I could barely walk for 15 minutes, but I could do 30 minutes of lifting,” she said. “In the end, I was squatting below parallel without weight, and doing lunges helped to get the baby into the best position for birth. My midwife recommended stairs, so I would come in and do box step-ups and air squats.”

The golden rule:

“Every woman is different, and every pregnancy is different, so just listening to your body and sticking with it are the best things you can do.”

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