Strength training through pregnancy has incredible benefits for both mom and baby. Physically training can potentially lower the risk of gestational diabetes, reduce back pain, improve sleep, and improve labor and recovery. Mentally, training can be empowering, mood boosting, and help bring back a sense of self and normalcy when your whole body is changing. That said, just because there are benefits and training through pregnancy can be done, does not mean it is easy. Training during pregnancy can be uncomfortable, inconvenient, frustrating, embarrassing, and exhausting.
For me, I went into my pregnancy thinking not much would change with my training. I’m experienced. I would change up some reps here and there, maybe I would decrease my frequency, and I would stay off my belly. Imagine my surprise when the first trimester rolled around and I had just about enough energy to tie my shoes, let alone lift a dumbbell. Then fast forward to trimester two when I almost passed out after lying on a flat bench. And enter now, 33 weeks, where I can barely do a RDL because my belly won’t fit between my legs.
But I did still train and do train regularly throughout my pregnancy and, barring any medical contraindications, you can too. It just takes a little adjusting and figuring out what you need to do to make training fit your pregnancy. While Laurin and I go more in depth on the podcast, let’s discuss the practical changes you can make to make training more comfortable and achievable for you during your pregnancy.
A Few of The Main Considerations
Manage Your Symptoms
Nausea, fatigue, heartburn, round-ligament pain, or leg/body cramps are just some of the fun pregnancy symptoms moms may experience. The adjustments you have to make in one trimester, you may not have to make in another. Depending on the symptoms that manifest in you, you may have to make adjustments that others do not. That is okay.
Your Changing Physique
Obviously, your physique is going to change throughout these nine months. These changes, like your growing belly and boobs, lead to a redistribution of weight and increased weight in general. They also pose as an obstacle when it comes to certain movements or exercises.
Making Training Work for Your Pregnancy
Adjust Your Expectations
Just like everybody is different, every pregnancy is very different. Your pregnancy will be completely unique to you. When I talk about my experience it is just that, mine. When I talk about recommendations for training, these are general guidelines from my GGS Pre and Postnatal Coaching Certification that apply to most pregnancies but might not apply to you. In any case, give yourself grace and time to figure it out. It might not look how you thought it would, it probably won’t go as planned, but in most cases, adjusting to your special set of circumstances can be done.
Adjust Your Training Time
One of the best ways to manage your symptoms is to play with the time you are training. If you are having morning sickness (that is actually is isolated to the morning) you may not want to plan a 5 a.m. training session. If your energy levels crash in the afternoon, you probably should not schedule to train after work. Experimenting with different time schedules can help you nail down when you can get the best workout that does not exacerbate any of your symptoms.
Adjust Your Frequency
Another way to adjust your schedule is changing up your training frequency or exercise split. It is recommended people who are just getting started with training stick to a two or three day full body split, whereas more experienced lifters may train two to four times a week with a full body or upper/lower split (GGS). However, even as an experienced lifter you may find training four times a week to be too taxing on your lower energy levels. Perhaps, as in my case, you find training upper/lower is too much volume on one area of the body leaving you excessively sore and depleted. Play around with various splits and schedules, even if is not your norm!
Adjust Your Form
As your body changes, your form will have to change with it. As your belly gets bigger, laying on your back can cause pressure to the vena cava and decrease blood circulation leading to dizziness, nausea, or lightheadedness upon standing. Adding inclines to formerly supine positions can help decrease this pressure. Even adding a wedge or rolled up mat under your upper back and neck can help. Furthermore, this belly can feel restrictive during certain movements. Try widening your stance when squatting or decreasing your range of motion during hip hinge movements. For single leg work, don’t be afraid to reach for a wall or friend to help maintain balance.
Select Movements that Benefit You
If there were ever a time to make an argument for functional training, I would say this is one of those times. Choosing exercises and workouts that help support your body as it changes and prepares you to go through labor can make a difference in your quality of life, birth, and recovery. It can also give you motivation and purpose behind your training. Prioritizing movements that help with your posture and alignment, like hip hinges, upper body pulling, and core stabilization, as well as incorporating pelvic floor work can all lead to an easier pregnancy, birth, and recovery.
Talk With Your Doctor
Be sure to talk with your doctor and get clearance for any type of exercise when pregnant. As your pregnancy continues, with any new conditions, injuries, or diagnosis, make sure to adapt based on the recommendations of your doctor. While exercising during pregnancy is highly beneficial for most pregnancies, there are cases where it is not appropriate or advisable.
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