How To Maximize Your Strength Training During Pregnancy
A questions that I get asked all the time is about strength training during pregnancy and how to go about it. The first time around, I wasn’t so sure about this either. I was told by an OB to keep working out the way that I was before pregnancy. So I did.
No one talked about the impact that my core and pelvic floor would take on, the hormonal changes that were taking place, or the laxity of my tissues, ligaments, and joints. I figured I was good to go when I really should have been taking a different approach.
Don’t get me wrong, I think every woman during pregnancy should take part in a strength training program because let me tell you, it is going to come in handy when you have to meet the demands of a little baby. Keeping your body strong during pregnancy is just as important.
Generally speaking, you can continue with you regular programming during the first trimester (if you’re feeling up for it!) but after that, it’s best to make modifications to make way for the changes that are happening on the inside and out.
When I’m programming workouts for myself, my private clients, and my classes, I have a template that I use.
It looks like this:
These are all foundational movements that we use on a daily basis without really thinking about them. During pregnancy and the postpartum period, the demands on our movements are increased due to this physical and physiological changes.
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During the second and third trimester, it's best begin to lighten the weight keeping a close eye on your core because that will also determine the modifications that you need to make. That’s why the Core in my little list has * beside it.
If you notice doming or coning when you're exercising, that may be diastasis recti. Diastasis Recti occurs in every single woman during her pregnancy. so don't panic! Even though it can’t be prevented, you can minimize it. You can still train during your pregnancy with diastasis recti, so that’s great news, you just need to be aware of it and make changes as needed.
We also want to make sure that your breathing technique is down with how you move. This will help to manage the intra-abdominal pressure and limit the impact on your pelvic floor. If you find yourself holding your breath, the pressure gets trapped and goes downward and that’s where women will experience leakage or feel heaviness in their vagina.
If you're feeling heaviness, like a tampon is falling out, it's best to get assessed by a pelvic floor physiotherapist. This could be an indication that you're experience a pelvic organ prolapse. This condition can easily be managed upon diagnosis.
Let’s take a squat. As you lower yourself, take in a big breathe through your nose. At the bottom of the squat, begin your exhale, do a kegel (lift your vagina-don’t bare down) and imagine yourself pulling your pelvic bones together then push yourself up. If you need to practice, start with your body weight first.
Here is an example of my strength training workout:
Incline Chest Press:
Alternating Front Lunge
Incline Dumbbell Row
Half-Kneeling Wood Chop
Typically, I'll superset my workout (superset meaning pairing 2 movements together to complete 1 set e.g. pairing an upper body move with a lower body move). I find this method of training cuts down on the time by half. While one muscle group is resting-the opposite is working, so I'm really not taking a rest between sets. You will find that 30-minutes will be all you need with this method.
For this workout, I did 8-10 repetitions for 2-4 sets (this depends on the time I have that day). I keep my strength training between 2-3 days a week.
As you progress in your pregnancy, you may want change technique up to avoid any additional pressure on your core.
You can always take out the weights and use body weight and resistance bands. This strategy works well if you're low on energy or feeling under the weather. Also, be sure to go by how you're feeling. If you're low on energy, feeling under the weather, or a bit achy, you may want to skip the strength training and go for some mobility work or go for a walk instead. Your body may be letting you know that it needs rest.
Remember to take regular breaks and drink lots of water throughout your workouts. Eating regularly throughout the day will also help to maintain blood sugar levels to reduce any dizziness while you’re working out.
Remember to always consult with your primary care provider to make sure strength training is right for you as there may be some health considerations.
Additional resources: Society of Obstetrics and Gynaecologists of Canada