There is a lot of talk about how pregnant women should take it easy before after and during pregnancy. Some professionals even advocate bed rest and very minimal levels of activity. I want to start off by saying that I am not a medical professional but I am a strength coach. That being said, I have changed many clients’ workout programs around their pregnancy to allow for them to continue to train hard, make gains and get results. Clients have experienced a quicker recovery time post pregnancy and were able to get back to pre-pregnancy weight faster because they kept exercising throughout their pregnancy. This is not to say you can just go wild. There are some stipulations during the second and third trimester that should be considered and some specific exercises that will help you along the way.
Your body goes through certain hormonal changes while pregnant. One of these changes is the release of extra relaxin and oxytocin. The increase in joint laxity from these hormones is something to consider during the the second trimester. The modifications that should be made to your program are to change to positions of more stability, namely the squat to the lunge. The lunge or split leg squat provides the body with more stability so the expectant mother is less likely to end up sustaining lower body injury; keep in mind stability of the pelvis and core musculature is paramount for this exercise to be effective.
The next stipulation is eliminating supine exercises from the program. Supine exercises (on your back) can cause blood pressure changes. Decreases in blood pressure can make the mother become lightheaded and faint. Overhead movements can also cause blood pressure to get too high; however, overhead movements should be addressed on a case-by-case basis. Load stipulations should be considered starting in the middle of the second trimester; these considerations are also for blood pressure control. It has also been shown that vigorous exercise can cause growth restriction of the uterus. Switching to a higher rep scheme sticking more to the 8-12 rep range and rarely working to failure, if at all, is advised starting in the second trimester.
Control of the abdominal musculature is important during this process. A few core exercises should be included in your program to help keep everything in check and avoid back pain during the process. The birddog, the shelf lift and some prone breathing strategies, as well as planking and single-sided carries, are great ways to train while expecting. For an extended article describing each exercise in depth visit Progressiveperformance.com and check out our blog.