Women's Healthcare Topics

Is it Okay to Lift Weights During Pregnancy?

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

Strength Training is Typically Safe during Pregnancy

Many women engage in a physical training program for the first time when pregnant. Exercise is very beneficial during pregnancy. A routine exercise and strengthening program can help boost your muscle strength and endurance and help prepare your body for labor and delivery.

If you are starting an exercise program for the first time during pregnancy, it is important you take things easy. Pregnancy is not the time to train for a marathon nor is it the time to lose weight. You can however start a strength training routine safely if you follow some important guidelines.

Strength training is typically safe during pregnancy as long as you follow some precautions. If you routinely lifted weights before pregnancy you should have no problem doing so after you become pregnant. You will however need to modify your routine and avoid lifting overly heavy weights.

When lifting weights you should not lift weights that are so heavy you have to forcefully exhale when releasing the weight. This can constrict the airflow to your uterus and may result in injury to your baby. You should also be sure to lift free weights very carefully during pregnancy. You can accidentally injure your abdomen if lifting weights that are too heavy. If you are just starting out you might consider using machines rather than free weights to ensure you use proper form and reduce your risk of injury.

When pregnant whether an experienced weight lifter or novice you should avoid weight training while laying flat on your back after roughly 12 weeks pregnant. Performing exercises on your back after this time can also constrict blood flow to your uterus.

You might find as your pregnancy continues that you have to lift lighter weights. This can still result in a great work out particularly if you increase the number of repetitions you are performing. Weight training is an exceptional way to help strengthen and tone the muscles during pregnancy. Other women opt for resistance bands instead of free weights during pregnancy. There are even classes that use resistance bands as a form of light strength training.

Personal Training

Strength training during pregnancy is safe if you follow some precautions.

A personal trainer can help guide you through a safe and beneficial strength-training program during your pregnancy. You might consider signing up for a session or two at a local gym. Most likely a trainer will recommend an overall strengthening program. Alternatively you might seek out a pregnancy strength training or resistance band class. Some exercise videos use resistance bands to help tone and strengthen during pregnancy.

Weight Training at Home

There are several weight training exercises you can enjoy during your pregnancy from the comfort of your home. Examples include the military press, seated rows and squats. Here are some tools you will need to perform each of these exercises:

  • Military Press - This exercise helps strengthen the arms and shoulders. You'll need a strong chair and two sets of hand weights. Generally you'll want hand weights weighing no more than 10 pounds if just starting out. Sitting in the chair with your knees bent and flat on the floor, you'll want to hold a barbell in each hand and raise your hands above your shoulders, then lower to the ground again. This exercise will come in handy when you find yourself lifting your newborn.

  • Seated Row - You can perform this exercise by sitting on the floor with legs extended in front of you. Bending your knees slightly, wrap a resistance band around your feet and keeping your elbows bent close to your sides, pull the band toward your waist, then release. This is a good exercise for strengthening your middle back, which may help alleviate some of the more common back pain associated with pregnancy.

  • Squats - Squats are great for strengthening the legs and pelvic floor muscles. You'll want to stand facing the back of a wall with your feet a little wider than hip-width apart. If you have an exercise ball, place it behind your back so you can roll up and down the wall. The goal is to squat toward the floor like you were going to sit, until you hit about a 90-degree angle. Then return to a standing position. While bending down, be sure to perform your Kegel exercises, which help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.

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