Resistance training in pregnancy – What should i focus on?

pregnancy resistance training - equipment

If you want to and are able to do resistance training during your pregnancy, there are many things to consider. However, there are a few basic principles that i follow with my clients to aid with a strong pregnancy, birth and postnatal period.

Firstly, it is important to remember that training in pregnancy is about maintaining strength rather than hitting new personal bests. Now is the time to focus on making sure you are moving correctly. This will help with your changing body and preventing little niggles.

When programming during pregnancy, I like to keep in the basic movements. These are the squat pattern, hip hinge, push, pull and core, very similar to any other good resistance training programme. However as your pregnancy progresses, these exercises may need to be adapted. This may be for the bump getting in the way, any niggles you may be feeling and generally how much you feel up to doing.

Resistance training – Main focus

My main focus in pregnancy programming is posterior chain work. Having a strong back is something that will assist in your changing posture as you become front loaded with weight. It also assists with the demands of feeding a new baby, bending over for changes and carrying a baby in your arms. You want to include exercises like deadlifts, straight leg deadlifts, rows, throat pulls and hip thrusts. Having a strong back/hamstrings/glutes will mean that less pressure is put through your lower back as your pregnancy progresses. This will also help with the burden of carrying the extra weight.

I like to ensure that my clients keep their glutes switching on when squatting and lunging during pregnancy. As you start to lean back more to counterbalance the weight of the bump, you tend to load through the quads. This means the glutes stop helping you out as much. This can lead to lots of niggles with the main one being lower back and hip pain. To help with this, it is important to have a good warm up and activation before sessions and to monitor movement patterns throughout. One way I have had to adapt squats in my own training, is by putting my heels slightly elevated to ensure i am not leaning forward too much and maintaining depth.

Creating a balanced programme

To ensure a balanced programme, it is important to still include chest/arm/upper body work. You will need to have the strength to push a buggy and lift up a small person from day 1 after they are born. Chest press and shoulder press, should be a feature in any programme. Not only do they help to balance out the work on your back, but they maintain that front loading strength.

Pregnancy core work

Core work is something that can feel a bit daunting and probably something to go into more detail in another post. Integrating core into weight workouts happens anyway as you brace and lift the weights. However, resistance training moves like Pallof press and supermen on all fours are brilliant ways to work the deeper core muscles. They do this without putting pressure through your midline. My big no no’s for pregnancy core work are anything that puts unnecessary pressure through the centre of your tummy causing doming. This means that for most, planks are out, as are crunches etc. Simply utilising asymmetric weight work in your other exercises is a great way to work your core. For example, holding the weight in one arm while performing lunges.

If there is ever a good time to have support in your training, it is while pregnant and post natal. Choose someone qualified to guide you through a personalised programme and always listen to your body.


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