Is weight training safe during pregnancy?

weight training pregnancy, pre post natal, exercise

July 20, 2023

Having championed the benefits of weight training during pregnancy in my previous post, I thought it was important to reassure everyone over the safety of weight training during pregnancy.

In the past, pregnant ladies were often told to avoid exercise during pregnancy- almost like being pregnant equated to having an illness! However, luckily we now recognise this was completely wrong. In fact, today’s medical guidelines recommend 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week.

But how do you know what type of exercise is safe to do with pregnancy? What should you avoid? Can you start exercising during pregnancy for the first time? Hopefully I can answer all these questions in this post, so please read on!

What exercise can I do during pregnancy?

It may surprise you to hear that most exercise is safe and beneficial to do during pregnancy. In fact, it may be easier to tell you what exercise is best avoided instead. These include contact sports, sports where you risk falling (such as mountain biking), scuba diving and sky diving….none of which are probably particularly surprising to you all!

Running, swimming, yoga, walking, weights…all of these are perfectly safe for both mum and baby. In fact, keeping active in pregnancy helps to reduce problems during pregnancy and labour. Weight training in particular has been shown to have fantastic benefits for pregnant women. It has been linked with better blood sugar control, better pregnancy outcomes and less aches and pains. You can find out more details about the benefits of weight training for pregnant women here.

Pregnant woman is ready for next exercise
Image by gpointstudio on Freepik

Can I start strength training during pregnancy?

Firstly, if you’ve not exercised before, it is always a good idea to check in with your midwife or GP first.

But yes, for most straightforward pregnancies, it is perfectly safe to start weight training, even for the first time. In fact, building up strength in your muscles can help reduce pregnancy aches and pains, make it easier to carry the baby and improve your labour. Sounds like a no-brainer when you put it like that doesn’t it?

No access to a gym? Don’t fancy squatting with a bar? Don’t worry, strength training doesn’t have to mean lifting heavy weights. All you need is a couple of resistance bands and your own body weight to create a very effective workout.

What strength exercises should I do?

Exercises that strength your core and bottom muscles are fantastic during pregnancy as they will help protect against many common pregnancy aches and pains. Exercises to help strengthen your upper back are also useful to prepare you for the inevitable lugging around of car seats and prams that will soon follow! Pelvic floor exercises are also a must to help prevent against future pelvic floor issues.

The NHS has some good guidance about what exercises you can do. I’ve also put together some plans to get you started here. When you start exercising, be sure to work within your limits, and if something doesn’t feel right, stop and get a trained professional to check what you’re doing. It is important to incorporate strength exercises with stretching and mobility exercises to avoid any injuries.

If you’ve previously trained with weights prior to getting pregnant, you’re in a great position to keep going! However, it is important for every pregnant women to recognise the changes that are occurring in their body, and how you can adapt your training to accomodate this. Have a read below about ways to train safely during pregnancy.

Ways to train safely during pregnancy

  1. Avoid training on your back after 16 weeks: Evidence shows that lying on your back during the later stages of pregnancy can reduce the blood flow back to the heart and reduce your cardiac output. This may result in your feeling light headed or dizzy. Instead, try to focus on exercises where you are sitting or standing instead. Check out our plans for different ideas on core exercises you can do that doesn’t involve lying on a mat!
  2. Listen to your body and adapt as your pregnancy progresses: Many pregnant ladies experience fatigue and nausea during the first trimester of pregnancy, which will likely affect ability to train. Rather than pushing through it, listen to your body, adjust the weights and frequency of training as needed. Similarly, during later stages of pregnancy, you will start to notice things becoming more challenging. A bigger bump can also start to get in the way with certain movements.
  3. Ligament laxity: during pregnancy, the hormones you produce affect the ligaments in your body, making your joints more mobile. This can lead to you overextending the joints, so focusing on good form becomes very important. It may also help to reduce your weights as the pregnancy progress; as a guide, the evidence recommends about 70% of your usual weight.

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