One of the most fulfilling aspects of our job is playing a supportive role in the lives of each of our clients. That role becomes especially important with any female client that becomes pregnant during the time we train them. There is a lot of excitement and change that occurs for a woman during the pregnancy process, especially on the physical side. As a result, our job as strength coaches is to ensure the safety and health of both the expecting mother and the fetus while training during the 9 month term. Therefore, there are a few key considerations that need to be taken into account when you are about to embark on your journey of exercising while pregnant.
First and foremost, you must make sure to check with your doctor about how exercise, especially resistance exercise, will affect your body. Every woman is different, and the stress that is put on the body will cause different reactions within the body during each pregnancy. Therefore it is imperative that your doctor give you the green light to exercise before you begin a training routine.
Secondly, it is a great idea to invest in a heart rate monitor. Because the extra life growing inside the woman’s body requires an increase in blood and oxygen levels which, are higher than normal. Therefore, if there is to be the added exertion of exercise which has an additional elevating effect on HR and BP, very close attention needs to be paid to monitor the woman’s heart rate during the workout sessions so as not to put the fetus at risk. Along with monitoring the heart rate, the proper breathing technique should also be taught and mastered during working out.
Finally the last, and perhaps the most important, consideration before beginning a workout program while pregnant should be to always “listen to your body.” There is a multitude of hormonal and structural changes that the woman experiences during pregnancy that have dramatic effects on the function of the body overall. Common issues that could be made worse from exercise if they are not handled properly by the trainer range from joint hypermobility, ligament laxity, and the change in center of gravity due to the new baby bump. While none of these roadblocks are enough to derail the exercise program during the* 9 months, they are vital to keep in mind when the resistance program is being designed, and the possibility for on-the-fly modifications should always be accounted for.
In order to consider all of the above factors, modifications to traditional strength exercises should be employed. For instance, the incline pushup instead of the traditional pushup, and the seated chest press instead of the lying bench press are great substitutions that will still work the chest, shoulders and triceps without requiring the mother to get in and out of the lying position; thus lessening the possibility of unsafe rise in blood pressure. Also, the bodyweight-loaded prisoner squat or step ups are good alternatives to the back squat or heavy deadlift. Although the squat and deadlift are staples to any strength program, the need to hold your breath at the bottom of the range of motion in each exercise would put an unsafe amount of pressure on the uterus and could seriously harm the baby. It's best just to hold off until after your bundle of joy is born before you get back into doing those particular lifts!
Having a baby is one of the biggest joys of life that humans can experience. While there are a lot of changes to your body that require a little more attention, there are too many benefits of resistance training for the expectant mother not to participate. As long as you are safe, smart, and aware of how your body is reacting, you are sure to find that exercise will have a beautiful and healthy effect on both the mother and child.
Joe Gernetzke CSCS