Strength training in pregnancy

Strength training in pregnancy

Strength training involves strengthening your muscles by lifting weights or using your body weight. Try to do some muscle-strengthening activities twice a week. If you have any pregnancy complications, speak to your doctor or midwife first.

The benefits of strength training in pregnancy

  • It may help improve your balance and posture and reduce the chance of falling.
  • It can ease pain in your lower back if you strengthen your stomach and back muscles. The NHS website has some stomach-strengthening exercises.
  • It may help you manage your blood sugar levels if you have type 2 or gestational diabetes.
  • It can help you get ready for labor by strengthening your muscles and building stamina.

Examples of muscle-strengthening exercises include:

  • yoga
  • cycling
  • swimming
  • dancing
  • walking upstairs or uphill.


Using weights safely

If you have used weights before, you may be able to carry on with some small changes. But if you are new to using weights, it is best to check with your midwife or doctor first.

Find out when to be careful about exercising during pregnancy.

Your exercise instructor or gym staff can give you advice about which weights are safe to use during pregnancy. Some instructors specialize in pregnancy exercises. Always tell them that you are pregnant before you start, even if you are used to weight training. 

You could try weight machines or free weights, such as dumbbells, resistance bands, and suspension trainers. 

Remember to bend at the knees, keep your tummy muscles held in, and your back straight when you are lifting anything.

There is no official guidance about how much weight is safe to lift during pregnancy. One person’s light weight can feel heavy to another person. To avoid straining your joints, use weights that feel light to moderate to you rather than heavy. Do more repetitions with lighter weights.

Tips for safe weight training in pregnancy

  • Do not push yourself too hard.
  • Keep cool by drinking plenty of fluids and avoiding hot exercise spaces.
  • Do not hold your breath (known as the Valsalva maneuver).
  • Protect your back by having good posture when you are training. The NHS website has a video showing what good posture looks like.
  • Protect your pelvic floor muscles by tightening them before you lift any weights.
  • Focus on your technique rather than the weight and number of reps. 
  • Check your technique with your instructor. 
  • Be careful with free weights so they do not hit your bump by accident.
  • If you are finding weight training hard, try using resistance bands or exercises that use your own body weight instead. Get advice from an instructor before using resistance bands and tell them that you are pregnant.
  • Stop exercising if you feel faint, overheated, or in any pain. Contact your midwife or doctor if you have any unusual symptoms.

Weight exercises to avoid in pregnancy

  • Cross-fit type training, which involves lifting heavy weights in a timed circuit. If you have lots of experience doing cross-fit, you may be able to carry on with some changes to your routine and support from your doctor.
  • General circuit classes using barbells and fast movements.
  • Exercises that use heavy barbells behind your neck after 12 weeks. You could use dumbbells instead.
  • Using a single, large barbell to do deadlifts, clean and press, and upright rows, especially in the third trimester. There is a risk of the bar hitting your bump.
  • Weighted sit-up exercises after 12 weeks.
  • Abdominal rotation machines. 
  • Lifting weights while lying on your back after the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Instead, try the chest press and chest fly on an incline bench from 12 weeks and with a further incline from 20 weeks.
  • Lifting weights over your head after the first 12 weeks of pregnancy it may strain your lower back.
  • Lying flat on your back after the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Bending at the waist after the first 12 weeks as it may make you feel dizzy.

Read about more exercises to avoid during pregnancy.




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