Whether you are a hardcore gym bunny or prefer the occasional workout, one thing you’re probably curious about is whether it’s safe to lift weights while expecting.
While every pregnancy is different, the short answer is typically yes, weightlifting while pregnant is typically safe, provided you make some adjustments on account of your changing body.
So in this article we’ve take a look at the benefits of lifting during pregnancy, and the precautions you should take to ensure both your and your baby stay safe.
Can You Lift Weights While Pregnant?
Yes, typically if you have a healthy pregnancy you should be able to continue resistance training and lifting weights during your pregnancy.
Experts including American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists state that resistance exercises, which include using weights and elastic bands, are found to be safe during pregnancy.
What’s more, resistance training is actually deemed to be beneficial for pregnant women (more on this later).
Popular advise is that if you regularly lifted before becoming pregnant, it should be fine to continue doing so, provided you make some modifications.
However, given all pregnancies are different, it’s a good idea to speak with your midwife or doctor if you are unsure or have any questions relating to whether it’s ok for you to continue weight training (or even begin for the first time).
Advice When Lifting Weights During Pregnancy
1. Reduce The Weight
The first tip for anyone weightlifting during pregnancy is to reduce the load compared to what you lifted in your pre-pregnancy days.
Two good rules of thumb are: (1) aim for around 10-12 reps; and (2) aim for higher repetitions with lower weights vs what you may be used to before getting pregnant.
2. Ensure You Have Good Form
Exercising with good form is important at the best of times, but it’s essential if you are lifting weights while expecting.
The last thing you want to do is injure yourself and put your body (particularly areas like your back or pelvis) under even more strain.
So make sure you know what good form looks like and monitor your technique, and remember it’s typically easier to maintain proper form when you’re lifting lighter weights as you’re more in control of your movement.
Breathing correctly also falls under this category – the correct way is to breathe out as you lift the weight and breathe in as you lower it (and be sure not to hold your breath at any time).
3. Make Modifications For Your Growing Bump
As your pregnancy progresses and your bump grows in size, you will need to make room for your growing belly (especially in your third trimester).
Examples of modifications you may wish to make when weight training during pregnancy include:
- Using a wider stance than normal.
- Using a chair or table for additional support if needed.
- Reducing the range of motion – for example if you’re squatting, you may need to reduce the depth of your squat if you find it tough to get up from a squat.
4. Consider Professional Guidance
If you have the resources, it could be a good idea to arrange some sessions with a certified pre-natal or pregnancy trainer.
These trainers are certified to train pregnant women, so they can help monitor your form and ensure your exercises and program are tailed to your individual needs.
5. Get Plenty Of Rest Between Workouts
Your body is under a lot of stress and strain while pregnant and you may be more prone to injury, so it’s important to rest well between workouts to give your muscles enough time to recover.
Aim to give yourself at least 48 hours rest between sessions, and always listen to your body if you’re feeling more tired than usual or feel uncomfortable.
Benefits Of Weight Training During Pregnancy
The are many advantages to resistance training during pregnancy, and some of the most notable benefits include:
- Can strengthen your abdominal (core) and pelvic floor muscles, helping prevent lower back pain which is a common side effect of pregnancy.
- Helps maintain and manage a healthy body weight.
- Improves your body image and confidence.
- Helps control blood pressure.
- Can lead to shorter labor and an easier delivery.
- Improves blood circulation.
- Improves your mood, reduces mood swings and alleviates stress.
- Lowers the risk of gestational diabetes (GDM).
Can You Bench Press While Pregnant?
We recently confirmed that doing squats and deadlifts are both typically safe for pregnant women, provided you make a few adjustments.
But what about bench pressing during pregnancy?
The consensus is that you should be fine to perform a chest or bench press during your first trimester, although of course you should be extra careful not to drop the weight on your belly.
However, lying on your back in your second and third trimesters can also put pressure on your vena cava, which is a vein that carries blood to your heart.
So for this reason bench pressing isn’t advisable when in your second and third trimester.
If you are looking for a substitute exercise later into your pregnancy, you might find that a push up or elevated push up targets largely the same muscles in a safer way.
How Much Weight Can You Lift When Pregnant In Your First Trimester?
It’s quite common for women to ask questions like “how much weight can I lift at 5 weeks pregnant”, or “is there a maximum weight limit in the first, second or third trimester”?
Unfortunately there is no easy answer as to how much weight you should lift.
According to the American Medical Association (AMA), pregnant women who lift as part of their work should follow the guidelines below, but this is aimed at lifting in the workforce rather than as part of a workout.
- Lifting more than 23 kg (51 lbs) is permitted repetitively for the first half of pregnancy (up to Week 20) and intermittently through Week 30.
- Between Weeks 20 and 24, repetitive lifting up to 23 kg (51 lbs) is permitted. A weight limit of 11 kg (24 lbs) is specified after Week 24.
- After Week 30, intermittent lifting up to 11 kg (24 lbs) is permitted.
When it comes to resistance training (i.e. lifting as part of a workout), what is safe for you could be very different for another person, because things like your experience, existing or baseline strength, form and past injuries all need to be take into consideration.
This is why the best way to ensure you stay safe is to make sure you have good form, lift relatively light weights (which means different things to different people based on your experience and strength), make the necessary modifications and seek out advise from professional trainers and a health professional.