Is weightlifting safe during pregnancy?

I get asked regularly if weightlifting is safe during pregnancy.  My answer…….yes! Weightlifting can be an incredible way to remain strong during pregnancy.  Here are some recommendations to the most commonly asked questions to keep all my strong mamas safe! 

Can I go heavy? While I have no set in stone weight recommendations, I tell patients and clients to reduce the load to where they never feel like they need to strain.  This typically puts them at 75% or less of pre pregnancy 1RM.  They should keep all reps symptom free of pain, pressure, abdominal coning, or bladder leakage.  Pregnancy s NOT the time to set a new personal best.

Performing moderately heavy sets ACROSS, for example 5 sets of 5 back squats at 60% is a great option instead of sets at increasing weights.  This will help feel like you are getting a good strength session in!

Can I squat below parallel? Yes! I encourage my pregnant athletes to squat JUST below parallel.  Be careful of squatting ass to heals under loading, this will prevent too much stress on the pelvis.  

Can I perform the Olympic lifts? When it comes time to perform Olympic lifts like cleans and snatches, I recommend a power clean or snatch vs a drop into the full squat version.  During pregnancy your body has increased levels of relastin hormones which makes a quick drop into the bottom of your squat potentially problematic on your joints and pelvic floor musculature. Catch the lift high in a quarter squat, and then control the weight in to a squat if needed.  

When the pregnancy bump becomes obvious, its time to switch things up to a dumbell.  Bar path is critical to the technique of the olympic lifts.  Why would you train for 6+ months with a bar path that requires you to go around your belly?  Its not worth the added risk this path puts on your belly or your back and shoulders! Not to mention re wiring that bad bar path post partum!

How should I breathe? A small adjustment to the typical valsalva breath while you lift is a must here.  A small “blow before you go” to allow pelvic floor, diaphragm and abs to engage will promote optimal function of you pelvic floor.  An exhale as you exert to further contract core and pelvic floor muscles will help prevent strain on your abs and pelvic floor.

Can I bench press?  Sure! As long as you feel comfortable! The bigger issue is making sure you have a lifting buddy to help you up and down from the bench!  The strain on a growing belling sitting up is more of a concern than the 30 seconds you spend flat on your back.  Often an incline bench press is more comfortable!

Remember, every athlete and every pregnancy is different!  These are just general guidelines to help you get started. Find yourself a local Physical Therapist with experience in women’s health to help you out! 

Being able to continue to incorporate barbell work symptom free will feel so good and empowering! Even though it may be way lighter than you would normally lift…there is something very therapeutic about that barbell! 💪🏻

Reed Fitness and Physical Therapy
Looking for more individualized guidance? Please reach out to us!

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