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Should I be lifting weights during pregnancy?

You're continuing to exercise during your pregnancy, but should you stop your strength training? Is lifting weights safe during pregnancy? How much of your routine do you need to change or modify?

Keeping yourself active during pregnancy, particularly doing strength training can help you prepare for labour and assist in an easier recovery after birth. 

It's important to take your information and recommendations from a trusted health professional to suit your individual needs. 

Strength training = increased stability!

As a Women’s Health Physio I am all for strength training during pregnancy, but only with the right professional guidance and adjustments!  No CrossFit style training and implementing adjusted core movements are a must, to reduce pressure on potential abdominal separation, back, internal organs and your little one!

Think of labour as a marathon. Prenatal strength training is a great way to prepare yourself for the big day, and a speedier postnatal recovery!

There is a lot of discussion around high levels of the hormone relaxin in your body during pregnancy, and the association with instability in the body. This alone could be the greatest argument for why strength training is important during pregnancy. As we said before, strength = increased stability. You can and will reduce pelvic instability by targeting glute strength, back pain by strengthen posture muscles, etc.

Adjusted core (not abs!) exercises, should definitely be included in your prenatal program as these muscle groups support the extra weight on your pelvis and back, as well as your ever-changing posture during the pregnancy. The correct core training will take the pressure off your pelvic floor, internal organs and bub in your daily activities and can reduce the severity of abdominal separation, potential prolapse and will help your postnatal recovery.

There are a lot of don'ts in core training whilst pregnant. Moves such as crunches, sit-ups, front plank, etc, will need to be avoided; these can heavily increase your abdominal separation.

Another prenatal training myth is that you should not get your heart rate over 140BPM. There is a legitimate concern in making sure there is enough oxygen going to the foetus and not all is being diverted to your own muscles while exercising. But this 140BPM principle is very outdated. Some pregnant ladies will hit 140BPM just by walking up a flight of stairs!

We now know that the “talk test” or RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) can be used to determine appropriate exertion levels and most mums-to-be can train over 140BPM without a worry! As long as you feel great while training, you can work up a sweat but aren’t puffed out and take appropriate recovery between sets, you are doing a great job.

A trainer that has specialised knowledge of the changing body during pregnancy, will take all the above in account to provide a prenatal program that isn’t strenuous on PF, core and baby while strengthening your body in a challenging way.

The main goal is to guide women through safe training to keep their changing bodies as strong, stable and mobile as possible during this special time of their lives.

Written by Liesbeth Peters offers specialised programs designed by a women's health physiotherapist, to cater to women at any stage of their lives, with a specific emphasis on core and pelvic floor health.