We know it’s important to exercise during pregnancy, but can you lift weights when you’re pregnant? Or is it too much for your body to add weight when you’re already carrying around a weight of your own?
This is a question I come across quite a bit in my group classes, often as I’m handing one of my pregnant clients a barbell or dumbbell!
So CAN you lift weights when pregnant?
Well the short answer is yes! Pregnant women can definitely lift weights.
The long answer is, as always… it depends.
It’s important to remember firstly that pregnancy is not a disability or a medical condition. However complications can occur during pregnancy which can mean general advice does not apply. So, assuming you are having an uncomplicated pregnancy, lifting weights is perfectly safe, especially if it was a part of your pre-pregnancy exercise routine.
If you haven’t lifted weights before pregnancy, you can still do so during pregnancy but you would be best to follow some of the tips below and preferably do so with the guidance of an experienced health professional or pre-natal coach.
(FYI – you can read more about exercising during pregnancy in my recent post here.)
So SHOULD you lift weights when pregnant?
Well this is really up to you!
The exercise guidelines for women with uncomplicated pregnancies is the same as for the general population: at least 150mins of moderate intensity exercise each week and muscle strengthening exercises at least 2 days each week.
But how you get your muscle strengthening exercise is really up to you.
Strengthening exercises are any form of exercise that involves muscles working against resistance to increase strength (I have written all about strength training here ).
This could be in the form of resistance bands, Pilates reformers, weighted machines, free weights (dumbbells/kettlebells/barbells) – the world really your oyster! Even body weight exercises can be a form of strengthening, if the exercise is challenging enough and you’re doing enough repetitions.
How can you lift weights safely when pregnant?
If you’re never lifted weights before, I’d recommend getting help from someone who knows what they’re talking about first! (i.e not google and not a generic gym program that doesn’t factor in your unique circumstances).
Even if you’re a more experienced, you may still benefit from some guidance in modifying positions or working around pregnancy-related niggles.
At the least, you should aim to:
1. Learn good technique
This is crucial to getting the most out of your program, but also in avoiding injuries!
2. Ease into it
It’s important to ease into a new program by only gradually increasing your resistance / reps from week to week. Also try to warm up with a bit of a aerobic exercise or mobility first. This can help your body prep for taking load and may reduce injury.
3. Work hard enough
This might sound like an odd one but don’t forget about progressive overload! If you keep doing the same weight at the same reps and sets over and over, you won’t get stronger. Ideally the last few reps of the set should be tough (while maintaining good form).
Every now and then try working your muscles to fatigue by doing as many reps as possible for a single set; this can be a great way of building strength and endurance.
This is where the real magic happens! Rest gives your muscles time to heel, recover and grow.
Give your body at least one day’s rest in between sessions, especially when working the same muscle group.
Which weighted exercises are best during pregnancy?
This is really only limited by your (or your trainer’s) imagination, and possibly any symptoms you have.
Some common ones I prescribe in classes include:
- overhead press
- tricep kickbacks
- bicep curls
- chest press / incline chest press
If you are pregnant and would like some guidance in starting or modifying a strength program, GLOW can help! Get in touch or book an appointment.