There is no doubt about it – numerous studies show that maintaining an exercise routine whilst being pregnant has many benefits for both the mother and baby.
However, there is so much conflicting information out there about exercising whilst pregnant it is often difficult to know what is safe and what isn’t safe. This is particularly so for a pregnant Crossfitter – society isn’t used to seeing a pregnant woman squat, deadlift or even run. When a picture is posted of a pregnant woman swinging a kettlebell, all hell breaks loose on the social media front.
In the interest of our growing demographic, I thought I would share my approach to exercising through pregnancy. The following is based off my own personal experience – having Crossfitted through both of my pregnancies – but also having trained a number of women through their pregnancy journey.
Firstly, my overarching mantra is this: every pregnancy is different, we must learn to listen to our bodies. If something doesn’t feel right, even though it might be listed as an ‘ok’ exercise, stop. Now more than ever is the time to listen to your body and be safe.
If you have been Crossfitting for a while, then you can likely stick to your regular weights but care needs to be taken of your overall intensity. This is the time to maintain your level of fitness, not improve it.
Max effort lifts need to be replaced with 3 to 5 RM’s, and perceived level of exertion should be more at a moderate ‘conversational pace’. If asked a question whilst working out, you should be able to answer it in a sentence or two rather than a few gasping words!
As I mentioned earlier, everyone is different and for a more experienced Crossfitter the following recommended changes may seem a little too cautious. However this is the approach I recommend for movement substitutions:
- Nurpees (no push-up burpees) to replace Burpees
- Wall Ball Cleans to replace Deadballs
- Regular Push Up, Push Press or Seated DB Press to replace Handstand Push Ups and Handstands
- Ring Rows or Strict Pull Ups (for a small population) to replace Rope Climb
- Box Jumps with a step down, low Box Jumps or Step Ups (w or w/o DB’s) to replace Box Jumps
- Slam Balls, Ring Rows, Cat/Camels, Hanging Knee or Toes To Bar (for a small population) to replace Sit Ups
These substitutions are recommended with the following in mind:
- To avoid any sort of trauma/impact on the abdomen – Burpees, Deadball
- To avoid inversion, where blood supply to the baby can be reduced – HSPUs and Handstands, Sit Ups
- To avoid the risk of falling (leading to trauma/impact to the abdomen) – Rope Climb, Box Jump, HSPUs and Handstands
- To avoid the risk of increased diastasis recti- Sit Ups
Morning sickness, tiredness and lethargy can rear it’s ugly head during the first trimester too so pay attention to how you are feeling. It might not be the day to come in and hit up a workout – rest up and know that tomorrow is another day.
Hydration is also super important, make sure you are having enough water and not allowing your body temperature to get too high, especially in the hotter months.
During the second trimester, the hormone Relaxin increases and this softens the ligaments in the pelvis readying it for the growing baby. Care needs to be taken at the end range of movements – particularly squatting type movements. Such movements can still be performed, just reduce the range of motion as necessary.
As the baby gets bigger, we need to avoid all exercises that involve lying down as these can reduce bloody supply to the baby.
Weights and intensity will need to drop even more - again listening to your body will be
In addition to the first trimester substitutions here are some more, relevant to the second trimester:
- Hang and/or Power variations of Olympic movements to replace their full counter parts. Only use a moderate load. Once the belly gets bigger, Hang DB Snatch/Clean might be more appropriate to avoid impact on the abdomen and to avoid training poor technique.
- Reduce the range of motion for squatting movements (i.e. Back Squat, Front Squat, OHS, Wall Ball etc) to parallel or slightly above.
- Sumo Deadlift to replace Deadlift and reduce range of motion using plates where
necessary. Only use a moderate load.
- Rowing or Biking to replace running and skipping where necessary. This is a very individualised thing – some people can run right up until a week before their due date, some people have to stop altogether at 20 weeks. Listen to your body – a heavy feeling in the pelvis area whilst running is not ok.
- Seated DB Press or Inclined Push Up to replace Bench Press or Push Up.
- Russian Swing to replace American Swing.
- Nurpees can be replaced with inclined Nurpees
- Strict Pull Up or Ring Row to replace Kipping Pull Up.
Really from here, it’s more of the same from the second trimester. Balance may become more awkward, however having altered things like the Deadlift to a Sumo position and Olympic Lifting to the Hang or using DB’s will help with that.
Again listening to your body and adjusting is going to be key. Keep in regular communication with your Coach and they’ll help adjust the day’s WOD to suit you. Your intensity will naturally reduce again during this time – the way I see it, any sessions in the gym you get in now are a bonus and a privilege! Just use this time to move, and recognise how good this is for you mentally – you are on the home straight!
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