There was once a time that a pregnant woman was thought of as “fragile”. Any form of exercise was strictly prohibited by doctors and feared by concerned fathers. We’ve now come to realize that a pregnant woman is capable of doing nearly everything that every other woman is capable of doing (and even most men).
It is now recommended that women participate in prenatal exercise programs because of the benefits during labor and delivery as well as the postnatal benefits to moms and babies.
Why Weight Train?
Women who weight train throughout their pregnancy benefit from less weight gain during pregnancy and return to their pre-pregnancy weight, strength, and flexibility levels faster than women who remain inactive or who only participate in cardio programs.
Weight training increases a woman’s energy levels throughout her pregnancy and helps prevent loss of bone density postpartum.
The babies born to women who weight trained during their pregnancy are born with ideal birth weights. Prenatal weight training is the first step in ensuring that your child has a healthy start in life!
Decreased Risks Associated with Prenatal Weight Training:
• Decreases in the severity and frequency of low back pain during pregnancy
• Decreased risk of gestational diabetes
• Decreased risk of delivering post term or through caesarean delivery
• Fewer complications during delivery; including fetal distress
Although not feeble, fragile, and frail, pregnant women should be aware of certain precautions that are unique to them and their bodies.
Be sure to consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program or continuing an exercise program after the first trimester. Your goal should be to simply maintain highest level of fitness while ensuring your safety and the safety of your baby.
Every muscle group should be targeted and the following should be emphasized: inner thigh, hamstrings, glutes, upper back, and shoulders.
Pregnant women should avoid lifting the amount of weight that they were capable of lifting pre-pregnancy. Be sure to use low resistance. StrollerFit classes utilize therabands and exertubes to provide the perfect balance of resistance and safety.
Use caution when stretching either before or after an exercise session. Joint laxity is increased during pregnancy due to the increased amounts of the hormones elastin and relaxin that are being produced. Joint laxity is the amount of movement the ligaments allow through the joint and during pregnancy the joints can be easily stressed or strained.
Movements to Avoid
• Avoid exercises that require bending from the hips
• Avoid exercises in the supine position after the first trimester due to increased pressure on the arteries surrounding the heart
• Avoid overhead lifting
• Avoid straining or holding the breath
Before beginning an exercise program or continuing an exercise program past the first trimester, be sure to consult your doctor. You may may want to join a group exercise program specializing in pre- and postnatal fitness such as StrollerFit or you may choose to exercise on your own. Many books are available to help guide you through exercise and pregnancy safely and effectively. A good place to start is ‘Exercising Through Your Pregnancy” by James Clapp. Resistance bands and tubing can be purchased at your local sporting goods store or online at www.strollerfit.com.
Every woman hopes to have a healthy and safe pregnancy. Through prenatal weight training you can increase the chances that both you and your child remain healthy and safe though pregnancy, labor, and delivery!
It is recommended that women with the following conditions DO NOT EXERCISE: Consult your doctor!
• Pregnancy induced high blood pressure
• Pre-term rupture of the membrane
• Pre-term labor during the prior or current pregnancy
• Incompetent cervix
• Persistent second to third trimester bleeding
• Intrauterine growth retardation
• Joint laxity due to increased amounts of elastin and relaxin
• Increased basal metabolic temperatur
1. Brown LE. Strength and Conditioning Journal. 2003;24:53-54.
2. Clapp JF. Journal of Pediatrics. 1996;129(6):856-863.
3. Dumas GA, et al. Clinical Biomechanics. 1995;10(2):98-103.
4. Ezmerli NM. Prim Care Update Ob/Gyn. 2000;7: 260-265.
5. Howley ET, Franks BD. Health Fitness Instructors Handbook (3rd edition). Human Kinetics. Champaign, IL. 1997;358-360.
6. Kenney WL, et al. ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription (5th edition). Williams and Wilkins. Media, PA. 1995; 235-239.
7. Mottola M, Wolfe L. Forty Ninth Annual Meeting of the ACSM, St. Louis, Missouri, May 2002.
8. Schoenfeld B. American Fitness. 2000;3:26-29.
9. Safran L. Pure Power. 2003;1:44-49,53-54.
Curt Conrad, CSCS, is Founder and President of StrollerFit Inc. an international product and franchise company that helps parents exercise with their babies. He is author of The StrollerFit ExerBook. His companies have helped thousands of clients enjoy better life through better fitness. http://www.strollerfit.com