from dusting to deadlifting

adventures in pregnant weightlifting

I've received questions lately regarding how my workouts have changed throughout my trimesters, and, to be honest, I am hesitant to write for two reasons:

1. We pregnant women can be delicate.  Yes, we obtain a certain fortitude as we cultivate life, but, let's face it: we are also surging with hormones, begrudging newly acquired veins, and comparing our pregnant bodies to other pregnant bodies (whether they be our own or not).  

2. All pregnancies/pregnant seasons vary.  My first pregnancy consisted of prenatal yoga videos.  I worked a 12 hour shift on the due date of my second pregnancy (and probably contributed to my patient's hypertension as a result!).  Braxton Hicks contractions haunted me throughout my third pregnancy, and my answer to my midwife's question of mode of exercise was, "dusting."  Returning from a 7 mile run, halfway through my marathon training, I discovered that I was, in fact, pregnant with my fourth babe after my husband noticed a misread test in the garbage. I ran until 24 weeks, when my hips threatened separation if I didn't stop.  This fifth babe is getting the most movement from me as I've been able to continue heavy weight lifting 3-4 days.  Case in point: all pregnancies are different! 

So, please, my dear friends, tread carefully through these suggestions.  

first trimester

in which one tries not to vomit


1. Fighting Nausea: I was neither bedridden nor hugging the toilet in those early weeks, so I found that extra naps along the way allowed me to keep up with weight lifting 4 days a week.  I continued with a back, shoulder, glute, and leg focused days. Pushing myself to get to the gym helped keep the nausea at bay.

2. Avoid pressure: I switched from heavy hip thrusts (>200 lbs.) and low reps to single leg dumbbell hip thrusts to decrease any and all pressure on my lower abdomen. (Side note: I cannot say ENOUGH how amazing hip thrusts have been throughout my pregnancy- giving extra strength to tendons and pelvic joints that would otherwise reduce me to tears when getting out of bed in the morning.)

3.  No New PRs: I continued heavy squats and deadlifts (with a rep range of 6-8), with the mindset that I was not making any new personal records.  Any upper body press was up for improvement, though!

4.  Sprint: I threw in as much sprinting intervals as I could, whether on the treadmill or eating my husband's dust on our street during naptime, knowing that I wouldn't be running "fast" for a year or so...:)

second trimester

in which one realizes her core is errrrrything

1. Say Goodbye to Pushups, Planks, and Pull-ups: Renewed energy levels and a little bump make the second trimester a fun one, but this was the time where I began to drop exercises due to coning: an unattractive, alien-like effect of the abdominal walls attempting to engage over an increasing girth.  As a woman who has struggled with diastasis recti, I am OVERLY cautious with exercises involving abdominal pressure. 

2. Form over Weight: Dropping the weight in my heavy squats and deadlifts, I focused on form, which was more mentally difficult due to my pride than anything.  Pregnancy is so good for the soul, y'all. :)

3. Relaxin Take Over: I dropped lunges, split squats, single leg deadlifts, and single leg hip thrusts from the mix, as any exercise involving weight on one leg was uncomfortable on my pelvic joints.  

third trimester

in which the very act of dressing for the gym is a workout in itself
third trimester.jpeg

1. No-Shame-Shorter Workouts: My workouts dropped from over an hour to 45 minutes as I began to do lighter weight, higher reps exercises back to back with a tiny bit of cardio.  (For instance, instead of 3 sets of heavy barbell squats, I used a dumbbell and did 3 sets of goblet squats right into 10-15 squat jumps).  Strength is not my forte in the third trimester, but getting my heart rate up makes such a difference in my mood and general energy levels.

2. Savor the Pull: Even when I don't feel like it, I try to make it to the gym, knowing that I won't be there for a while, and I won't be deadlifting as much at 9 months postpartum as I am 9 months pregnant!  

3. Reserve Energy: My body can't handle three days in a row of workouts, so I schedule accordingly or skip a workout.  

As always, I must state that prior to exercising your pretty pregnant self, please speak with your health care provider.  I would not advise starting hot yoga or deadlifting 200 pounds or signing up for your first triathlon, but at the same time, you know your body best.  There is a difference between pushing yourself and straining yourself in a workout.  

The female body continues to amaze me, and I love what weight lifting has done for me mentally, physically, and spiritually this pregnancy.