The Pregnant Woman's Guide to Strength Training

Gone are the days of telling a pregnant woman she needs to sit around the house with her feet up eating bon-bon’s while she’s pregnant. These days women do more than ever: hold a job, care for other kids, volunteer and—yes—exercise! There was a day when any exercise beyond slow walking would have been discouraged. Doctors and women everywhere now know that pregnancy and exercise, especially strength training, can not only co-exist, but that exercise supplies numerous benefits for the pregnant woman and her baby alike.   

Benefits of Prenatal Strength Training

Learn how to workout when you're pregnant to reap the benefits of strength training while keeping your baby safe.

According to the ACOG (American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists), strength training during pregnancy has been shown to:

  • Reduce backaches, constipation, bloating and swelling
  • Help prevent or treat gestational diabetes
  • Increase your energy
  • Improve your mood
  • Improve posture
  • Promote muscle tone, strength, and endurance
  • Promote better sleep
  • Facilitate easier labor and quicker recovery
  • Help you get back to your old body more quickly

Wow! My guess is that even just one of those reasons could convince any pregnant woman to get up and get moving! And while walking, swimming and other low impact activities are excellent, strength training is just as important. Continuing to maintain strong muscle, build bone density and keep your metabolism running are things you don’t want to ignore for 9 months. In addition, keep this little equation in mind:

Your Baby + Car Seat + Diaper Bag + Purse = a lot of weight to carry around day in and day out! You’ll want to be strong and ready for lifting such a sweet load!

Check With the Doc

Of course, every pregnancy is different so it is important to speak with your health care provider about which type of exercise is right for you. The Mayo Clinic advises seeking your doctors approval before exercising during your pregnancy. While pregnancy is generally good for both mother and baby, your doctor may advise you not to exercise if you have:

  • Some forms of heart and lung disease
  • Pregnancy-related high blood pressure
  • Cervical problems
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Preterm labor during or risk of preterm labor

Still, most women with a clean bill of health are able and encouraged to get their workout in! If you get the go-ahead from your doctor, grab your sneakers and keep in mind these few safety tips:

  • Get plenty of water
  • Don’t lay flat on your back
  • Keep your heart rate at a low-moderate level
  • Don’t overheat
  • Move slowly, concentrating on range of motion

Stationary Lunge with Bicep Curl

Learn how to do a stationary lunge with bicep curl to safely strength train during your pregnancy.

A) Stand tall with your feet hip distance apart. Take a large step forward with one foot and lower your body toward the floor. Both legs should be bent at a 90-degree angle at the bottom of the lunge.

B) Bring weights in towards shoulders to complete bicep curl, then push off front foot and return to start.

C) Repeat on the other side.

Targets: quads, hamstrings, glutes, biceps

Reverse Grip Double Arm Row

Perform reverse grip double arm rows to strength train before baby.

A) Start with legs together and sit back into a slight squat engaging abdominals. Arms are in front of the body holding dumbbells at hip height with palms facing the ceiling.

B) Draw elbows back past hips gently hugging the side body so you feel lats and triceps engage and return forward with control.

Targets: triceps, back, shoulders

Releve Plié

Do a releve plie to strength train during pregnancy.

A) Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder distance apart, toes turned out, and lift your heels into releve.

B) Bend at the knees, lowering torso, keeping your back straight, and abs tight. Squeeze glutes and straighten legs to return to starting position.

Targets: glutes, quads, hamstrings

Shoulder Overhead Press

A shoulder overhead press is a great prenatal strength training move.

A) Start with feet hip distance apart. Bring elbows out to the side creating a goal post position with arms. Dumbbells are at the side of the head and abdominals are tight.

B) Press dumbbells up slowly until arms are straight. Slowly return to starting position with control. Repeat for desired number of reps.

Targets: shoulders, biceps, back

Fire Hydrant

Fire hydrants are great strength training moves that can be done while pregnant.

A) Begin on all fours.

B) Using the outer thigh muscles and glutes, lift one knee out and up keeping your knee bent at a 90-degree angle.  Lower your leg and repeat on the other side.

Targets: glutes, quads, thighs

Tricep Overhead Extension

Tricep overhead extensions are amazing workouts for prenatal strength training.

A) Stand with feet hip distance apart, holding dumbbells straight overhead and keeping your spine long and abs tight.

B) Bend elbows, lowering dumbbells behind the base of the head. Keep your elbows hugging in towards your head and pointing forward. Then extend your arms long, returning to your starting position, working the triceps.

Targets: triceps, back, shoulders

Bird Dog

Try a bird dog to strength train while pregnant.

A) Kneel on the mat on all fours. Reach one arm long, draw in the abdominals, and extend the opposite leg long behind you.

B) Repeat on the other side.

Targets: core, back

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