Weight training during pregnancy – you might wonder whether it’s safe and if doing so can make your pregnancy better. Fortunately, doctors now agree that it’s safe and beneficial to train with weights when you’re pregnant – with a few precautions.
Benefits of Weight Training During Pregnancy
According to the Institute of Medicine, the risk of being too sedentary and gaining excessive amounts of weight goes up during pregnancy. Unfortunately, it can be hard to shed the extra pounds. Research shows that women who stay physically active while pregnant gain less weight overall. As you might know, it’s not uncommon during pregnancy to experience aches and pains as being inside you grows larger. Working your muscles against resistance helps ease those discomforts and make pregnancy more pleasant.
Staying more physically active also lowers the risk of pregnancy-related complications like pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes. Plus, studies show that resistance training reduces the risk of premature labor and makes labor, when it happens, easier.
One of the most common complaints women experience during pregnancy is lower back pain. Being pregnant places stress on your lower back and spine because it changes your center of gravity. The ligaments in your spine also become looser due to hormonal changes. These changes make your back less stable and more prone towards injury. Weight training strengthens the muscles that support the core, back, and spine and may, in turn, reduce pain.
The Safety of Weight Training During Pregnancy
One concern with respect to weight training during pregnant has to do with joint laxity. Because your ligaments become laxer, or more easily stretched, when you’re pregnant, the risk of injury is theoretically higher Fortunately, most studies don’t show an increased injury risk. In fact, weight training enhances quality of life during pregnancy. Also, contrary to popular belief, research doesn’t show that physical activity, including weight training, increases the risk of miscarriage.
Guidelines for Safely Weight Training During Pregnancy
Always check with your doctor before starting a weight training program when you’re pregnant. Even if you weight train regularly, get their okay beforehand. You should avoid certain movements at certain times during pregnancy. Here are some guidelines:
- Always start with a 5 to 10-minute warm-up. Never train with cold muscles.
- Avoid exercises where you lie flat on a mat. This can trigger a drop in blood pressure and dizziness.
- Avoid doing exercises that require bending forward at the waist or hips after the first trimester.
- Don’t lift weights above your head after the first trimester of pregnancy. Lift the weights no higher than shoulder height.
- Avoid lifting heavy during pregnancy since very heavy weight can reduce blood flow to the fetus. Use lighter weights and higher reps.
- Dress in light, loose, cotton clothing to avoid the risk of overheating. Have a water bottle nearby to sip throughout your workout.
- Stop exercising if you feel pain, discomfort, lightheadedness, or dizziness.
- Give your body a chance to rest and recover after a workout. You don’t have to train every day to get the benefits. Several sessions a week is sufficient.
- Limit the amount of high-impact exercise you do. Kickboxing might not be the best choice when you’re pregnant.
The Bottom Line
In general, weight training during pregnancy is safe and even beneficial but always check with your doctor first. If you have a high-risk pregnancy or other medical issues, it may not be appropriate for you to weight train.
Resistance Training During Pregnancy: Safe and Effective Program Design Brad Schoenfeld, MSc, CSCS Exercise Science Department, Lehman College, Bronx, New York.
WebMD. “Exercise Don’ts When You’re Pregnant”