How to Safely Build Muscle Strength during Pregnancy

Weight lifting while pregnant

Strength training while pregnant is one of the finest ways to minimize body aches and joint pain. Building muscle strength can help relieve lower back pain by relieving the pressure on your lower back caused by the growing foetus. It can also promote better stability and balance and reduce the likelihood of long active labour.  

However, if you’re not careful with the intensity of your workouts and push your body beyond its capacity, it might result in preventable injuries and pregnancy-related complications. So, it’s essential to perform safe workouts during pregnancy.

Here are some helpful tips that you can use for safe strength training during pregnancy:

1. Consult with Your OB-GYN. 

The most dangerous thing that you can do when strength training during pregnancy is to follow a plan without first consulting with your OB-GYN. Even though it’s typically safe to continue exercising regularly in healthy pregnancies, the same is not true for complicated cases or with conditions such as preeclampsia, cervical insufficiency, severe anaemia, and more. Moreover, you must consult with your obstetrician and physical therapist before following a specific strength training routine in high-risk pregnancies.

2. Take Your Strength Training History into Account

Many women believe that even though they weren’t strength training before their pregnancy, they can pick it up while pregnant. While there is no harm in starting strength training during pregnancy, you must take your exercise history into account and tailor your workout routine according to your resistance level.

For instance, if you are new to strength training, perhaps you could work with a personal trainer who could show you the ropes and introduce you to low-resistance workouts while helping you perfect your form to ensure your safety during pregnancy. The key is to not burn yourself out or put yourself in harm’s way, especially if you haven’t tried strength training before.

3. Use Lighter Weights

When you’re pregnant, your body releases a hormone known as relaxing that relaxes your joints and stretches your ligaments and tendons for the pelvis to widen and become more flexible so that you can deliver the baby. However, relaxing affects the joints in your entire body, which increases the risk of injury in your hips, knees, feet, and other joints.

It’s why the best course of action is not to use heavy weights and use resistance amounts that are less than 70% of your usual one rep. This way, you will be able to perform ten reps or more without overworking your body and putting your joints at risk of injury. Using lighter weights will help you strength train safely while performing more effective reps.  

4. Don’t Ignore Your Pain

Be extra mindful of experiencing any pain or piercing sensation when weight lifting while pregnant. If you experience any pelvic or joint pain, make sure to stop exercising right away and consult with your doctor. Even if you experience any pain in the days following your workout, you must talk to your physical therapist and doctor.

Moreover, when pregnant and exercising, your goal must never be to feel sore after your workouts.  If you don’t feel better after your workout and feel tired instead, you need to lessen the intensity of your strength training routine. Your focus needs to be on ensuring your wellbeing and gaining strength from your workouts without putting a strain on your body.

5. Monitor Your Breathing

When you’re strength training while pregnant, you need to keep a check on your breathing to prevent overexertion. Moreover, you should never perform the Valsalva manoeuvre to increase your abdominal support when exercising during pregnancy. It involves forcefully exhaling against your closed airway, which increases your blood pressure and heart rate (both of which are not safe when pregnant.)  

Moreover, this manoeuvre can also increase downward pressure on the pelvic floor, resulting in prolapse, incontinence, and other pelvic floor issues during and post-pregnancy. Instead, you must perform low-resistance exercises and breathe continuously through your reps. Exhale during the most difficult part of the routine and inhale when performing the easiest part. Additionally, during motionless exercises, such as wall sits and planks, make sure to breathe freely without holding your breath.

6. Pay Attention to Your Abdominal Region

When planning a strength training routine for pregnancy, you don’t necessarily have to remove push-ups, front planks, and other exercises in which your abdomen hangs down toward the floor. However, before including such exercises in your routine, make sure to consult with your doctor.

Moreover, if you feel any pressure or pain in your abdominal region, especially in the later trimesters, choose alternative exercises. It’s because if your core isn’t strong enough to support the weight of your growing uterus, the additional pressure on your abdomen can exacerbate problems, such as linea alba. If your pain doesn’t subside, you must pay a visit to your doctor.

Moreover, you need to listen to your body when strength training during pregnancy. Many women will start feeling abdominal fullness due to the growing uterus at about 12 weeks into the pregnancy. However, women experiencing their second or subsequent pregnancy feel it earlier. On the flip side, some women might not feel it up to 16 weeks of pregnancy. It all depends on the intensity of your workout. So, make sure to listen to your body and let it guide your workouts.

7. Be Careful When Performing Back Exercises

If you have a complicated or high-risk pregnancy, it’s best to remove exercises that you can only perform flat on your back from your muscle-building routine. However, if you’ve been given the all-clear from your OB-GYN, you can perform back exercises. The issue with performing such exercises after the first trimester comes with the size of the foetus. It’s large enough to compress the vena cava.

To prevent this or other problems and complications, make sure to be mindful of light-headedness. If you start feeling dizzy when lying on your back, turn onto your left side until the symptoms subside. You can easily monitor your condition and make swift changes to your position to prevent any harm from coming to your baby or yourself. Alternatively, you can perform supine exercises such as an incline bench workout or a bench press to prevent the risk of decreased blood flow.

Follow the aforementioned tips to ensure a healthy and happy body when strength training while pregnant.

Good luck!

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