It’s probably news to no one the importance of modifying exercises during pregnancy. Your body is growing and everything is different – balance, hip width, weight, etc. Doing exercises the way you have always done just doesn’t work when you get to a certain point – this point being different for just about everyone. Listen to your body (and your doctor!) so you know when to start modifying or changing up your workout all together.
The gym I work for and use to workout at has TRX straps. If you haven’t ever used them, I strongly suggest you do. If you don’t have access to them, you can still use other equipment to support yourself. TRX straps are all about body weight – supporting it when you need it, and giving you the free range when you don’t. Here are a few great modifications for every day strength training exercises.
Squats can get a bit trickier the bigger your belly gets. Your center of gravity is off and you weigh more, so there is more to lift up. Squats are extremely important for labor, and should be in every pregnant woman’s workout routine. Start off with your feet a little bit wider than hip width a part, and a slight lean back with the TRX straps supporting you.
Squat down, keeping a conscious effort to focus on form. Keep your back straight, not curved, and make sure your knees are not coming over your toes. Push straight back up, without curving your lower back, and return to the starting position.
Without the TRX strap: Don’t worry, you can still have a nice supported squat without the TRX. Stand next to bench press or squat rack and grab a hold of the bar with both hands. Use the bar to guide you down, and then back up again. You can distribute your weight with the barbell instead of the strap. You will get the same benefits, with just a different piece of equipment.
It wasn’t too long after my belly started to grow that I couldn’t get in normal pushups. When you are in the first 20 weeks or so, just drop to your knees if necessary. That should give you the support you need. Once your belly grows and starts to pull on your low back, consider a modification.
With the straps, the more parallel your body becomes with the floor, the more difficult the exercise gets, so if you feel the pushups are still too easy, get more horizontal. You will definitely feel the burn!
Start out with a slight lean and your arms straight, using your body weight to balance yourself.
Slightly bend your elbows, leaning down into a pushup position. Focus on your low back and hips, making sure they do not start to sag. Also be aware of your shoulders, and keep them relaxed – no need to wear them like earrings!
Push yourself back up to the starting position, keeping yourself aware of your low back not gaining a huge curve. If the exercise is too difficult, stand up more perpendicular to the floor. Form is always the most important.
Without the TRX strap: Stand at a barbell, preferably on a bench press. Straddle the bench with both legs, grabbing the bar. Use the bar to assist your incline pushup. Make the pushup easier or more difficult by bringing your feet closer or further away from the bar.
Lunges are also a great exercise to prep for labor, so doing them regularly will really benefit you. Grab your straps and put one on either side of you, with your legs comfortably spread so you do not lose your balance.
Lower yourself down using the straps to help you balance. Keep in mind the placement of your knee, so it doesn’t fall in front of your foot.
Push yourself back up to the starting position, using the straps as much or as little as your may need to not fall to either side.
Without the TRX: Lunges are one of the easier exercises to do through modification. Anything you find to hold on to works pretty well – a table, chair, or barbell works just fine. Just make sure it is nice and sturdy.
- Keep the tempo down a bit so your heart rate doesn’t shoot up too high. You are training for something a lot different now – the birth of your child!
- Instead of focusing on the amount of weight you are lifting, be happy with making it to the gym and getting in the strength training. This isn’t the time to go 5-10 lbs heavier. Stay at a comfortable weight without compromising form.
- Always warm up before you start lifting weights – the last thing you need to do is pull or strain a muscle. Nothing like making pregnancy a little more uncomfortable 😉
- Listen to your body! If you need to cut your workout short, then do it. There is no shame to simply doing what your body is telling you to do.
Any other tips? What other modifications are you interested in seeing? I would be happy to do another post on other exercises.