Weight training during pregnancy

July 6th, 2008  |  Published in Pregnancy and postpartum  |  28 Comments

Now that women are weight training seriously in ever-greater numbers, it is inevitable that many will become pregnant and worry about how best to adapt their training to its demands. The general good news is that active women with normal, low-risk pregnancies do not have to give up their beloved weight training in order to keep themselves and baby healthy.

Early guidelines about training during pregnancy were largely based on speculation and expectations about middle-class women’s roles, rather than on clinical research and demonstrated results in a particular population. Luckily these guidelines have been updated and now reflect women’s experiences more realistically. The 1994 bulletin of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists indicates that “[t]here are no data in humans to indicate that pregnant women should limit exercise intensity and lower target heart rates because of potential adverse effects.”


Kettlebell coach Lauren Brooks. Eat your heart out, Demi Moore.

Similarly, the 2001 Canadian guidelines indicate that regular exercise has a number of benefits and few drawbacks for women. And yet, a recent study shows that in the United States, “Half of obstetricians do not routinely discuss exercise. The majority is hesitant to advise sedentary gravidae to start exercise and is conservative with respect to exercise intensity. Action may be needed to convince more Obs to routinely recommend exercise to all healthy patients.” (Entin, Pauline and Kelly Munhall. “Recommendations Regarding Exercise During Pregnancy Made by Private/Small Group Practice Obstetricians in the USA.” Journal of Sports Science and Medicine 5 (2006): 449 – 458. Full text)

Ideally women should be fit and active before getting pregnant, so if you are thinking of conceiving, begin an exercise program now (but of course, if you’re reading this, you’re probably already exercising!).

One of the important truisms about activity during pregnancy is that pregnancy is not the time to begin a strenuous exercise program. In fact, pregnancy is not the time to make any drastic physical changes.

However, women who are already accustomed to regular activity and exercise generally find pregnancy no disruption to their normal routine, and previously sedentary women can safely begin a moderate exercise program as late as the second trimester.

For ideas, check out Lauren Brooks’ new DVD, Baby Bells. Lauren (see photo to the right) is a certified kettlebell coach who’s written an article elsewhere on this site. She trained with kettlebells throughout her pregnancy.

general concerns

There is a bit of folk wisdom which suggests that women should not engage in exercise after having had a baby. There are dire predictions about souring the milk and so forth, having your uterus fall out, or heaven knows what. This is as realistic as the tooth fairy. Studies have shown no increase in acidity of breast milk after mom’s exercise. Regular postnatal exercise reduces or eliminates most of the unpleasant postpartum symptoms of physical and mental stress, depression, and so forth, as well as promoting a faster recovery. Postpartum exercise appears to help promote insulin sensitivity.

My sister and brother in law doing some tummy rubbing before the birth of my nephew. They are so damn cute I can barely stand it!

Furthermore, children of moms who exercised before, during, and after pregnancy were shown to be relatively leaner themselves five years later.

While exercise during pregnancy has clear benefits, many women tend to cease doing it. The two primary reasons for quitting exercise are significant weight gain and interestingly, the demands of care for other children.

This points to the importance of support systems (such as child care) for pregnant women in order to enable them to continue to exercise during pregnancy.

“Muscle conditioning” exercise (i.e. weight trainng) is considered low-risk and safe. Self-monitoring of training is essential during this period, however, using tools such as the rate of perceived exertion (RPE).

This is a good time to keep a journal that records eating, training, workout reports, notes on how you feel, heart rate, recovery, etc. Here are some general concerns for training during pregnancy.

joint laxity

This is a crucial issue for weight trainers. The body “softens” connective tissue in order to prepare for delivery. Great for pelvic expansion during the crucial moments, not so great for folks trying to keep their kneecaps stuck to their legs during training. On the plus side, strong muscles help to hold things together and improve overall stability, so strength training will be helpful as long as care is exercised.


Another significant issue for weight trainers. Dress to stay cool, drink lots of fluids (even though you’ll feel like you have to pee every ten minutes), get a fan on you if possible, and monitor the situation during your training sessions. If you need a break to cool down, take one. Oxygen will be less available to you, and you will find that in later months of pregnancy, the baby presses upwards on your diaphragm, making it harder to breathe deeply.


Good nutrition is essential during pregnancy, but hey, you knew that didn’t you? It is often difficult for female athletes to accept the inevitable weight gain that occurs during pregnancy, but this isn’t a time to diet or be nutritionally stingy. You may notice wild fluctuations in blood sugar (leading to a feeling of “I have to eat NOW!!”), so try to eat at regular intervals and not go more than a couple of hours without a small meal. In the first trimester you may be limited in what you can tolerate, and formerly appealing things may make you feel sick, but this is usually restricted to the first three or four months. You may experience an increase in appetite, including nearly uncontrollable cravings for carbohydrates (mmmm donuts). This does not signify weakness or gluttony on your part; let the hormones do their work and get a balanced diet as best you can. Due diligence requires me to tell you to take in at least 300 kcal over maintenance each day, but if the pregnant women I’ve known are any indication, you’ll be chowing down like someone who just wandered out of the wilderness into a hot-dog-eating contest.


Don’t take any supplements during pregnancy or breastfeeding other than a good-quality whey protein and a multivitamin (your doctor may recommend additional vitamin or mineral supplementation). Aside from the lack of knowledge about the safety of creatine during pregnancy, the last thing you want is more water retention. Given the issues with overheating and heart rate, thermogenics and stimulants are contraindicated (this includes caffeine, so cut down on this as much as you can; my experience indicates that the smell of coffee makes many pregnant women sick anyway). Obviously, use of any hormonally-based substances, including prohormones, is a huge no-no at this time. Fish oil has been suggested as desirable supplement for pregnant women, but the research suggests that more study needs to be done before this is a given.

medical supervision and ongoing monitoring

As part of your regular medical checkups, have your doctor advise you on possible changes to your body (e.g. cervical dilation, threatened miscarriage, hypertension etc.) that may require you to modify your program. Ensure that you keep your doctor up-to-date on what kinds of activities you’re engaging in, and whether you notice any worrisome symptoms such as persistent bleeding.

exercise choice

As the pregnancy progresses, avoid exercises which involve lying on the back, or pressing against the stomach (such as chest-supported rows). You may find that you need to modify or eliminate exercises which involve excessive head movement, such as stiff-legged deadlifts, if they cause nausea or dizziness. Avoid prolonged periods of standing. Balance will eventually be a concern, so in the second and third trimester, reduce and eventually eliminate the Olympic lifts and perform demanding overhead lifts while seated (see the section on physioball use below). One of the most typical problems encountered by pregnant women is back pain. Their center of gravity shifts and extra weight is added over nine months. Women tend to slouch the shoulders and arch the lower back to compensate for these changes, which of course leads to discomfort. A strong abdominal column as well as a strong back gained through weight training before pregnancy can alleviate much of this problem, so assistance work geared to this need is helpful. Bodyweight exercises, such as unweighted squats, present a useful alternativeas the pregnancy develops, as do exercises which take some weight off the joints, such as swimming or cycling.

exercising for two

A growing fetus is a greedy little thing (as parents will attest, not much will change in that respect once it’s born, either). The body will adjust its substrate utilization to ensure that the wee tenant gets the best of what you have. Your nutritional needs will change as will your body’s response to exercise. Pregnancy dramatically alters glucose and insulin response to prolonged exercise, as well as blood lipid profiles. These return to normal postpartum. It has been speculated that this represents a glucose conservation mechanism and a protective shunting of energy substrate for fetal use. In other words, physiology dictates that fetus is numero uno when it comes to getting first dibs on the good stuff.


Be prepared for reduced recovery and adjust your training accordingly. Be aware that some of the modalities you may use for active recovery, such as hot tubs, may be inappropriate during this time. You’ll probably want to do a lot of sleeping anyway.
postpartum urinary incontinenceSorry, squeamish readers, I had to mention this. After giving birth, many women notice problems with mild to moderate urinary incontinence during exertion, such as squatting or deadlifting. Kegel exercises are a must during pregnancy and after delivery. You may find, to your chagrin, that you will occasionally experience some slight laxity in this regard even with careful attention to treatment. Simply plan it into your workouts: avoid caffeine, go to the bathroom before your workout, wear a pad, and remember that there are a lot of other women out there experiencing the same thing. While we’re on the topic of embarrassing things, you may also notice hemorrhoids which are aggravated by lifting. Again, normal and treatable, though unpleasant. Are you starting to comtemplate growing the baby in a jar yet?

training frequency

An interesting finding of recent research on pregnancy is that exercise frequency is a determinant of birth weight (the higher the birth weight, in general, the healthier the baby), and that too much exercise can be as detrimental as too little. Women who exercised more than 5 times weekly and fewer than 2 times weekly were both at risk for having lower birth weight babies (interestingly, intensity did not appear to be as significant a factor as frequency). This finding points to a “happy medium” of 3-4 weekly sessions of structured exercise for pregnant women. In this case I mean 3-4 weekly sessions of training, rather than general activity. Daily activity and movement, in some form, is the ideal.

Other research suggests that a lower volume of exercise in the second and third trimester is associated with better fetoplacental growth (although the mother demonstrates more fat gain rather than lean body mass gain relative to a higher volume of exercise). The more recent ACOG document (2002) argues that daily or near-daily moderate exercise of 30-minute sessions is recommended.

It seems evident that total workload should be reduced as the pregnancy progresses. For most women this is intuitive, since the demands of a growing fetus tend to reduce their desire to go all-out in the gym. Few women have the urge to do a maximal lift while eight months pregnant; the idea of a nice nap is likely more appealing.

However, some athletes feel that they cannot tolerate a reduction in training volume or intensity. For these women, the research gives a clear caution which must be heeded.

My preggo sister, always fashionable even walking around with a watermelon stuck to her

whither weight trainers?

A difficulty encountered with the research on pregnancy and exercise is that the majority of studies look at cardiovascular exercise, and will often use endurance athletes as a population or sample,perhaps comparing them to sedentary women. While we can make inferences from this work, we cannot expect that all elements will apply precisely to women who weight train.

Guidelines on weight training are sparse, and hint at using lower intensities by defining appropriate rep ranges (between 15 and 25 reps per set). This appears to indicate a lack of familiarity with structuring weight training programs, as well as the needs of experienced weight trainers for whom such a low intensity may be inadequate. Thus we need to begin to theorize about how best to develop a strength training program based on the evidence we have.

Given concerns about joint laxity, heart rate, oxygen consumption, and overheating, it seems inappropriate to suggest that weight trainers build their program around long sets of lower intensity. Rather, I would think it sensible to take an approach which uses shorter sets combined with a lower intensity, resulting in a similar overall volume. So, for example, let us say that our pregnant trainee normally performs 3 sets of 10 reps in the squat, using a weight which is somewhere around 65-70% of her 1RM. For an experienced trainer this is a relatively low intensity to be using, so we assume that she can continue to use it as long as she is comfortable with it.

However, we might modify her program so that she is performing something like 6 sets of 5 reps each, or even 10 sets of 3 reps, for the same total volume, but changing the demands of each set to reflect the increased need for rest and moderation.

Eventually you might also substitute some machines for certain free weight exercises to reflect challenges to balance (though bear in mind the challenge of joint laxity, and choose machines wisely, avoiding those which require you to exert the most force in the weakest position, such as pec decks).

For example, the bent-over position assumed during a one-arm dumbbell row might produce dizziness and back pain, so an intelligent substitute might be seated cable rows, or even a modification to the free weight exercise which includes a higher support and so less of a forward lean.

Many of these considerations do not come into play until the second or third trimester. Many women have successfully met significant athletic challenges while in their first trimester. In the firsttrimester, the primary concern is usually nausea, dizziness, and blood sugar swings. Attention to hydration and nourishment should = help; sipping at a carb drink (if you can tolerate it) during the = workout can be useful. Training can be mostly normal during this = period. However you should begin to consider decreasing intensity and volume from the fourth or fifth month onwards.
physioball phunA nifty piece of gym equipment which is beginning to be used as a pregnancy accoutrement as well as equipment for labouring women is the swiss ball, aka the physioball, aka the giant vinyl beach ball thingy that “core stability” devotees seem to be into these days. Since these are relatively cheap, it’s not a bad idea to pick one up.

In later months of pregnancy, many women experience significant pelvic pain as the weight of the baby presses down and ligaments stretch. One undignified but useful position which appears to alleviate this pain is getting down on hands and knees and hugging the ball, resting the weight of the upper body on it, and rocking back and
forth if desired.

Bridging exercises with the physioball can help relieve back pain and strengthen torso and hip extensors.

Pregnant women may also find it more comfortable to use the ball in place of a chair or bench while sitting during normal activities (such as desk work or watching TV), as well as during exercise. The squishiness of the ball provides cushioning for increased weight, and the instability of the ball helps with torso mobility and awareness.

Women in later stages of pregnancy can use the ball to help modify common exercises, such as squats. Wall squats with the ball are performed by placing the ball between your back and the wall, and rolling down the wall with it into a squatting position.

Finally, women in labour may find some relief from sitting on the ball during contractions, and rocking back and forth.


American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Exercise During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period. Technical Bulletin No 189, ACOG, Washington, DC, 1994.

Bessinger R.C., R.G. McMurray, and A.C. Hackney. “Substrate Utilization and Hormonal Responses to Moderate Intensity Exercise during Pregnancy and After Delivery”. Am J Obstet Gynecol 186(4):757-64 (April 2002).

Campbell., M.K. and M.F. Mottola. “Recreational Exercise and Occupational Activity during Pregnancy and Birth Weight: A Case-Control Study”. Amer. J. Obstet. Gynecol 184:403-408 (2001).

Carey G.B., T.J. Quinn, and S.E. Goodwin. “Breast Milk Composition After Exercise of Different Intensities”. J Hum Lact 13(2):115-20 (Jun 1997).

Clapp, J.F. “Morphometric and Neurodevelopmental Outcome at Age Five Years of the Offspring of Women who Continued to Exercise Regularly Throughout Pregnancy”. J Pediatr 129(6):856-63 (Dec 1996).

Clapp, J.F. 3rd and K.D. Little. “The Interaction Between Regular Exercise and Selected Aspects of Women`s Health”. Am J Obstet Gynecol 173(1):2-9 (Jul 1995).

Clapp J.F. 3rd, et al. “Continuing Regular Exercise During Pregnancy: Effect of Exercise Volume on Fetoplacental Growth”. Am J Obstet Gynecol 186(1):142-7 (Jan 2002).

Dumas G.A., and J.G. Reid. “Laxity of Knee Cruciate Ligaments During Pregnancy”. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 26(1):2-6 (Jul 1997).

“Effect of Recreational Exercise on Pregnancy Weight Gain and Subcutaneous Fat Deposition”. Med Sci Sports Exerc 27(2):170-7 (Feb 1995).

Herrera, E. “Implications of Dietary Fatty Acids During Pregnancy on Placental, Fetal and Postnatal Development: A Review”. Placenta 23 Suppl A: S9-S19 (April 2002).

Horns P.N., L.P. Ratcliffe, J.C. Leggett, and M.S. Swanson. “Pregnancy Outcomes Among Active and Sedentary Primiparous Women”. J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs 25(1):49-54 (Jan 1996).

Kardel K.R. and T. Kase “Training in Pregnant Women: Effects on Fetal Development and Birth”. Am J Obstet Gynecol 178(2):280-6 (Feb 1998).

Koltyn K.F. and S.S. Schultes. “Psychological Effects of an Aerobic Exercise Session and a Rest Session Following Pregnancy”. J Sports Med Phys Fitness 37(4):287-91 (Dec 1997).

Lee G. “Exercise in Pregnancy”. Mod Midwife 6(8):28-33 (Aug 1996).

Hale RW, and Milne L. “The Elite Athlete and Exercise in Pregnancy”. Semin Perinatol 20(4):277-84 (Aug 1996).

Howells, D. “Exercise in Pregnancy.” Pract Midwife 5(4):12-3 (April 2002).

Margolis, R.S. “Exercise and Pregnancy”. Md Med J 45(8):637-41 (Aug 1996).

Pivarnik. J.M. “Cardiovascular responses to aerobic exercise during pregnancy and postpartum”. Semin Perinatol 20(4):242-9 (Aug 1996).

Schramm W.F., J.W. Stockbauer, and T. J. Hoffman. “Exercise, Employment, Other Daily Activities, and Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes.” Am J Epidemiol 143(3):211-8 (Feb 1 1996).

Sternfeld, B. “Physical Activity and Pregnancy Outcome: Review and Recommendations.” Sports Med 3(1):33-47 (Jan 1997).

Sternfeld, B, C.P. Quesenberry Jr, B. Eskenazi, and L.A. Newman. “Exercise During Pregnancy and Pregnancy Outcome “. Med Sci Sports Exerc 27(5):634-40 1995 May

TanJi J. “Exercise During Pregnancy and Pregnancy Outcome”. Clin J Sport Med 5(4):267 (Oct 1995).

Veille, J.C. “Maternal and Fetal Cardiovascular Response to Exercise During Pregnancy”. Semin Perinatol 20(4):250-62 (Aug 1996).


  1. Tim says:

    February 12th, 2009at 5:19 pm(#)

    My gosh. I found you through Google search and although the article was long I devoured it up. You are right on the money.

    Most Specialists have no clue about exercise prescrition but they also have no faith in Fitness Trainers.

    I want to thank you for a very well thought out article and hope that you continue to write more on maybe your pregant clients successes.

    Thank you
    Tim James

  2. Balders says:

    February 24th, 2009at 11:04 pm(#)

    Am 5 mths pregnant with third child and read with interest.
    NO exercise with past pregnancies and a whole lot of milkshakes….BIG babies (8lbs7oz, 9lbs6oz) and I’m 5foot tall. Needless to say it took a while for me to deflate.
    This time I’ve been doing 2-3 hrs a week of weights and 1-3 5km runs; pretty much keeping up with the routine I started about a year ago. Other than backing off on the runs for the first few months I’ve not changed things much (balance is pretty off, so I gave up on treadmills).
    I researched quite a bit and spoke with some trainers at my gym as well as my midwives and the consensus (thus far) is that I should continue as I am unless my body tells me otherwise.
    Weight gain has been slower, I’ve been much less fatigued, and I’ve slept a whole heap better this pregnancy. I also love the way I look and feel, and am a great deal more agile.
    I expect I’ll slow down with the runs over the next few months, but I’ve no intention of giving up the weights.
    Yes. Well. Enough about me. No real point to this post!
    Thankyou, I really enjoy your site.

  3. Melinda says:

    March 14th, 2009at 9:52 am(#)

    Thanks for the excellent, detailed article. This is one of the best articles I’ve read so far on working out while pregnant. A lot of articles I’ve read have just recommended walking 30 minutes a day!

  4. Kate says:

    April 1st, 2009at 2:23 pm(#)

    This is by far the best content I have found on the subject of weight lifting and pregnancy. Thank you for your intelligent and well documented approach to the subject. Ridiculous that there isn’t more information available considering how popular body building and figure building are today. Thanks!

  5. moonlady says:

    May 7th, 2009at 1:40 am(#)

    How about incline presses? I can live with avoiding presses on the flat bench much more easily if I can still do incline presses (and pushups).

  6. Catherine says:

    June 22nd, 2009at 1:11 pm(#)

    Wonderful article! I feel you really covered the important parts regarding prenatal fitness, and included lots of great tips for modifying exercises as pregnancy progresses.
    One suggestion-ACOG put out their most recent committee letter on exercise during pregnancy in 2002. You may want to update that reference.

  7. Ida says:

    July 23rd, 2009at 7:51 am(#)

    @ moonlady: I’m now 23 weeks pregnant and can do incline presses just fine, ditto for regular BP. Not giving those up until they get uncomfortable.

    My newfound fondness for incline presses and DB presses has more to do with getting up from the bench (tricky with this belly!) than with supine hypotension from the uterus pressing on the vena cava. I’ve understood that supine hypotension is the reason why exercising on one’s back is not recommended. As plenty of pregnant women never have issues with it, the avoid-it-ye-all solution seems like yet another case of throwing out the baby with the bathwater to me.

    More info on supine hypotension at http://www.befitmom.com/supine.html

  8. Stine says:

    August 10th, 2009at 6:20 am(#)

    On the net (and in books, magazines etc), there’s said and written many words about pregnancy and abs, and a lot of it is simply not true at all…

    But I wonder: What about using the ab wheel (or similar) during pregnancy? Is the general advice the same as usual – it’s ok as long as it doesn’t hurt (listen to your body)?

    (…I’m sorry if my English is a bit odd, I’m a Norwegian weight lifting viking) :-)

  9. Mistress Krista says:

    August 10th, 2009at 7:25 am(#)

    Stine — if you’re strong and well conditioned, accustomed to using the ab wheel, I say what the heck. One problem with ab training during pregnancy is that as your belly grows there is additional pressure on the abdominal wall, which can lead to some muscle damage and separation. As well, the position of the ab wheel may be uncomfortable, especially at the top where your head is below your heart (if you’re doing a V-up type move). But these considerations are really issues only for the later stages, during which you probably won’t be able to be an ab wheel ninja anyway. Although if you can manage an ab wheel at 9 months, send pics. :)

  10. val says:

    August 12th, 2009at 7:31 pm(#)

    Great article! I am 203 days pregnant and feel like I am just now starting to slow down with regards to my training regimen. I have definitely had raised eyebrows upon discovery of the continuation of my routine, but my trainer and I have been very diligent in listening to the needs of my body and taking it one session at a time.
    So glad to see positive articles on pregnant women lifting! In addition to the health benefits lifting weights really has helped me mentally and I will credit it with 70% of the reason I haven’t had to go on pregnancy safe mood stabilizers.

  11. Carmen says:

    August 14th, 2009at 6:02 am(#)


    I e-mailed you last year when I found your website for the first time, shortly after my mom and I started weight training. Your site has been a great source of information and inspiration for me.

    I just wanted to thank you again, this time for adding a pregnancy section to your site. Your website and Dr. Clapp’s book, Exercising through Your Pregnancy, gave me the confidence to keep up my strength training during my pregnancy.

    I’m now two weeks from my due date, and I’ve been very lucky to be able to stay active throughout my pregnancy (60 mins of cardio alternating with 60 mins of strength training, 6 days a week). It’s amazing because (with my Dr.’s approval) I’ve actually been able to increase the amount I lift gradually during the pregnancy, and I feel stronger than ever.

    Lifting has kept me maintain good posture and keep my back strong (no back pain), as well as helping me adjust to the weight gain and change in my center of gravity (I feel steady enough on my feet that I had no problem getting in and out of a canoe last week). In fact, some of the pregnancy weight gain has definitely gone to new muscle in my biceps, quads, and hamstrings!

    I just wanted to share my experience and thank you for encouraging women to stay strong during pregnancy.

    Take care,

  12. Kate B. says:

    September 9th, 2009at 1:32 pm(#)

    I was one of your interview subjects for your paper, “Big Girls Don’t Cry” (which I loved, by the way). And now I find myself knocked up (yay!) and still wanting to lift and row!

    I’ve had a really hard time finding good information, and ultimately purchased a book (the only one on fitness and pregnancy that did not just recommend walking and yoga), which is still not written as clearly and concisely as this article.

    I am about 6 weeks along, and still lifting and rowing at least once per day. My total training volume is about 8-9 sessions per week, though I have somewhat reduced the intensity in terms of volume and duration. I plan to continue as such until I no longer can.

    I’m wearing my HR monitor religiously, but I find myself frustrated with the strong recommendation of a 150 bpm ceiling. I’ve decided that, while rowing, I’ll allow my HR to creep past 150 as long as I am still breathing well. I’ve been racing so far this fall with this in mind, and not having any problems. My resting HR is 45, so I’m actually thinking that my ceiling should be lower to match my resting HR? Or, is this ceiling really just an arbitrary number? What is the deal with HR limits, and do you know of any more up-to-date recommendations?

    Thanks, as usual, for the great information.

  13. Mistress Krista says:

    September 10th, 2009at 6:42 am(#)

    Like most population numbers, the HR recommendations are based on a theoretical average or normal distribution. The idea is that if you take all the population, you’ll have most folks clustered in the middle and based on that, you can derive some kind of recommendation. This works pretty well at a population level but not so well at an individual level, where you can have significant variation in both HR tolerance and fitness. Your resting HR simply signifies your body’s efficiency at moving the juice (and accompanying oxygen) through the pipes.

    I find that rating of perceived exertion (RPE) is better than using arbitrary numbers.

    The issues with HR are probably not so much the HR itself but whether oxygen is adequately transferred to a fetus, and whether you are overheating. If your resting HR is good, it means you’re pretty good at moving oxygen around, and if you’re training in a reasonably temperature-controlled environment with good hydration, then you’re very likely fine.

    Evolution is really good at its job — if there was a dire threat to fetal health there’s an excellent chance that the body would have some regulatory mechanism in place to stop you from doing whatever it is you’re doing — or simply to cheat you out of something and make sure the fetus gets it first. (Hoggypants fetus.) If you feel good — and honestly good, not “nutcase ultra-endurance athlete-my heart’s-exploding-but-it’s-OK-cause-I’m icing-it-good” — then keep on truckin’.

  14. Kara says:

    September 27th, 2009at 1:15 pm(#)

    Krista, I am so glad that I read this article. I am pregnant with my 2nd baby and I am really looking to stay fit. I was so afraid to exercise during my last pregnancy, that I gained a lot of weight. I have a question about an exercise. You mentioned not to use the pec dec, yet benching after the 1st trimester isn’t good either. Is an incline bench press safe throughout the whole pregnancy?

  15. Mistress Krista says:

    September 28th, 2009at 5:12 am(#)

    Hi Kara,

    Yes, I’d say incline benching is probably fine. However I’d say be sure to focus on your pulling strength more than your pushing strength — perhaps a 2:1 ratio of pulling to pushing. This is because your spine will be pulled forward by the weight of your belly (and increasing boob size).

  16. Megan says:

    January 21st, 2010at 12:26 pm(#)

    Thanks for the affirmation in continuing to lift during pregnancy. So many people make us feel guilty about it but I haven’t really seen any back up on why we shouldn’t do it. I have read a few opinions stating that we (pregnant women) should not lift so heavy that a forced expiration is required. Do you feel this is an accurate point of determining what is too heavy? Is there any point during a low-risk pregnancy that this much strain is unsafe? I want to continue to lift somewhat heavy until it is no longer comfortable for me but of course, I don’t want to take any unnecessary risks either. Also thanks for the info on pulling vs. pushing. That makes a lot of sense, even though I enjoy the pushing exercises a lot more.

  17. Mistress Krista says:

    January 21st, 2010at 1:09 pm(#)

    Megan: Check out the interview I did with Cassandra Forsythe here:
    And Cassandra’s blog here:

  18. Zoey says:

    March 20th, 2010at 5:30 pm(#)

    This was really helpful. I injured my knee within a day of finding out that I am pregnant. I had to take 5 weeks off of hiking and rowing which are currently my main forms of exercise. By the time my knee was ready to start again, I was so nauseas and tired that it was really hard to get up early to row, or to leave work at 5:00 and drive to a trail head instead of going home and collapsing. When I have managed to row I come home and go back to bed for 3 hours.

    I started having an urge to lift weights again (stopped for some reason a while back…not sure what happened) since I can do it at home when I have a moment that I am nausea free and reasonably awake. I just kept hearing these voices in my head saying that you can’t start any new exercise while pregnant, and pregnant women shouldn’t lift weights. Thank you for helping to quiet the voices. I am going to start again. I am going to take it easy and slow, but I am going to start.

  19. workouts for women says:

    April 7th, 2010at 11:02 am(#)

    This is definitely one of the best articles I’ve read out there. It is filled with vital information. Your statemant about being fit even before getting pregnant is so right on. I was pregnant again at 40 back in 2006, and my first child was born 20 yrs. prior… I gave birth without medical intervention, thank God I had always been in great shape, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to achieve my desire of a natural childbirth. Thanks to women like you who continue to inspire women everywhere. Thanks for this article.

  20. Motherhood Paleo-style, Part 1 | PaleoChix says:

    May 24th, 2010at 12:40 am(#)

    […] kind of sports.¬†Another great article on working out while pregnant that you might enjoy is¬†this article from Stumptuous.com. It’s a […]

  21. Wednesday 5/26/10 « CrossFit Amplify says:

    May 25th, 2010at 9:10 pm(#)

    […] Weight Training During Pregnancy […]

  22. Organicgurugirl says:

    August 18th, 2010at 8:47 pm(#)

    SOOOO happy to have come across this article. I’ve been looking for some type of weight program with my kettle bell while preggers. I am so happy I’ve found this.
    Coming out of the first trimester and hoping my energy level itself back out.
    This is our second child and the energy level this time ZAPPED….I try to at least workout twice a week.
    Thanks again for the great article!!!

  23. Exercising while Pregnant - Typology Central says:

    August 20th, 2010at 8:55 am(#)

    […] a lot on diet & fitness lately, and a couple pages have info on training during pregnancy). Weight Training During Pregnancy – from the website of a personal trainer and nutrition coach. She discusses common attitudes toward […]

  24. kim says:

    September 17th, 2010at 11:31 am(#)

    Thank you so much!!! I’m an endurance triathlete and found out I was pregnant about 9 weeks in (I’m a little irregular…).

    Anyway, my coach put me on a more limited workout schedule, running 30-45 minutes at a time, indoor cycling for 60 minutes, swims for 60 minutes and my regular core/weights regimine.

    After reading tons of stuff that said I shouldn’t lift free weights and stick machines and blah blah I’ve spent the last three weeks miserable in the cybex room. But you’ve given me permission to go back with the boys!! I’m so happy!

    My regular weight lifting is triathlon specific, and I took some time off altogether in the weeks prior to my last A race (which happened to be when I was 3 weeks pregnant–PR by 12 minutes and podium!!!).

    I though you might be interested in something my coach said to me (she’s an RN, mother, and elite triathlete): Pregnancy can really effect your workouts, but if you listen to your body, your workouts will not effect your pregnancy. She’s right, I couldn’t dig deep right now for all the money in the world, its like there is a switch that went off and stops me.

    Again, thanks for the reasonable, rational information!

  25. Hana says:

    January 14th, 2011at 10:35 am(#)

    Thank you soo much for this article! I got pregnat at the beggining of my last semester at college so with all going on, I couldn’t keep up with my exercize routine. Now, I’m 23 weeks pregnant and gained more pounds that I should… I’m ready to go back to cardio exercizes and weight lifting – especially after reading this article.

  26. Free Bodybuilding Exercise Programs says:

    January 18th, 2011at 10:07 pm(#)

    […] Stumptuous is where you’ll find a well researched essay on the value of weight training during pregnancy. […]

  27. Laura says:

    January 25th, 2011at 11:05 pm(#)

    Your comment about folk medicine being as presumptions as the tooth fairy in regards to the uterus falling out is naive. It is absolutely true that your uterus can fall and move around at any time or after you have a baby. A displaced uterus can cause all kinds of things, fibriods, endometriosis, etc. I thought that your article was very good and informative until that statement was made which immediately discredited you. I have suffered greatly from my uterus being out of place and falling and now that I know how to recognize when it is out of place and I know how to fix it I no longer have endo symptoms or issues. Please check out https://arvigotherapy.com/

  28. simma says:

    January 26th, 2011at 9:01 am(#)

    You know, Laura, I think “Arvigo Therapy” is a load of new age horsecrap, but that doesn’t prompt me to discredit your entirety as a human being. I just disagree with you about Arvigo therapy.

    People who are all or nothing about everything in life are a big problem and a real obstacle to effective exchange of information. How can you claim to agree with almost everything Krista says yet discredit all of it based on one point of disagreement that plays an almost negligible role in the article as a whole? Especially since that line was clearly an exaggeration for rhetorical effect?

    OK, so your personal experiences disagree with that point. And I get that you object to what you perceive as Krista’s flippancy on the matter of uteruses falling out postpartum. And I get that you would like to argue for some merit to the folk viewpoint that one’s uterus will fall out (?) if a woman exercises postpartum. Wouldn’t it be more effective to rebut that point and provide your point of view without deciding that you have to discredit everything Krista has ever said and ever will say?

    Sorry all–I realize I’m ranting, and tangentially at that, but that cultish mindset that insists that “those who do not agree with me 100% are worthless” is a particular peeve of mine. I find that it is a particularly prevalent mindset in the sphere of exercise/nutrition/health.

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