Let me start off by saying – if you haven’t worked out before going into your pregnancy, you have no business going into it now that you’re pregnant. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be active, but if we’re talking standard strength training, using weights, then this is not the time to start.
If we’ve gotten this out of our way – so, what is strength training and what can it give you while you’re pregnant?
Strength training is usually working out with some additional weights (depending on your abilities) to gain muscle strength and size. More muscle mass you lose while pregnant (and if you’re not working out then you are losing muscle. Period.) the slower your metabolism gets. It might not be a big deal at the moment, but once you’re done with pregnancy – you will want to get back in shape and the more muscle mass you’ll have easier it will be.
What changes should you make in your strength routine?
Reduce the weight you use. I would say that the amount you reduce to is what you feel comfortable with. The science says that if you reduce it to 50 – 70% of what you usually have done for the exercise – you should be fine. And I’d agree to that, but only if it makes you feel good. If you reduce your deadlift to 50% of your usual weight and it still feels off or too heavy – reduce it even more. In strength training, you have also the rep range that you can play with here. Go for lighter weights, but higher reps if you feel that it makes you feel better. If you’ve done your deadlifts in 4 – 6 rep range, go for higher reps – 10 – 12.
To be honest – there’s no one structure. A woman should be very aware of her body. There have been days when I’ve gone into my strength training with best intentions to do the work, but it feels like last week if I worked with 4kg on lateral raises for 12 reps, this week I have to use 3kg to get through those reps. And then there are weeks when I just pick up 2kg and do 18 reps, just for the sake of getting my blood moving.
And that should really be the main reason why you do the training – just moving. Don’t expect progress. Accept that with every week you have to switch exercises that you’re doing (in week 20 I did regular squats like a boss, now, by the week 28 I am only doing sumo because my belly is in the way of everything).
Be careful with exercises where you have to bend over and keep yourself in this position. I’m not saying you have to avoid them completely, but be aware that it’s a lot of pressure on your lower back, which is already working hard to support you and your baby.
I would say that for most mamas who are used to working out (because again – if you haven’t done anything before – get out of the gym and go for a nice, long walk instead) the hardest part is just accepting that you won’t be able to do whatever you did before. It’s an everyday struggle for me. I used to workout 4 times per week at the gym and ran once or twice a week. Now I’m going for walks every day and I try to work out at the gym twice because it’s thought that even with 1 – 2 training sessions per week you can maintain your muscle mass if you’ve worked out before. So, if you can only do a couple of training sessions – it’s great. Your most important job is making a baby (even, if at times it doesn’t seem like a big deal) and you will recover so much faster after the delivery if you’ll continue doing something. So, take it easy and remember that pregnancy is a time to enjoy!