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Getting Creative: My Recent Pregnancy Workout Modifications

pregnancy-workoutOver the years I’ve heard pregnant women complain that although it’s well known that exercise is good for you and baby when you’re knocked up, there’s not really that much info on exactly what you can and should do for your pregnancy workout.

The general recommendations seem to be this:

  1. Continue doing the exercise you’re used to as long as it feels good.
  2. Don’t get your heart rate too high or work at an intensity where you’re gasping for air.
  3. Don’t get too hot.
  4. Don’t lay on your back after the first trimester for any exercise.
  5. Don’t do anything that will offset your balance or has potential for contact, falling, physical harm, etc.
  6. Don’t lift anything too heavy.
  7. Always check with your health professional/OBGYN.

No. 6 is my personal favorite since so many doctors are different and many of them really aren’t sure what to recommend. For example, I talked to my midwife and even though I adore her, her response was, “Oh, yeah, keep doing what you’re doing!” My acupuncturist said I could jog, but to cut out the heavy lifting and high-intensity stuff.

So, er, what’s a girl who likes to do this kind of stuff to do (fun note: filmed that in the first trimester!) when she’s pregnant?

Honestly — even as a certified fitness professional — I’ve been at a bit of a loss. No new mom-to-be wants to do anything to put her baby at risk. But the lack of info for already fit women out there is super frustrating — and super lacking. Almost every resource recommends light strength training, prenatal yoga and Pilates, and walking. Don’t get me wrong; these are awesome activities that I’m doing. But it still leaves a big ol’ question: What about all the other stuff I love to do like pull-ups, box jumps and kettlebell swings?! (And, let’s be honest, I’m fit, but I’m not nearly fit enough to feel comfortable pulling something like this off later in pregnancy — although, kudos to her!)

Through following my own intuition, research and lots of time reading other blogs, these are the modifications I’ve been making to my pregnancy workouts. Yes, there are women doing waaay more than this farther along in their pregnancies, but for me, this is what has felt right thus far. And although I’m not a doctor and I’m not telling you what to do for your pregnancy workouts, I did want to share the modifications I’m making in case it’s helpful. Like they say, every pregnancy is different, but here’s what I’ve been up to — and what the bump is up to!

jenn-week-19

Note the dog butt photo bomb.

My Pregnancy Workout Modifications

Weeks 4-10: Did the same workouts as usual, taking more breaks to make sure that I was at an intensity where I could still talk. I also worked out far, far less because, well, morning sickness and fatigue!

  • Pull-ups: Same as pre-pregnancy
  • Push-ups: Same as pre-pregnancy
  • Burpees: Same as pre-pregnancy
  • Box jumps: Same as pre-pregnancy
  • Kettlebells: Same as pre-pregnancy
  • Olympic lifts: Reduced weight by about 10 percent
  • Jump rope: Same as pre-pregnancy
  • General weight-lifting: Same as pre-pregnancy
  • General cardio (running, rowing, bike): Same as pre-pregnancy
  • Ab exercises: Same as pre-pregnancy

Weeks 11-13: My energy started to come back at the end of my first trimester thankfully, but my bump also started to bump more, so I adapted quite a few moves to what felt good and normal for me. Note from Caption Obvious: working out with an extra 5 or so pounds around your belly is weird and makes some moves (push-ups come to mind!) much, much more challenging!

  • Pull-ups: Strict or assisted with a resistance band (no kipping pull-ups)
  • Push-ups: Same as pre-pregnancy
  • Burpees: Same as pre-pregnancy
  • Box jumps: One box lower than pre-pregnancy
  • Kettlebells: Same as pre-pregnancy
  • Olympic lifts: Reduced weight by about 15 percent
  • Jump rope: Same as pre-pregnancy
  • General weight-lifting: Reduced weight by about 10 percent
  • General cardio (running, rowing, bike): Same as pre-pregnancy
  • Ab exercises: Swapped ab exercises for either planks or crunches on a stability ball

Weeks 14-16: My energy was pretty normal during this time, but a lot of jumping and balancing moves were taken down a notch for my personal comfort.

  • Pull-ups: With a resistance band
  • Push-ups: Same as pre-pregnancy (getting way, way harder now!)
  • Burpees: Big hop at the end is no more like a baby hop
  • Box jumps: Lowest box available
  • Kettlebells: One weight down from pre-pregnancy
  • Olympic lifts: Reduced weight by about 20 percent
  • Jump rope: No double-unders
  • General weight-lifting: Reduced weight by about 15 percent
  • General cardio (running, rowing, bike): Reduced pace/speed/intensity again
  • Ab exercises: Swapped ab exercises for either planks or crunches on a stability ball

Weeks 17-19: My bump was actually getting in the way a bit, so things change again! Also, jumping and bouncing wasn’t as comfortable (especially when I need to pee). Total weight gain is at about 10 pounds at this point — and I added in a weekly prenatal yoga class at a local studio to increase my flexibility!

  • Pull-ups: Modified to body rows
  • Push-ups: Same as pre-pregnancy (as long as I can do them with good form — if not, drop to knees)
  • Burpees: Baby hop at the end and step feet back out and in for the push-up portion
  • Box jumps: Modified to step-ups on my pre-pregnancy box height
  • Kettlebells: One weight down from pre-pregnancy
  • Olympic lifts: Reduced weight by about 25 percent
  • Jump rope: No double-unders
  • General weight-lifting: Reduced weight by about 20 percent
  • General cardio (running, rowing, bike): Reduced pace/speed/intensity again
  • Ab exercises: Swapped ab exercises for either planks or crunches on a stability ball

Weeks 20-21: Bigger belly, bigger modifications for my pregnancy workouts!

  • Pull-ups: Modified to body rows
  • Push-ups: Modified from knees
  • Burpees: Baby hop at the end and step feet back out and in for the push-up portion (from knees)
  • Box jumps: Modified to step-ups on one box below my pre-pregnancy box-jump height
  • Kettlebells: One weight down from pre-pregnancy
  • Olympic lifts: Reduced weight by about 25 percent
  • Jump rope: Small jumps without the rope
  • General weight-lifting: Reduced weight by about 25 percent
  • General cardio (running, rowing, bike): Reduced pace/speed/intensity again
  • Ab exercises: Swapped ab exercises for either planks or crunches on a stability ball

The weeks to come? I’m not sure! But if you guys are interested, let me know and I can keep sharing! I’d imagine some Olympic lifts and barbell work will need to be swapped out with dumbbells and the push-ups might have to go to either the wall or to handles, but we’ll see how my pregnancy workouts at the gym progress. All I know is that I leave the gym feeling good and not spent or exhausted!

Also, I can’t stress enough enough that this is what feels good for me. Please don’t take this as advice as what you should do — just know that it all depends on your comfort level, advice from your doc, your fitness level pre-pregnancy and how you feel. This is just what’s working for me and my fit bottomed baby right now!

Did you modify your pregnancy workouts like this? Did you/have you made more modifications? Fewer? Would love to know! —Jenn

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2 Comments
  1. Allison says:

    Any updates since this was written? Thanks for your perspective!

    1. Jenn says:

      Planning a new post soon, so stay tuned! 🙂 But, in general. lifting less weight, running a little less and still listening to my body! More yoga, too. 🙂

      —FBG Jenn