It’s established that you can still lift weights during pregnancy but, with energy in limited supply ensuring you are getting the most of your training to support your changing body is essential. Efficiency is key.
Following a specifically targeted strength training program can not only help to build and maintain muscle mass but also help minimise the effects of pregnancy on your posture which can take a huge hit as your body grows and changes.
During pregnancy, your shoulders and upper back may start to round due to the increased weight at the front of your body (boobs and bump). The growing weight of your bump can also cause your pelvis to tilt forwards leading to an excessive curve in your lower spine.
In addition, once you’ve successfully got that baby out, a lot of daily movements will involve further rounding of the shoulders and upper back. Feeding/lifting etc all require some form of forward lean which may help the baby but is not ideal for your back or your posture.
The muscles down the back of your body (back, core, glutes, hamstrings – aka the ‘posterior chain’) are effectively getting weaker as they become more stretched with the load at the front of the body and if not addressed, this can lead to long-term postural changes, not to mention aches and pains specifically lower back pain during pregnancy and beyond.
These postural changes can be addressed through strengthening your posterior chain (particularly the upper back to pull back the shoulders and open up your chest; and the glutes and lower back to realign and support your pelvis).
Strengthening your glutes is essential during pregnancy to provide support for your pelvis, hips, torso, and everything above this. They also help to prevent your pelvis from tilting forward with the weight of your baby which can be associated with lower back pain during pregnancy, so training glutes will help to alleviate any pain you may be experiencing or prevent future issues.
Incorporating deadlifts, glute bridges, and hip thrust variations into your training are the best way to directly target the glutes.
You can also place specific emphasis on the glutes during other lower body exercises (squats, split squats, lunges, and leg presses) by altering both your foot position and weight distribution to make these exercises more glute specific.
I would also suggest buying a decent glute band and doing some banded glute isolation work (crab walks, lateral leg raises etc) for those days when you can’t muster the energy to picking up any weights (or don’t have access to them). Glute bands are also great for increasing intensity during glute bridges and hip thrusts when you no longer feel comfortable holding heights on your hips.
Strengthening your upper back muscles will help open up the chest and prevent rounding of the shoulders whilst strong lower back muscles will support your core and the increasing weight of your growing baby throughout pregnancy.
Upper body pulling exercises such as rows, pull-ups (although not advised in pregnancy), pull-downs, and flies will all strengthen your back muscles.
A lot of my pregnancy training has been during lockdown so I’ve made the most of training outside using the TRX.
Be sure to avoid doing back exercises lying in a prone position and you may want to switch to upright machines based movements that provide more support for your body (provided you can fit your bump in there and obvs the gym has to be open for this!).
The above is a general summary of the best exercises to include when strength training to support your new body shape although depending on how you feel, the ability to do any exercise at all may be a bonus right now so don’t stress!