What Pregnancy Workout Modifications Look Like

When you get pregnant, it can throw you and your workouts for a loop. You might feel so sick and so overwhelmingly fatigued that you can’t fathom a workout. But on days you feel up to working out — or once you get your energy back — you likely want to keep up with your workouts. But what is safe to do? We all know that exercise is good for you and baby when you’re knocked up, but unfortunately, there’s not really that much info on exactly what you can and should do for your pregnancy workout. There are some basic recommendations, like “always check with your doctor” and “don’t get your hear rate too high,” but that’s really vague. And what does that look like in real life?

For me, exercise wasn’t the focus in my first trimester — survival was. I tried to keep up with workouts when I could, but keeping up with my two kids and fitting in a nap while they slept in the afternoon was way more important. Once the second trimester hit, I was back in business. I was jogging some, and I kept weight training. I was a Zumba fanatic, hitting up a couple of classes each week with my bump. But once pain set in — shooting pain down my left thigh and in my pubic bone — I had to face the reality that I had to start sitting out some workouts. I’m glad I did, particularly now as I’m more than six weeks postpartum and still in the process of recovering. I’m afraid had I worked through the pain I would have just set my recovery back even more.

All of that to say: You really do have to listen to your body during pregnancy and do what feels good to you. While some women can keep up with running marathons during pregnancy, others are on bed rest. And it’s all a crap shoot because as we’ve said, no amount of eating right and exercise can prevent certain pregnancy complications. I do love seeing the difference in the prenatal fitness routines women do, which is why I loved this post by Jenn over on FBG in which she talks about the muddled and unclear recommendations from her various healthcare professionals on what she — someone who works out very intensely — can keep doing during pregnancy. Check it out (along with a pic of her bump!) and then check out the ways she’s had to modify all of her moves below!

Pregnancy Workout Modificationspregnancy-workout

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

Remember to always check with your doctor, and remember that even though your brain may not feel pregnant, your body is, so be sure to listen to it. 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.

How did your workouts change when you were pregnant? —Erin

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