With the inclusion of regular strength training in your pregnancy fitness we need to chat about how heavy to lift in your second trimester. Seasoned lifters in particular need to review this section, not just for some new safety adaptations to their lifting, but also for some gentle and supportive words about what you may quickly find you can no longer do. It seems standard to say that "you should only be selecting a weight that you can perform the exercise with excellent form." Yes, that is of course true during your pregnancy for strength training.
But here's what few people are saying, which is especially important for pregnant women.
Pelvic floor pressure is of concern if you select too heavy of a weight.
Why is your pelvic floor a concern in choosing your strength training load?
First, while weight training is low impact, some exercises especially standing lower body moves, will put pressure on your pelvic floor. These are the ones we want to be most careful with for the same reasons why we need to be cautious with high impact exercise like running.
The relaxin hormone relaxes everything and repeatedly or forcefully pressing down on your relaxed pelvic floor could have long-term negative effects. For this reason, I chose many of the strength training moves I did during pregnancy to be done while seated, especially in the latter part of pregnancy as the weight of the baby puts pressure on your pelvic floor. There is no need to add more pressure with heavily weighted moves.
Second, when a too heavy weight is selected most people force out their breath while they strain to complete the repetition. See for yourself, give a little grunt or push out your breath. Notice where some pressure goes to? Yup, that’s right to your lower core and pelvic floor. Exactly where we don’t want unnecessary pressure.
So how heavy? Common sense tells us not to pick up the 100lb dumbbells with baby on board but ensure you become aware that if at any point you are feeling as if you are bearing down on your pelvic floor to complete the move - that’s way too heavy. It comes down to self-awareness, of course for excellent form, but also awareness of the breath you are using to execute the exercise and/or where you are feeling the exertion.
For the experienced lifters reading this post, Hi! - fist pump – bicep flex. I also considered myself an advanced lifter coming into my pregnancy, and so all of the “take it slower” advice I thought was part of the lame stuff people say who are not into fitness.
Therefore, I thought that advice didn’t apply to me. I was served humble pie quickly around week 7 as my body struggled to complete lifts that were easy to me pre-pregnancy and my instincts told me to pull back. After I dove into all of the research on pelvic floor health and pregnancy fitness I’m grateful I listened to my instincts but in the interim, I struggled with accepting not being able to “push it” during my workouts.
I will forever be grateful for the advice my close (and very fit) friend Meaghan told me over lunch around 16 weeks. Meaghan is a stunning fit mom of two, so if she said she rubbed mayonnaise on her tummy to get her abs like that post-baby I probably would have! Anyway, Meaghan gently told me how much she struggled with her level of fitness during her pregnancy. She was sick, exhausted and despite her top level of fitness coming into pregnancy, doing the same type of workouts or even maintaining her fitness was not going to happen. But she knew the importance of exercising for herself and baby so did her best. Her best was 20 minutes walking on her treadmill. Looking at that beautiful fit mom, proof of the advice, I finally accepted that pulling back was OK.
If you don’t have a friend like that in your life, let me be that person for you. Do your best for you and baby, but don’t get down on yourself for having to pull back on your choice of weights, or reducing the length of your sessions. After your body is retrained post-partum you’ll get back at it like the awesome fitness freak you are!
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