Phoebe Armfield

How to safely lift weights when you’re pregnant

Phoebe Armfield

We know it’s a good idea for our health and mental wellbeing to exercise during pregnancy. Once you have approval from your doctor, with the right pregnancy workout plan – like the tailored program you’ll find in Emily Skye FIT Pregnancy – you can continue to safely work out into your third trimester.

But what about lifting weights?

As a regular lifter, it’s something Emily has loved doing during her pregnancies – after getting the all-clear from her doctor, of course. And now strength training is a part of the FIT Pregnancy program.

Lifting weights keeps you feeling strong and confident, and when done with good form it can prevent lower back pain (and the other aches and pains that come with carrying a growing bub). It can also increase your physical and mental strength and stamina for labour – the toughest workout of all!

But before you pick up dumbbells or a barbell, there are definitely a few things you need to be mindful of before lifting weights while pregnant.

Pregnancy workout safety for lifting weights

1. Remember the key general safety rules: stop if you feel any headaches, nausea, dizziness, pain, or have bleeding. Check to make sure you’re across all the signs and know when to stop.

2. You should be used to lifting free weights before your pregnancy – during pregnancy is NOT the time to start a weight training program if you’ve never lifted weights before.

3. When doing deadlifts during her pregnancy, Em was lifting 40kg lighter than when she was not pregnant. But even if you’re lifting a lot lighter than you usually would, be sure to take extra care using weights – your balance can be off during pregnancy, making you more unsteady.

4. Don’t over-exert yourself or strain too much. Know your limits.

5. After the first 16 weeks of pregnancy (a few weeks into your second trimester) avoid lifting weights while lying flat on your back. After this point you should always be propped up at 45 degrees with support behind your back.

6. In the last 3 months of your pregnancy (your third trimester), be careful lifting weights over your head.

7. When lifting, avoid excessive arching through your lower back.

How hard & how often?
As your pregnancy progresses, you naturally won’t be lifting weights at the same intensity you did before you were pregnant. So what level of intensity should you be aiming for?

It is recommended that your exertion during aerobic exercise should be a 12-14 on the Borg Rate of Perceived Exertion scale – this means “somewhat hard”, to the point where you can still talk, but not sing. The same goes for lifting weights – you should still be able to hold a conversation.

As for how often you should exercise, current recommendations are to do a mix of resistance and aerobic training for 1.3 - 5 hours per week. So you may do two strength-training sessions with weights per week, and 30-60 minutes of aerobic exercise on other days.

Whatever your exercise mix, aim to do at least 1.3 hours every week.

When working out with weights, always use correct form, follow instructions and stop if something doesn't feel right, you experience pain, discomfort or heaviness, or bulging feeling in the perianal area. Always listen to your body. Again, make sure you know what to look out for and when to stop training.

Always consult your healthcare professional before beginning any new exercise program, as there are some situations where exercise may not be advised. This information should be used as a guide only and should not replace the advice of your medical practitioner.

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Phoebe Armfield
Women’s health physiotherapist

Women’s health physiotherapist Phoebe Armfield has over 15 years’ experience in helping women take control of their bodies into co-designing the FIT Pregnancy and FIT Post-Pregnancy programs with Emily Skye. She holds a Master of Physiotherapy, a Bachelor of Sport and Exercise, is a certified Pilates Instructor (including pre and postnatal Pilates), and Certified Trainer.

Phoebe Armfield
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