Exercise is both recommended and beneficial for pregnant women. With that said, it most definitely becomes more challenging as the baby grows and your body changes. Your resting oxygen consumption increases 30%, your resting heart rate increases 15-20 beats per minute and your body mass obviously increases. These are just a few of many changes that occur, but what does this all mean? You more easily reach peaks of physical exertion with less effort. 

I am going to touch on 5 exercise modifications based on research and guidelines for pregnant women. These are things I have personally implemented, and I recommend implementing as you progress in your pregnancy.

Note: These are based on a normal, healthy pregnancy. If you are considered high risk or given other restrictions from your physician, please consult with them before implementing any significant exercise regimen changes. 

1. Minimal to no impact 

Jump roping, running, box jumps, etc are all impact exercises. So are olympic lifts where the feet may leave the ground to catch the bar in a squat position. The timing in pregnancy of reducing impact varies per individual and can be impacted by your prior level of training in that specific movement. If you were an avid runner prior to pregnancy, you may be able to run further into your pregnancy than an occasional weekend jogger. However, every woman’s body adapts differently and may adapt differently in subsequent pregnancies. As the baby grows, the weight of the fetus places stress on your pelvic floor which can lead to leaking, pain and pressure. So, reducing repetitive or high impact can aid in managing those symptoms during pregnancy, and help in regaining strength, reducing symptoms and returning to training postpartum. 

2. Lighter weights (only when needed) 

Current research states that there is not a limitation as to what women can lift during pregnancy. Therefore, I would recommend a reduction in load only when symptoms present (leaking, pressure, pain) or when it is a day that you just are not feeling it. A pregnant women’s body mass has definitely increased so just the physical changes may alter your ability to really push yourself strength wise in the gym on a given day. However, you may simply need to alter the range of motion (think box squats or power cleans) or utilize different mechanics (DB’s vs barbell or widening a squat or deadlift stance) while still working at loads similar to those you were using pre-pregnancy. 

3. Decreasing intensity as needed 

As previously mentioned, your oxygen consumption, resting heart rate and body mass increases in pregnancy. Simply put, you are already working at an elevated intensity AT REST. Therefore, your body’s ability to work faster, longer or harder is decreased. For example, if you go on a 30 minute bike, your distance covered will likely be less despite the same relative effort. Same for a favorite Crossfit WOD of yours. Remember, pregnancy is the time to maintain fitness at the level you are able to so that when you rehab and recover postpartum, you can get back to improving your fitness. 

4. Decreasing range of motion

As previously mentioned, there are various ways this can happen. For most, the need to implement an altered range of motion is because symptoms present OR your belly is just IN THE WAY. In weight lifting, this may look like a box squat or a power clean. In gymnastics type movements, this may look like an elevated push up or a burpee without the push up. 

5. More double vs single leg exercise 

This is a big change I personally have had to make due to pelvic girdle pain following single leg exercise such as lunges or step up. Especially in the 3rd trimester and often earlier in subsequent pregnancies, the pelvis begins to widen and become more lax in preparation for delivery. Therefore, single leg movements can cause some discomfort along those joints due to the torsional forces that they create. This is temporary and no, you are not going to tear your pelvis apart, but it can cause unnecessary discomfort. Sub a squat for a lunge or a deadlift for a step up as needed.