Pregnancy Gym Workouts: Exercises, Benefits, Safety
Pregnancy Gym Workouts
There is often a lot of confusion, along with misleading advice, when it comes to the best gym equipment to use when pregnant. So let's make sure your pregnancy gym workouts get you fit and healthy while keeping you safe at the same time.
If you enjoy going to the gym then I want you to focus on what exercises you are doing, what machines you are using, and the technique you are using for each of your lifts.
If you get one of these wrong, then you could sustain a long term injury which is the last thing you need when pregnant.
Pregnancy Gym Workouts
So let's get started in answering some of your questions and providing you with a list of what machines you can use and which ones you need to avoid.
1. Can pregnant women still use the gym?
Yes, of course. Right now we know most gyms are closed due to COVID-19. But they will open up again soon and when they do you can get back to your prenatal workouts.
Please use extra measures to ensure you wipe down machines and that those around you are also doing the same. While you can use the gym, there are certain classes, exercises and machines you must avoid.
2. Can I use weight machines while pregnant?
Yes, but not all. If the machine places excessive strain on your lower back then try to avoid them.
You are at an increased risk for musculoskeletal injury. This is because the placenta produces the pregnancy hormone called relaxin, which relaxes the body's joints. This is critical since the pelvis needs to expand to accommodate the growing uterus and baby. It also allows the baby to pass through the birth canal during delivery.
There are so many types of machines in the gym to cover all in this article. But essentially it comes down to using your judgement and avoiding machines that can cause you injury like the ones listed below.
You can use the squat rack, but use a lower weight and make sure you use correct technique.
Pin-loaded machines become more of a common sense choice when pregnant as they provide you with more control as compared to many dumbbells and barbell exercises where you may lose your balance.
Avoid any machine with a pad that presses against your belly, such as the seated row machine or abdominal machines.
Avoid heavy overhead lifts as they can increase the curve in your lower spine (aka hyperlordosis).
3. Your Pregnancy Gym Workouts Must Avoid
No matter what exercise or machine you are doing, I want you to avoid the following:
1. Pushing movements exercises that cause your abs to bulge or peak outwards.
2. Isometric exercises that cause your abs to bulge or peak outwards.
3. Lying on your stomach.
4. Crunching, twisting and any movements that cross your mid-line as this can exasperate abdominal separation.
5. Lying flat on your back - the pressure of the baby can cause interruption of blood flow back to the heart
6. Rotational movements that collapse the space of the womb.
7. Holding your breath, it creates too much pressure on the pelvic floor.
4. Gym Equipment to Avoid in Pregnancy
1. It basically comes down to using common sense. Any piece of gym equipment that creates an unstable surfaces such as BOSU or wobble boards. Your centre of gravity just isn't what it was before!
2. Any equipment that requires you to lie on your stomach. For example, swap the lying hamstring curl for the seated hamstring curl.
3. Try and avoid abductor and adductor machines due to the pressure it puts on the pelvic girdle. There are plenty of other great prenatal exercises to strengthen these muscles.
4. Lat pull-down and assisted chin up machine as the technique is difficult to master when pregnant.
The intra-abdominal pressure and any excessive curvature of the spine on either exercise can cause abdominal peaking.
5. Avoid benches or equipment that has a 45 degree angle such as a back extensions and glute / hamstring machine due to the position you need to be in when using them.
5. Should I continue to exercise when pregnant?
Yes, absolutely. It's a great idea to exercise during pregnancy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that expecting women engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week.
But as always, consult your doctor first prior to starting any gym workout.
Research has shown that women who exercise regularly are less likely to develop gestational diabetes, and on average have shorter labors, less constipation, and less swelling in the extremities.
Cardio and strength exercises are good for you and good for your baby. The key, like any other exercise during pregnancy, is to modify your routine as your baby bump gets bigger.
If an exercise or cardio-machine in the gym doesn't feel comfortable, simply move on and try a different exercise.
Using the Treadmill when Pregnant
Running during pregnancy is OK. Yes, it can be high-impact, and there are definitely some better exercise you could do. But if you were a keen runner before pregnancy, then it is OK to continue running.
And the treadmill a great way to get exercise if you are restricted to exercising indoors. Balance is the most important concern when walking or running on a treadmill so be sure to hold on tot he side rails in case you slip or fall.
I want you to adjust the machines' speed, incline and tension to a level that's comfortable for you. Forget about running to exhaustion as this is not good for you or baby.
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Upright Cycle For Pregnant Women
Cycling when pregnant is an excellent low impact activity that's safe to continue throughout pregnancy.
While many women continue to ride a bike on the roads, there is the increase risk of falling or losing your balance which is why a static gym bike is ideal exercise for pregnant women.
You will need to adjust the seat to the correct height, with the seat level to your hip joint when standing next to the cycle. Remember to slightly bend your knees.
There's no impact with a recumbent bike. Recumbent bikes are a good alternative to the upright stationary bikes, both for comfort in style of seat and position. The back support is beneficial for both joint and back pain while the cycling still offers a solid cardio workout.
As your baby bump grows it can become difficult to cycle with your knees in alignment, making the recumbent bike less comfortable but do what works best for you.
Whether you prefer using an upright bike or a recumbent bike, gradually reduce your speed during the second and third trimesters.
Can I Use a Stair Climber if I am Pregnant?
You should use the stair climber with caution. Balance is a major concern use the support of the hand rails. You will still get a complete workout that builds muscle in the lower body but avoid pushing to exhaustion.
If you experience any pelvic pain when using a step machine stop right away. And reduce your time on the stepper as well as your intensity levels as your pregnancy progresses.
Elliptical Trainer (AKA X-Trainer)
An Elliptical Trainer is a good option for pregnant women at the gym. The guided and low-impact motion of a X-Trainer helps to reduce pressure on your joints that are already under some pressure due to your increasing weight and also the hormone relaxin.
Try to maintain a comfortable speed and reduce your stride length if you experience any pelvic discomfort. Holding the handles to the side of your body in preference to the front will help you maintain an upright posture.
Rowing Machine and Pregnancy
The rowing machine does provide a complete body workout, but a rowing machine can be difficult to get on and off during the latter stages of your pregnancy. Your growing baby bump is likely to get in the way making it difficult to row. Make sure the handle does not hit your belly as you pull it back.
6. Are Strength Machines Safe?
You should continue with your strength training when pregnant. You just need to modify the exercises you do, lower your volume and intensity and ensure you use correct technique.
Light weights and more reps are recommended for toning and muscle strengthening. Strength machines are a safer option than free weights as you are less likely to drop the weights. Also, due to a restricted range of motion, there is a diminished chance of injury.
When it comes to Gym Exercise Classes ...
The same exercise precautions apply to any exercises, workouts or classes in a gym as they do in a studio, online or at home. There are just some exercises you must avoid during pregnancy. And this include everything from Hot Yoga to extreme boot camp classes.
I also want you to avoid classes that cause to to rapidly change direction or your position including high impact classes.
7. Gym Yoga Classes
Yoga classes provide a great low-impact workout. I love yoga and every week of my pregnancy I did several yoga workouts. They really helped me prepare for childbirth and helped me with my postpartum recovery.
The important point here is that some yoga poses and exercises that you did before pregnancy are no longer safe for you or baby!
A better option is to search for a prenatal yoga class near you that is taught by a qualified prenatal exercise instructor.
8. General Pregnancy Gym Workout Tips
a. Warm up and cool down
I want you to conduct a safe warm-up before starting more intense exercise. Warming up increases your heart rate, raises the temperature of your muscles for optimum flexibility and dilates your blood vessels so your muscles are well supplied with oxygen.
b. Know when to stop your workout.
Know the warning signs to stop exercising. If an exercise feels uncomfortable, or makes you feel out of breath or dizzy it's time to slow down or stop.
c. Wear correct-fitting supportive maternity gym wear.
This is important not just for your own self-esteem but to hold your baby bump securely.
d. Stay hydrated
It important for many reasons o stay properly hydrated when pregnant. Keep that water bottle handy throughout your workout!
9. Heavy Lifting during Pregnancy
Heavy lifting during pregnancy is not recommended but it cannot always be avoided especially if you have other children or live alone.
You can prevent pregnancy back pain by implementing the correct lifting techniques as outlined in our body care section.
If you are going to push a weight, object such as a change table, cot or chair; place your legs in a stride stance with your strongest foot back.
For most people they will have their right foot back and their left leg forwards. Your front foot should be positioned as close to the load as possible. Use your body weight to initiate the movement and try to keep your elbows close to your body.
If you must pull an object, face the object, use both arms. Place your feet in a stride stance with your stronger foot forward and use your body weight to initiate the movement.
When you pull you are not using your major muscles groups and can be prone to injury. As you will likely be moving backwards it is essential you clear the path behind you as you move the load from point A to point B.
How much you can lift will depend on your strength, your technique and the size and shape of the object. If you try to lift with poor technique then you will place significant strain on many parts of our body.
Prior to lifting, you should plan how you will lift the object. Where you are moving the object. If you are in doubt about the weight or size then seek assistance with the lift.
A lot of injuries occur when you lift with combined movements such as bending and twisting at the same time. If the load is too heavy for you to lift then seek assistance or break down the load into smaller loads. If you can use a mechanical aid to help lift the object then do so.
Correct Technique Involves:
1. Feet comfortably apart.
2. Place feet around load if possible.
3. Bend at your knees.
4. Keep the spine in its natural curves.
5. Keep the load as close to the body as possible.
6. Brace abdominal muscles.