Working out in the Second Trimester – Weightlifting
Welcome to the second trimester! By the numbers, this timeframe is widely regarded as weeks 13-27. This can be both an awesome and frustrating time for the pregnant athlete. It’s awesome because her cardiovascular and respiratory adaptations will have taken place resulting in her feeling like the super fit super woman that she is; she may be ready to get after it in the gym! At the same time, it can be frustrating as her bump “pops,” she may notice more fullness in her pelvis, a Diastasis Rectus Abdominis (DRA) in movement, and even a shifting center of mass.
Coach Greg Glassman describes virtuosity as “performing the common uncommonly well.” It’s a hallmark characteristic of any true master regardless of the craft. It’s an egoless commitment to fundamentals and it’s especially important for the pregnant athlete.
Tips for Lifting With a Growing Bump
To help navigate this widely varied timeframe, here are six guiding considerations for lifting safely and maintaining virtuosity during the second trimester:
- Training for Birth: With returning energy in the second trimester, it’s important to reflect on the idea that you are in season for birth. There’s a huge athletic event happening in 3-6 months and it’s important to have competency in all metabolic pathways and planes of motion while also having access to intentional breath and primal movements like squats, hinges, pushes, and pulls. This intention will require different work than most people at your gym. Don’t be afraid to own that.
- Optimize Stabilization: If DRA (coning) or an Extension Compression Stabilizing Strategy is present, it’s recommended to strip weight, use bands, reduce volume, add rest, change the angle, or change the movement to allow for optimal activation of the diaphragm, pelvic floor, and abdominal wall. If Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization is new to you, please watch this amazing webinar by Dr. Erica Boland! A growing baby makes this whole task much more difficult than the non-pregnant athlete. The more we can optimize this, the better trained she is for both birth and her postpartum recovery.
- Strict Base: If there is no DRA and dynamic movements like kipping pull ups or kipping handstand push ups still feel good, then it’s okay for mom to continue them as long as she has the strict strength foundation. At BIRTHFIT, this is 5 strict reps. If at any point that strict base wanes, DRA occurs, or it just doesn’t feel right, then it’s time to remove them and focus on assisted strict work.
- Bar Path: Lose the barbell during olympic lifts when the bump impedes the bar path. Instead, work single arm kettlebell or dumbbell lifts or opt for powerlifting variations. Your postpartum self will thank you for not creating deeply ingrained, protective compensation patterns.
- No Fails: It’s actually really common for pregnant women in the 2nd trimester to set new personal bests in the gym. That said, we recommend approaching these training days by only taking lifts you know you’ll make. So if you feel SOLID about an additional 5 lbs on the bar, and it happens to be a 5 lb-best, then go for it! If it’s at all questionable, end on your previous win. If your best effort is at 80% of your 1RM, that’s perfectly fine too!
- Build Symmetry: As early as weeks 26-27, baby is getting into position for birth. For this reason we want to make sure the pelvis has the most room for baby to go head-down. This looks like seeing anICPA or BIRTHFIT chiropractor regularly and also building symmetry within the body. The split jerk is a wonderful opportunity to build symmetry by alternating the lead foot each rep. This practice will also naturally regulate the load. There are many other sport-specific situations where you may favor one side over the other so you are encouraged to change it up!
If you are looking for some guidance with fitness programming in the second trimester or at any point throughout your pregnancy, check out a BIRTHFIT RD here or our online prenatal training program here!
Melissa Hemphill, M.S.
BIRTHFIT Coach Seminar Director