Can I CrossFit whilst pregnant?

I thought it would be a perfect time to write a short blog about training and CrossFit whilst pregnant. Pregnancy and training for most mothers is quite a hazy area and most people aren’t sure how to train and stay safe. Hopefully this can clear the haze and help you know what you can do!

Well firstly we will talk through the facts about the benefit of training, followed by the how;

  • Training whilst pregnant can help minimise weight gain.
  • Training decreases the amount of discomfort you may experience.
  • Your recovery post birth is faster.
  • You’re less likely to pick up an illness.
  • Increase in energy levels

There are also really basic things training does for your baby;

  • Decrease heart rate.
  • Training usually means a healthier baby!
  • Naturally the baby can be leaner at birth.

All of these physical benefits are really important, but also more than anything training can be a mental stimulus for you. For anyone that is part of a CrossFit community, you’ll know that if you suddenly stopped going, you’d miss it and a big part of life would’ve been suddenly changed. We want you to be happy, healthy and safe during the whole of your pregnancy and I’m sure in saying so does every other gym!
This next part is also for other coaches at it allows you to gain a perspective on how to work with someone that is pregnant.
So firstly training whilst pregnant is different for every single person. One persons experience is going to be a lot different to another. So in turn its all about FEEL. If you are pregnant you have to understand and communicate to your coach how you’re feeling.
This is extremely important throughout the first trimester. For most people you wont know you’re pregnant in the initial stages and if you are training, you will usually train as normal. During the first trimester you will need to react to how your feeling and LISTEN to your body. Most people are able to train relatively normally throughout this time.
As you transition into the 2nd trimester there are some key facts to remember;

  1. Your body will begin to release the hormone Relaxin. (This is in preparation to relax your joints and ligaments) This often leads to a decrease in stability.
  2. Your heart rate will increase as will your blood volume.

Their are things will need to consider when coaching someone who is pregnant.  A decrease in stability means you should look to minimise too much pressure on joints (Especially shoulders and hips) and aid in creating strength in and around those areas. Dynamic movements too heavy may result in injury.
I would also recommend decreasing the amount of load you’d be lifting during the 2nd trimester. Again as a rule, go off how you’re feeling although I’d look to decrease loading to between 60% and 75% and even lower in the dynamic lifts.
Here are some further considerations to think about;

  • Stop kipping! Pregnancy obviously stretches the abdominals (Diastasis Recti). Kipping back and forth under high force can increase the stretch. So we recommend staying with strict pull work. Due to this should you really be trying to do toes to bar, high volume sit ups or GHD’s? More than likely the answer is no. So what can you do? The best thing to do would be isometric midline and oblique work, which will only be of benefit for you. Think planks and pallof holds.
  • For anyone that knows a CrossFitter… you’ll still want to do all the stuff you were doing beforehand and its important to remember safety for you and the baby is paramount. So handstands, being inverted and being prone (On your back) is not ideal or safe. So stay away from these things.
  • The above things can affect blood flow to yourself and the baby. As can hypoxia so our final recommendation on training is to look to slowly decrease intensity towards the 3rd trimester. We have seen pregnant women training normally throughout pregnancy but remember everyone is different and you must go off how you feel.

One of the maim roles of a coach is to look after every member and make sure they train in right manner. So scaling training appropriately for each member is extremely important. You’re aim is to make sure each member reaches the right output for the session that you want. In turn here are some ideas of scaling for pregnancy in classes!

Running >  Look to possibly change running for rowing or assault bike. This will help decrease impact and often help minimise discomfort. Make sure that you scale to hit the correct metabolic pathway. Rowing can often be uncomfortable later on in pregnancy so be prepared to further scale. One great idea is to have a sled push or pull.

KB Swings > As with most weight bound exercises, look to lighten the load, concentrating on form rather than load. Most athletes struggle to go overhead (American swing) without hyperextending resulting in abdominal stretching. So in turn look to change to Russian height swings or even lower!

Deadlifts > Throughout pregnancy hinging can become difficult so one of the really simple ways to help that is to Deadlift in a sumo stance. Allowing for good hinge mechanics and posterior chain engagement. Obviously look to lighten the reps and load for deadlifts so the central nervous system doesn’t take a battering.

Olympic lifts > Firstly think is there a more effective way to move rather than complete complex oly lifts. As we have said before look to lower the load and watch for stability in the lifts. Secondly bar path can be an issue, so a really simple substitute can be using dumbbells! Finally you can potentially look to only do the power variants, as dynamically dropping into the squat can be difficult.

Box jumps > Again jumping and impact can be uncomfortable so you can scale to either a step up or a dynamic hip extension like a KB swing.

If you’d like to know further scaling options, please comment them below and ask away! It’s really important, as you would do with all of your athletes to make sure that you scale to mimic intensity and the movement pattern, so always try to pre plan!