Lifting weights during pregnancy, especially “heavier” weights, is of newer interest in the fitness and pregnancy world.
This makes weights during pregnancy a huge topic loaded with misconceptions, misinformation and general fear.
I’m sure many of you have heard the common piece of advice that you shouldn’t be lifting more than 25lbs during your pregnancy.
This is just one of those pieces of misinformation. And is unfortunately still something doctors are telling their pregnant patients which builds into their fear of lifting during pregnancy.
In this article I want to answer one of the most common questions I get as a pregnancy and postpartum fitness coach:
“How heavy can I lift during my pregnancy?”
there is no absolute max weight.
Or absolute percentage of max weight.
Instead, here are five components to consider when choosing your weights during pregnancy!
1) What lift you’re performing
Barbell squatting a bar is 35lbs alone, which may feel more than doable. However a 35lb overhead kettlebell swing might feel much less doable due to the stability, core strength and range of motion needed to correctly perform the movement.
As a general rule, any movement where the weight goes above the waist and/or shoulders is something you should scale back on. These moves inherently require more core strength and coordination, which we have less of during pregnancy and don’t want to over-tax the core system anyways.
2) What stage of pregnancy you’re in
In the first trimester? You can probably still hit most of your normal weights! I know I personally was still deadlifting 200lbs or so without any issue or complications through my first trimester.
Important thing to note: normal does not mean max. You should not try to hit any maxes or PR’s during any part of your pregnancy, as that taxes the core and pelvic floor systems when our current and long term goal is to maintain a healthy core and pelvic floor. To stay safe, keep all rep ranges at or above 5 to prevent you from going too heavy.
In the third trimester? 200lb deadlifts (when your max is around 250) would be described as reckless. Make sure to listen to your body every single day (because your body is literally changing every day) to determine what weights would be appropriate.
3) Your pre-pregnancy fitness level
Going off that last example, since I was a 250+lb deadlifter pre-pregnancy, a 100lb deadlift even later into my pregnancy still felt light, was very doable, and did not put extra harm on my core of pelvic floor. However, if someone else had only ever deadlifted 100lbs pre-pregnancy, 100lbs would be way too heavy for them during the second and third trimesters.
This can be applied to all different movements as well! For instance, if you were a strong deadlifter, but had a weaker back squat, your weight for back squats during pregnancy would likely drop more percentage wise than your deadlift would.
4) If you have any current pregnancy complications
Certain pregnancy complications, like preeclampsia, call for more restricted workout measures during your pregnancy. Make sure you talk with your provider to ensure you’re staying safe!
or 5) What your personal goals are
If lifting heavier weights isn’t a priority of yours, or if you don’t feel like it on certain days (or at all during your pregnancy), then honor that! You can have fantastic workouts throughout your pregnancy with medium and light weights that will still help maintain body function, mobility and general strength. Pregnancy is a season of change, so embrace whatever you are feeling throughout this time.
What all of this means, at the end of the day, is that “heavy” is RELATIVE.
It is relative to the lift.
And to the stage of life you’re in.
And to your fitness level.
It’s also relative to your situation, your energy levels that day and your overall goals.
Which means that heavy will look different for every single pregnant woman, just as heavy looks different for every “general” person in the world.
SO instead of thinking in terms absolute max weight, or even a percentage of max weight, consider the 5 factors above in every movement you do throughout the entirety of your pregnancy to guide your weights during pregnancy.
If trying to figure this out on your own makes you feel a bit uneasy, just subscribe to my FIGR:Pregnancy program to access daily workouts designed for your pregnant body PLUS daily access to me so we can work together to figure out appropriate weights for your workouts!
I got you,