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Is it safe to lift weights during pregnancy?

I regularly do weight training three to four times a week. Can I continue while I'm pregnant? What precautions should I take?


Weight training is a great way to stay fit during pregnancy, and it provides benefits after childbirth as well. Keep in mind, though, that your fitness goals now should be geared toward maintenance and not dramatic gains. I would suggest a basic program focusing on the major muscle groups. You might want to enlist a personal trainer who has experience working with mothers-to-be.

Take these precautions:

* Check in with your healthcare provider. Go over your exercise regimen with your doctor or midwife first to make sure it's okay for you to continue at your current pace while you're pregnant.

* Use lighter weights, more reps. To avoid overloading joints already loosened by increased levels of the hormone relaxin during pregnancy, use lighter weights and do more repetitions instead. If you usually do leg presses with 30 pounds for 8 to 12 repetitions, try 15 pounds for 15 to 20 reps. Or if you typically do a chest press with 15 pounds for 8 to 12 reps, try 8 pounds for 15 to 20 reps.

* Don't do the Valsalva maneuver. This maneuver, in which you forcefully exhale without actually releasing air, can result in a rapid increase in blood pressure and intra-abdominal pressure, and may decrease oxygen flow to the fetus.

* Avoid walking lunges. These raise your risk of injury to connective tissue in the pelvic area.

* Watch the weights. Be extremely careful with free weights to prevent them from hitting your abdomen. Or use resistance bands instead, which offer different amounts of resistance and varied ways to do your weight training and pose no risk to your belly.

* Don't lift while flat on your back. After the first trimester, lying on your back can put pressure on a major vein called the vena cava , which diminishes blood flow to your brain and uterus. An easy modification is to tilt the bench to an incline.

* Listen to your body.The most important rule is to pay attention to what's going on physically. If you're feeling muscle strain or excessive fatigue, modify the moves you're doing and/or reduce the frequency of your workouts. Pregnancy isn't the time to push yourself to your limits.

As long as you follow these guidelines — doing any chest, back, leg, or shoulder lifts in a sitting or upright/inclined position, and not lifting more than 5 to 12 pounds — you should be able to safely keep weight training while you're pregnant.

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