Should I practice strength training during pregnancy?

Yes. Low impact or step aerobics that avoid jarring motions, treadmill walking, stationary cycling and water activity. Doing squats and kegel exercises will help strengthen your low pelvic muscles. Two-Three days per week use light loads at 12-15 repetitions. Start out with only 5 mins of exercise and progressively increase to 30 minutes. As your pregnancy gets to 12 weeks, avoid exercises on the stomach and back.

Strength training is can still be performed during pregnancy. After the first trimester certain exercises should be modified for safety. Mainly, those that are in the supine and prone positions (on back, on stomach). Exercises should be performed in the semi-supine, semi-prone, side-lying, seated, or standing positions. The general recommendation for pregnant women 18-45 years old is to perform 8-10 resistance training exercises over 1-2 training sessions per week.
With your doctor's permission of course, strength training can be great during pregnancy. When I was pregnant, I practiced strength training regularly. Keeping my back and arm muscles strong was so helpful, not only during pregnancy, but after too. Carrying that baby in your arms all day can get exhausting, if your arms and back are weak. As a bonus, having strong back muscles helps you find those abs a bit faster after baby is born.

Doctors will tell you if you’re able to engage in any physical activity during pregnancy. Most advice is based more on positions and activities not allowed and/or high risk, anything else will be beneficial. Easy body parts to train would be arms and legs, careful with squats and leg presses if currently doing so, for it requires to bending at the waist. Strength training during pregnancy reduces unrelated weight gain and stress, and improves posture and post-natal physique. Start slow if you’re a beginner or in first trimester, nine months later, not only will you award yourself a beautiful addition to your life but maybe a routine of fitness you can’t break. Congratulations! 

Yes, but remember pregnancy is an exercise already.  Exercise during pregnancy is for maintenance, not for competing in some event. Actually you are preparing yourself for an event...its called labor. Studies show moderate exercise including strength training can reduce maternal discomforts, increase energy levels and improve circulation thus make your pregnancy easier. Studies also show that women who exercise though out a healthy pregnancy may experience a faster delivery and recovery.

Always consult with your doctor before or continuing an exercise program during pregnancy.

Some changes during pregnancy and exercise guidelines: 

1)  Increased weight gain changes our posture and brings our center of gravity forward.
2)  Abdominal and pelvic floor muscles are stretched and low back muscles are shortened. This increase the curvature of the low back and also shifts the center of gravity forward.

Because of these musculoskeletal changes it is important to strengthen the gluteal (hip-pelvis region) abdominal muscles, and all the muscles attached to the spine (core) to maintain proper alignment and posture.

3)  Ligament laxity is increased because of the effects of relaxin and estrogen.

Avoid jarring movements and decrease the range of motion to prevent over extending the joints.

After the first trimester, avoid exercise in the supine position (lying face up). This can decrease the cardiac output (blood flow).

Always use good form, technique and controlled movements.

Dr. Mike Clark, DPT
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommend that women be physically active during pregnancy because of the significant benefits.

The National Academy of Sports Medicine recommends the following exercise guidelines for women during pregnanacy:

1. Exercise mode
    a. Cardiovascular
        1. Low impact exercise, i.e. eliptical, treadmill, bike, water
        2. 3-5x/week (keep your heart rate under 140 beats/minute)
        3. 30 minutes/day

    b. Resistance Training
        1. Emphasize total body, integrated movements in a standing position
            a. Focus on core muscles and add kegel contractions during movements
        2. 2-3x/week
        3. 1-3 sets of 12-15 reps
        4. Avoid exercises on your stomach and back

     c. Flexibility Training
        1. Emphasize total body flexibility
        2. Perform daily
        3. 1-2 sets of 20-30  second holds (dont hold your breath)


If you have a medical problem, such as asthma, heart disease, or diabetes, exercise may not be advisable. Exercise may also be harmful if you have a pregnancy-related condition such as:

  • Bleeding or spotting
  • Low placenta
  • Threatened or recurrent miscarriage
  • Previous premature births or history of early labor
  • Weak cervix

Talk with your health care provider before beginning an exercise program. Your health care provider can also give you personal exercise guidelines, based on your medical history.

There is nothing wrong with strength training while you are pregnant.  However, you must consult with your doctor just to make sure you are cleared to do so.  If you have been exercising already before you got pregnant this should not be a problem.  Just remember your program will change due the changes in your body.  In the beginning you will be able to do a lot of the stuff you normal do in a workout.  However as your body changes so will your workouts and things will be needed to cut out for the safety of your child and you.  Remember working out during your pregnancy is only to help maintain your health not to make any improvements.

Always talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise program, especially while pregnant. Discuss what exercise best fits your physical condition. You may find many health benefits as long as you do not overheat or overwork. For many women, a moderate exercise plan that includes some strength training is perfectly safe. Moderate exercise can help you to control weight gain and avoid some of the discomforts of pregnancy.

Continue Learning about Strength Training & Exercise

6 Reasons Why Women Should Weight Train
6 Reasons Why Women Should Weight Train
When we think of muscles, we think of Popeye, not twiggy Olive Oyl. But building and maintaining muscle mass is even more important for women. We all ...
Read More
How should I start lifting weights to build muscle mass?
National Academy of Sports MedicineNational Academy of Sports Medicine
To build muscle mass through lifting weights, you should focus on lifting for hypertrophy. Hypertrop...
More Answers
Easy At-Work Exercises for Nurses
Easy At-Work Exercises for NursesEasy At-Work Exercises for NursesEasy At-Work Exercises for NursesEasy At-Work Exercises for Nurses
No time for the gym? Tone trouble spots during your shift with these moves.
Start Slideshow
Will Strength Training Increase My Metabolism?
Will Strength Training Increase My Metabolism?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.