Should I practice strength training during pregnancy?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

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.

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.
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.

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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.