During pregnancy to get the most out of an exercise and to keep “safe” traditional rhetoric has been to focus on specific prenatal exercises that match a certain “stage” that our body is at. For example, you may have come across exercise programs that suggest … Do this exercise for 1st trimester only, these movements are only suitable for 2nd Trimester exercises or try these 3rd trimester exercises. But do training by trimester exercises actually work ?
I believe that this is a cookie cutter “ideal” of pregnancy exercise programming, that we’re trying to force everyone to fit – that does not really work.
Why training by trimester does not work ?
As its impossible. Every woman’s body is SO different at EVERY stage of pregnancy (and post birth) due to a huge variety of factors. For example, how they have slept, have they been carrying a toddler or baby for long periods, energy levels, nausea, aches, pain, position of baby, how the deep core is functioning…which are not necessarily specific to only one trimester.
An outdated approach to pregnancy exercise
This outdated “pregnancy exercise programming by trimester” is very black and white, which really isn’t a good thing ! Plus, most programs I see that are founded on this method are very often generic exercise programs that have simply been “re-branded” for pregnancy…..and not designed by a specialist for the ever changing pregnant body.
Trying to make every woman fit the same workout mould because of their trimester, and even perform the exact same variations of moves, for a specific trimester of pregnancy is what can lead to injury and pain. Especially when there is no awareness of their body’s recruitment patterns.
In my signature online pregnancy course, The Ultimate Pregnant Core. Our first module is called Conscious Core.
In this module each beautiful pregnant student, no matter what trimester or level of fitness, will begin to learn how to connect to their active centre (deep core) and when this is done correctly (both mentally and physically) an incredible synergy happens with the rest of the body —as it is all connected !
After this occurs it is so much easier to then personally tune into movements and recruitment patterns that suit their ever changing pregnant (and postpartum) bodies and progress through a variety of exercises and total body workouts that are suitable for ANY trimester.
Connecting to the pregnant body needs to happen in every trimester
Why ? As the mental or conscious connection has to be made before the physical intensity or layer begins – this applies to working out both before, during pregnancy and after pregnancy (or really at any stage of life).
Our modern lifestyle has led to a lot of postural distortions and therefore movement compensations. Compensations that all too often lead to overload and injury. And yep, the old school fitness industry has again tried to make us to believe that we need to in us to “go hard or go home !” Or if you are not read faced, sweaty or sore …’it’s not working !”
But results can happen without depletion !
Too often I see so many women ignore their imbalances and compensations during a workout. Or at worst they end up trying to “HIDE” them as they just “push through” or “keep doing what they are have always done” (- yes I have also done this) despite being pregnant or recovering from child birth.
Now, I am not saying do nothing !! Or ignore ACOG pregnancy guidelines (which by the way are NOT set out via trimester … hmmm yeah I think some gym buff came up with that idea !)
Below are some tips that will help you to train safely and effectively during ANY trimester of pregnancy.
Remember that a pregnancy trimester is just ONE piece of the puzzle for a workout.
- Just because you are in your first trimester and you don’t have a huge belly does NOT mean sit ups, crunches or planks are ok. Your core is rapidly changing / expanding so the movements you do HAVE to change so your core can function optimally not just for the first trimester but for the long term. Pregnancy is temporary but deep tissue injuries can be long term. Learn more.
- There are many little adjustments that can be made to perform a move “safely” or I prefer to say optimally – but this can only occur when you tune in mentally to what is happening to your body and listen to the feedback the body is giving you. For example, if you see doming or coning (or I like to call it “the toblerone”) on your abdominals when you do a crunch – this is information from your body to say that move is not optimal, your deep core is not activating effectively. So stop and find an alternative, this might be changing your alignment, the reps, the weights you are using and also your breathing.
Can you actually feel the correct muscles working ? For example, are you doing a lunge because you have been told they are “safe 2nd trimester exercise? What if you are doing the lunge and you feel pain in your hips or lower back. Pain is not a muscle working efficiently. This is more feedback from your body so appropriate alterations need to be made.
Work out safely during ANY trimester of pregnancy and beyond !
There are so many amazing little adjustments that can made to moves to work around the imbalances and movement distortions that can occur in ANY TRIMESTER or in any changing body.
And sometimes this not only means tweaking a movement to get the right muscles to engage but even means “regressing to progress.”
I find when you have to break a move down, or modify it, to make it “better” then it can truly work the muscles it is meant to work. This means a modification does not necessarily make a workout ‘easier”…it is simply means it is more optimal for the current state your body is in.
I believe modifying a move actually makes it harder because the muscles (not the joints) that are meant to work start carry the load they are meant to carry !
This can occur during any trimester of pregnancy, post birth and well into motherhood, as we all wake up with a different body each day.
Reach out if you have an exercise program you would like modified or adjusted for your pregnancy or postpartum journey.