Pregnant Athletes

Thinking about Pregnant athletes

Athletes who become pregnant are sticking to their gyms throughout the pregnancy. Pregnant athletes require you to think about scaling differently, since they have a changing body and changing center of mass throughout. Always make sure that they check with their doctors for medical opinions – but there is a lot that you can do to make their 9 months active and healthy allowing them to get back in shape quickly.

Don’t be surprised if you don’t find out a member is pregnant until close to the end of the first trimester! Once they disclose the information to you, make sure you know how to share the information. Do they want to keep it under wraps with all the members until later? Are they OK if you mention it in class or in passing? Would they be interested in writing about the journey for your blog? You don’t want to ruin any surprises or spoil the fun of them giving the news to fellow members! Once a member has come to you, there are a number of resources that that you can pass along (and check out yourself) including, articles in the CrossFit Journal or threads on the CrossFit discussion boards. Below we’ve outlined some ideas for scaling exercises and notes to pass along to your members by trimester.

The First Trimester

  • Make sure pregnant athletes do not overly exert themselves. Hitting a WOD hard is fine, but turning bright red and gasping for air is not. One of the most important things during the first trimester for pregnant athletes is regulating their body temperature. Getting too hot could have ill effects for the peanut. Of course, much of the CrossFit mentality is to lay it all on the line at every workout, and this is something you will have to help them modify. Watch them to make sure they are working hard, but not to the point of sheer exhaustion, vomiting or gasping for air (if your athlete is gasping for air, so is their peanut, and that’s something you don’t want).

The Second Trimester

  • There will be visible body changes during the second trimester, especially at the end. Make sure your pregnant athlete is hydrating well after each workout.
  • Running may or may not become uncomfortable for your member during this time. If this is the case you can modify workouts to cut running in half, or substitute rowing instead of running.
  • Chest to deck push ups can be done with the aid of stacked weight plates under each hand, allowing them to get a very good range of motion. You can modify this further by using a bench, or scaling to their knees. This same scaling can be applied to burpees.
  • Pull ups should be modified with bands if the member has gained weight where their regular pull ups are no longer possible (were they able to do a 5-10lb weighted pull up before the pregnancy?). You should also be aware, that at this point their body is generating a lot of a hormone called relaxin. This creates joint instability and opens up the possibility to injury. If they are still doing unassisted pull ups, make sure they minimize the amount of kipping.
  • After 4-5 months your member should be wary of being on their back for periods of time. This is because the little peanut now weights enough to cut off circulation in a vein that supplies blood to the placenta when a mother is on their back. Check with your pregnant athlete regularly to see if they are still comfortable being on their back for sit ups. If not, you can still get in a good stomach workout by having them perform chair holds on rings or static bars.
  • Weightlifting – PRs should be off the table, especially for movements like the deadlift, squats and snatch. Once your members stomach has grown to the point where they do not have a fairly straight line of sight from hips to shoulders you want to stop performing lifts that require the hip drive – shrug – overhead pattern. This is for two reasons: 1. you don’t want them to hit their stomach with the bar on the way up by accident and 2. you don’t want them to learn poor technique just to get the bar around their belly.

The Third Trimester

  • The bump will now be a major impedance. Push ups will have to be scaled otherwise their ROM will be about 2-5 inches! As before, use plates, benches, knees or rings to help them get better ROM.
  • Deadlifts will most likely need to be turned into Sumo Deadlifts, to allow them to get in a proper position with good form around their growing peanut.
  • All ground to overhead lifts should be off the table – instead have them do two different types of lifts (maybe a sumo deadlift set followed by a press set)
  • Running may be entirely uncomfortable at this point. You can have them jog or perform brisk walks of modified distances
  • Pull ups should be modified to either use of bands or ring rows. If they are preforming pull ups unassisted, they should be dead hang pull ups as the amount of relaxin present causes a large amount of joint instability.
  • Box jumps should be off the table – if they cant see their toes, they shouldn’t be jumping on a box. Think about the detrimental consequences of them just missing the box and falling on their belly. Do step ups instead, focusing on pushing through the heel, which will engage their butt and give a good workout.
  • Sit ups should also be off the table – chair holds or going from hanging to the chair position can be used as a modifier.
  • Things that probably wont change all that much are kettle bell swings, rowing, air squats and jump roping (although this may become uncomfortable towards the end) so you can throw these into the workout mix as substitutions as well!

Again – ALWAYS make sure that they seek medical advice!

Did you have a pregnant athlete recently? What scaling did you use and what advice do you have? We would love to hear about your experience!

Leave a Comment