Modify Squat Exercises During Pregnancy

Pregnancy puts strain on a woman’s body. Because of weight gain and loosened ligaments from hormones such as progesterone, estrogen and relaxin, exercise can pose issues if not done properly. Use care when adding an exercise program during pregnancy, or while continuing an existing exercise program.

In the first trimester, exercises can be resumed with little change, but exercises must be modified in the later stages of pregnancy to accommodate your body. Exercises in the supine (on your back) position, will be eliminated, while exercises like squats can be done through the entirety.

If you continue to do squats, it should be modified accordingly.

Modify squat exercises during pregnancy

During the first trimester of pregnancy, squats can remain the same although you may need to lower the weight. Squats can be done with light body bars or dumbbells if your body can not take the pressure of weights on your shoulders. In no way, should you push yourself to do extremely heavy weights.

Center of gravity changes during pregnancy. This causes pregnant women to lose balance easily and can cause slips and falls. Make simple modifications to accommodate an expanding belly to reduce falls during squat exercises. Stop using weights and use your bodyweight for this exercise earlier or later in the pregnancy depending on how you feel.

Back positioning

The lower back should not round out while doing squats, and it is important to keep the back as straight as possible.

Feet and leg positioning

It’s recommended to keep a squat stance shoulder’s width apart, but it can help to open the stance more to accommodate the changes in your body. If you naturally walk with your toes facing out, follow that natural foot pattern during squats, as well.

Bar positioning

Squats with a bar are done in two styles. An olympic bar is held directly on top of the shoulders. The other style is lower on the back, and uses both the deltoids and trapezius. This is a good option if you are still lifting fairly heavy, but choose the position that is more comfortable.

Squat exercises should not cause your knees to roll inward regardless of the added pregnancy weight or equipment weight.

Use balancing tools

Add tools to the squat exercise to help your form since pregnancy causes imbalance. Body or dowel bars can help. These bars are not the same as the Olympic bar or solid fitness bars. The weight of the Olympic and solid fitness bars are heavy and not meant to be used as a support for squats.

Add a bench so you do not go too far down during the squat. A personal trainer can also hold your hand. Use the smith machine for the squat exercise; especially if working out alone.

Swiss balls, or body balls, are also another tool that provides back support for squats.

Anthony, Lenita (2002). Pre- and Post-Natal Fitness. Monterey,CA: Healthy Learning. 12-14, 54-55.
Delavier, Frederic (2003). Women’s Strength Training Anatomy. Paris: Editions Vigot. 46-47.
Julie Tupler, R.N. (1996). Maternal Fitness. New York: Fireside. 48.

White is a certified personal trainer, and not a doctor. Please seek the counsel of a medical physician before beginning any training program.

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