T Nation

Pregnancy, Lifting & Related Questions


#1

Hi. My wife and I are trying to start a family. She is a powerlifter and has been having a devil of a time getting any good advice on staying active once she gets pregnant.

The issue is that her doctor (1) thinks all working out is some form of cardio (2) maintains that there is a strict limit of 140 beats per minute for any activity. Needless to say, even fairly light lifting exceeds this at least briefly. (3) All weightlifting is done on machines or with light hand weights. We have had zero success finding a doctor who has worked with dedicated athletes before, so we are feeling pretty stuck.

So here is my question for you ladies: How much and what did you do for lifting while expecting? Are there any good sources for information on this? An online group would be perfect. Did you figure out specific changes to training as things progressed? Did pregnancy have any long-term effects on training? (such as changes in spinal mechanics)?

Thanks very much for any information you have!

-- jj


#2

http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/37/1/6.long


#3

My wife wrote this article before my first son in 2007… I never post but your wife might find this usefull

My name is Heather Lee, and I am a well published fitness model… I am also a retired bodybuilder, pro-powerlifter and strongwoman competitor. I have figure competitions in my future, but had to put that on hold because I am expecting a little bundle of joy~a baby boy~ on December 23!! I felt some of my experiences could help other fit mom’s who are expecting!

…SO I AM DUE ANY DAY NOW!!! Well, to be specific, about 5 days!!! The last nine months have absolutely FLOWN! I have to say I am pleasantly surprised at how easy my pregnancy was. I was a little nervous hearing so many horror stories about women who can’t do this or can’t do that…about celebrities who gained over 100 pounds, nightmares about pain and aches, not being able to train…etc, etc…

So, here is a breakdown what I went thru, and I can tell you ladies who haven’t had kids yet and are nervous, there is hope! I know all pregnancies are different and all women are different, but I think there are a lot of factors that you can control that will have a huge impact on your pregnancy

I started off at 133 fit pounds, and I topped off at 153. I gained only 20 pounds. They say that the ideal average is 25 to 30 pounds, but I think the fact that I had to modify my training made me lose muscle, which we all know weighs more than fat, hence the poundage difference. My doctors expressed no concern anywhere along the way that I didn’t gain enough weight, and actually complimented me several times for maintaining and keeping myself in such great physical shape!

SO…how did I do it?

I continued to work out the ENTIRE duration of my pregnancy. With the exception of the last 3 weeks, I worked out the entire time, 4 days a week.

For the first 3 months, I really didn’t have to change my workouts much except for the fact I cut back on my max weight sets(especially on compound movements like squats and deadlifts). However, I continued everything else just about the same. Why? Because the doctor said that “If you were doing it before you got pregnant it is okay to do once you get pregnant”. I was a conditioned athlete who had been training so my body could handle it.

After the third month I had to vary some of what I was doing. If something wasn’t comfortable or I felt pressure, I ceased doing it. The key was listening to my body. I did a lot of reading and research, and at a certain point(20 weeks) you aren’t supposed to do much of anything lying on your back(including sleeping because it cuts oxygen to the placenta!). At that point I had to cut out the flat bench dumbell presses, barbell presses, etc(all of those types of movements). Also, at 20 weeks you aren’t supposed to directly train your abdominal muscles anymore with the exception of pelvic tilts and breathing exercises. Up until that point I made sure that I was hitting them religiously four days a week plus a lot of lower back strengthening work.

Once I hit that 21 week mark, I simply changed up my split to accommodate limited exercise choices. My split went from the typical 4-5 day split to a 3 day rotation.

Day 1-Chest, Shoulders and Triceps
Day 2- Back and Biceps
REST
Day 3- Legs
REST
REPEAT

My split would overlap so that I was training usually 5 days a week at that point. I had also been swimming for cardio since the beginning of my pregnancy. Not only was I doing it for the cardio aspect but for the therapeutic benefit as well. Quite simply, it felt GREAT! I would do 15 to 20 laps 4 days a week. I also continued that until the end!

I really feel that the working out helped to curb my appetite and insane cravings as well, because with the exception of the third month, where I couldn’t get enough potato salad and tuna with hot peppers and vinegar, I ate totally normal for the entire time. In other words, I have had no desire to eat pickles and potato chips or tubs of bon bons all night long. Not once. Again, contributing to keeping my weight under control which will help when it’s “post-baby-get-my-butt-in-shape-time”!!!

What else didn’t I change? I didn’t use the excuse “I can’t because I’m pregnant” for everything under the sun. “If I could, I did”, and if my doctor said it was okay, I did! Daily housework can be a great opportunity to keep up your activity level! Take yard work for example… Mowing my lawn (which I LOVE DOING!) kept me moving all summer long! Planting flowers, weeding, raking, carrying things(under 50 pounds which is fine by the good ole’ doc!) Moving weights around in the gym for my clients despite some of them cringing and demanding I take it easy! (Love you guys!!!) Heck, I even biked 21 miles and hiked up 2 mountains at 6 months pregnant when I went on vacation to Maine! But again, keep in mind that you need to run it all by your doctor before you do it! I was never a high-risk pregnancy and so my options were not limited!

All in all I had no severe aches, pains, or gripes. Yes, at 8 1/2 months I started to feel the strain of a living beach ball where my abs were just a few months ago, compressing my lungs, my stomach sack, and sending my heartburn thru the roof…and sure, I haven’t been able to find a very comfortable position to sleep in for the last 3 weeks, since breathing has become somewhat of an issue! But let me tell you, if I had let myself go “because I am pregnant” and I’m just not going to give a damn, it would be A LOT worse! And once my little boy is here, it would be a lot harder to get myself back to where I want to be!

The moral of this is not to brag about what I did while I was pregnant, but to tell you all that if you are planning on having a baby, get active, get to working out, get yourself motivated, so that during a time that can wreak hell on your body, you can keep yourself pain free and not totally destroy your body beyond repair! It will make the nine months happier and healthier for both you and your baby. That way, when you go to the doctor for your monthly, then bi-weekly, and finally, where I am now at, weekly, check-ups, you can have your blood pressure, blood-sugar, bodyweight, and health of the amazing life you are carrying inside of you IN CHECK AND HEALTHY! You can have an easier delivery and bounce back quicker! And that means more time for you and your baby!!!

And a few little tid-bits of advice to this point…

INVEST IN PALMERS COCOA BUTTER TUMMY BUTTER!!! At 5 dollars a tub, this stuff is worth 100 times it’s weight in gold!!! NOT ONE STRETCHMARK ON ME!!! NOT ONE! I began using it twice a day at 2 months and the stuff is a GODSEND!!! I went thru 3 tubs of it. If you need to get it any Babies R’ Us or Baby Depot has it!!! If you know a pregnant woman, pick some up for her! It is a great investment!

Also, get yourself a body pillow, At about 3 months, it made a difference in sleeping, but after 5 months, it’s an absolute necessity!!!

Keep lots of TUMS on hand…I never had heartburn, EVER! Only when I was competing for 12 weeks a year when I would diet. Your stomach being pushed upwards under your ribs wreaks hell on it, so heartburn is prevalent. I take them wherever I go!

Read the book “What to Expect When Expecting”. One of my amazing clients got it for me and the book is a gold-mine of information!! I find myself going back and reading over and over again! Again, do you know a woman who is pregnant??? It’s an awesome gift! The book “What to Expect the First Year” is also a good follow up! And if you like a good laugh, a nice light hearted read is the Jenny McCarthy book “Belly Laughs”! Read that one twice too! I found myself laughing out loud quite a few times!

Invest in a gym membership somewhere that has a pool, and use it! Though it was sometimes not the most comfortable thing for me to do(getting into a bathing suit with a big old belly, that is,) it is so relaxing and so good for you!! SWIMMING IS A PREGGO’S FRIEND!

Last but not least, write lists of questions for your doctors and don’t feel like anything is a stupid question or request. Show up for your appointment ready to ASK AWAY! You are going to go through one of the weirdest experiences you will ever imagine. Not bad, just weird. It’s best equated to having a little alien inside of you. One that moves, kicks, even get’s the hiccups towards the end(and yes, you CAN feel when he get’s the hiccups!) And to answer the question I know you are wondering~the hiccups feel like little muscle twitches in a localized area, sort of like when your eye twitches! Just bizarre!

You will get to see your little one on his or her sonogram, and get to see them grow and develop along the way…and if you want, by 16-20 weeks, you will get to find out his or her sex with a certain degree of accuracy. In my case, we know it’s a little boy!!! You will find yourself growing more aware of your baby, smiling with his movements, excited, nervous, happy…You will do certain things that will make you worry(like when I gave myself an electric shock at 7 months and called the doctor in tears afraid I did something really bad!), and realize you have developed a bond with your little “alien” before you have set eyes upon him…

Wow! As I sit here and write this, I think about what a wild ride it has been these last nine months. I will be 40 weeks, full term, if I make it until next Sunday. I found out I was pregnant on April 15, tax day here in America. It was a Sunday, and I found out right after breakfast. And in the blink of an eye, here we are! So, with less then one week until I am due, I sit and ponder…when will it happen? How long will I be in labor? Will it be easy or difficult? Then more about him…what color will his hair be? What can I expect when he comes home? Will he sleep a lot? What will he grow up to be? What kind of person will he grow into…Will he like lifting and be into the gym?? I know some of it is so trivial but the things that go thru your head are amazing! I realize he has his whole life ahead of him. A new body, new skin, clean lungs, everything perfect…everything new…we once had that too, and now I have created something, someone…a little person. And it is truly a miracle.

So, I leave you with that to ponder. Think about it…think about life and how amazing it all really is…

Heather Lee


#4

Just to add a pic to a post 525 squat at 165lbs (153 actual)


#5

Some Bodybuilding shots


#6

jj - Sorry, I wasn’t lifting when I was having my kids, but here’s a link from Amanda Graydon, John Berardi’s wife talking about lifting during pregnancy that might be helpful.
precisionnutrition.com/amanda-interview


Mark - Wow, your wife. Amazing. Thanks for sharing.

I will say, she mentioned lots of heartburn and copious us of Tums when she was pregnant. I had the same problem, and popped Tums like they were candy. Unfortunately, I also built myself a nice kidney stone, about one month after I had the baby. My doctor said the kidney stone could likely be attributed to my Tums habit. :frowning: I’m glad it didn’t happen to her.

Also, I think cocoa butter when pregnant can’t hurt a bit. The article I linked above recommended almond oil. BUT stretch marks happen in the deep layers of the skin, and genetics and hormones play a huge roll. Some of us just seem really prone to them. At lease that’s my experience.


#7

[quote]markBOSS wrote:
My wife wrote this article before my first son in 2007… I never post but your wife might find this usefull

(tons of sheer awesomeness!)
[/quote]

MarK and Heather THANKS!! This is exactly what my wife needed to see and it has everything in it we could have asked for. Seriously. That was epic!

– jj


#8

JJ- Thanks and Good luck


#9

[quote]Powerpuff wrote:
jj - Sorry, I wasn’t lifting when I was having my kids, but here’s a link from Amanda Graydon, John Berardi’s wife talking about lifting during pregnancy that might be helpful.
precisionnutrition.com/amanda-interview


Mark - Wow, your wife. Amazing. Thanks for sharing.

I will say, she mentioned lots of heartburn and copious us of Tums when she was pregnant. I had the same problem, and popped Tums like they were candy. Unfortunately, I also built myself a nice kidney stone, about one month after I had the baby. My doctor said the kidney stone could likely be attributed to my Tums habit. :frowning: I’m glad it didn’t happen to her.

Also, I think cocoa butter when pregnant can’t hurt a bit. The article I linked above recommended almond oil. BUT stretch marks happen in the deep layers of the skin, and genetics and hormones play a huge roll. Some of us just seem really prone to them. At lease that’s my experience. [/quote]

If you search “Beat New Mom Fear” Precision Nutrition, you will see it. She’s got some heavy compound lifts going on during pregnancy.


#10

Sorry, I didn’t look closely at the article featuring Jamie Eason Middleton talking about lifting during pregnancy. She went into some detail about changes in splits and rep ranges. At first glance, I thought it was just an interview on someone’s blog, but it was an article put out by another supplement company so it’s been removed.


#11

Just for fun. Jamie Eason Middleton at 38 Weeks!


#12

There is a long article that I think is pretty informative on the subject. It was written by a former client of mine who is also a figure competitor and trainer. /Shameless plug ;).

Her name is Abigail Kluttz and the article is titled “Baby Bumps and Barbells”.


#13

There has been a lot of hype about Lee-Ann Ellison’s Crossfit pics. These were taken two weeks before her due date. Here’s a nice blog post that balances some common sense and caution.


#14

I’’ throw in my 2 cents.
I lifted through both my pregnancies but mostly with my 1st (my son). I just modified most lifts deadlifitng was easy. At 32 weeks I was DLing 140lbs for 10 reps. I focused on lower body but still did some upper body lifts like pull ups, push presses etc. I go with what was comfortable. Don’t lie on your back to much etc. Don’t strain anything. Don’t squat below parallel after 3rd trimester I read something about the relaxin in joints plus the pubic symposia is open getting ready for baby and how it strain that area and cause issues. I also had pelvic pain so I had to ease up a lot toward the end. With my son I workout the day I had him. He came in 4 hours flat. My second was slightly longer but literally had very little pain till the last 10 minutes when she passed the cervix. The midwives noted that my birth didn’t look like a normal birth lol. Can’t underestimate the importance of lifting. After my second the midwife checked my abs and said Im the first woman she’s checked who had no gap between her rectus abdominis. Everything has stayed pretty tight I just have a nice layer of fat of course :slight_smile:
I’m currently 8 weeks postpartum going back this week.

I’d post a pic but don’t know how??

Heres the best site I used both times
http://www.crossfitmom.com