Powerlifting while pregnant

Being a married woman, contemplating having children one day, I've often thought about the do's and don't's of lifting while pregnant.  And as it turns out, I'm not alone. I've received several emails and comments on the same subject. So I reached out to one of my favorite lifters Kelsey Horton. If you follow Kelsey on instagram, you know that she is a mommy and you've seen her videos of her lifting. Honestly I learned so much from her and I'm so excited to share it with you.

Tell me a bit about yourself

I am a mommy of 2, wifey and nurse. I first started training for powerlifting in March of 2013 and competed shortly after. Prior to that, I basically just ran for training. 

Did you train while pregnant?

Yes and no. With my first pregnancy in 2010, I was in nursing school and to be honest, I hardly exercised at all. With my most recent pregnancy, I set a goal to train 3-4 times a week and stuck to it fairly well.

How did your training change? 
For the first 2 trimesters, my training didn't really change much at all. I was still lifting heavy. After a couple episodes of urinary incontinence, I had to eventually ditch using my belt. Once I got into the last half of my 3rd trimester, my training got less frequent, more like 2x/ week. I was working full time so by the end of the day I was pretty wiped and thus my training took a hit.


How did your pregnancies and/or delivery differ when training while pregnant and not?
My pregnancies and deliveries differed immensely between training while pregnant versus, not training. My first pregnancy, like I mentioned, I hardly did much at all. I ended up having a c-section with my daughter and gained almost 40lbs. The reason for my c-section was a failure to progress, basically, my body just wasn't ready for labor. I can only speculate but, I'm sure my quasi-sedentary lifestyle at the time had a lot to do with a crappy prolonged 36-hour labor which ended with a c-section. However, my daughter was born healthy and happy so I can't complain.
With my most recent pregnancy, I gained a total of 20lbs. I had zero complications with my pregnancy had a 14-hour labor and successful VBAC delivery with only 30 minutes of pushing. My endurance and strength was so much better and I absolutely attribute my training to that.
3 tips for pregnant lifters
  • Talk to your OB or midwife about your game plan with regards to training during your pregnancy. There is absolutely no substitute for sound medical advice. I was fortunate enough to have an OB who was so supportive of my training.
  • Set realistic goals for your training. For me, it was just making sure I got to the gym at least 3x/week. 
  • I cannot stress this last tip enough, LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!! There will be times you don't feel like training and inevitably you will miss a day or two or three... Don't beat yourself up about it. You are, after all, growing a tiny human inside of you.
Lifting pregnant


    I also spoke with Dr. Jennifer Case of Renaissance Periodization she gave us a pretty comprehensive list of do's and dont's. And always consult with your Physician /OBGYN to make sure you have their full permission for all activity while pregnant.

    Benefits of exercise while pregnant

    Improve circulation
        • Prevents painful & uncomfortable swelling
        • Improves efficiency of lymphatic system
        • Enhances nutrient delivery to maternal and fetal tissues
      Improved mood
          • Happier and more content
          • Decrease incidence of depression
        Improve cardiorespiratory and muscle functioning
          • May result in an easier pregnancy, labor and delivery
        Decrease risk for preeclampsia
        • Frequent water breaks 16 ounces every hour of exercise
        • Stop exercise when fatigue
        • Increased caloric intake to compensate for exercise and pregnancy
        • 5-10 minute warmup & 5-10 minute cool down
        • Moderate intensity exercise 3-7 days per week for 15 – 30 minutes 
        • Should be able to carry on a light conversation during exercise
        • Resistance training is recommended
        • Target Abdominal muscles Back muscles Pelvic floor muscles
        • Focus on Proper breathing during exercise
        • 12-15 a repetitions of each exercise ( No 1rm testing)
        • Exhaustive exercise
        • Contact sports
        • Activities with high fall risks or abdominal trauma
        • Rapid changes in direction (increased fall risk)
        • Full sit ups throughout pregnancy
        • Supine position after 3rd month of pregnancy 
        • Activity that requires extended motionless standing
        • Strenuous exercise during first trimester
        • Strenuous exercise during hot, humid weather
        • Exercise at altitudes above 6000 feet
        • Do not exercise once severely fatigue

        Stop all activity and seek medical attention if:
        • Shortness of breath
        • Vaginal bleeding
        • Dizziness
        • Headache
        • Chest pain
        • Amniotic fluid leakage
        • Decreased fetal movement
        • Significant calf pain, swelling, or muscle weakness
        Dr. Jennifer Case holds a PhD in Sports Nutrition and is a Registered Dietitian (RD). She was formerly a professor of Exercise Science at the University of Central Missouri, where she taught exercise prescription, functional anatomy, and other Kinesiology courses. A former MMA Fatal Femmes World Champion, Jen is the 2014 IBJJF Master World Champion in the Purple Belt division, both for her weight class and absolute, and the 2015 Brown Belt Absolute Pan Am champion. Feel free to contact her at jencase.rpstrong@gmail.com



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