Guide: CrossFit and Exercising While Pregnant

This training guide is compilation of online resources organized by trimester. Please note that if you are not pregnant this could also be very useful to you if you are just starting to exercise regularly. The principles are based around easing into it and letting your body provide feedback. Happy sweating! Please let us know if you have questions or would like some specific advice, we’d be happy to help out : ))


First Trimester

  • Listen to your body
    • It changes day-to-day, continue as normal if comfortable however don’t push it if you’re not feeling it
    • Take rest days as desired, its ok to workout only 2-3 times per week if that’s all you feel like doing
    • Consider working out more frequently with lower intensity and volume
  • Take breaks for water
    • Drink half your body weight in ounces of water per day
  • Focus on maintaining fitness
    • Do not try to make gains
    • Stop doing a movement or modify when form starts to fail
  • Take responsibility and control of your workouts
    • Adjust weights, reps, and rounds, modify or substitute movements, a coach may help but do not rely on a coach to have it all figured out for you
  • Decrease weight
    • Do not perform 1-3 or 5 rep max lifts
    • Do not attempt PRs
    • Decrease lifting loads by 20-35%
  • Lower intensity
    • Take breaks to reduce heart-rate
    • Do not perform workouts for time
    • Use talk test, you should be able to hold a conversation
  • Decrease volume
    • Cap your conditioning workouts to 20-30 minutes
    • Reduce number of repetitions as desired
    • Reduce number of rounds as desired
    • If WOD calls for high number of reps for one exercise, consider splitting reps and performing two different exercises
  • Substitute GHD and inverted exercises
  • Stop doing any movement that feels uncomfortable as soon as it feels uncomfortable
    • Consult your coach on alternative movements
    • Use the table of substitutes below
    • Stop doing the workout if you begin to feel dizzy
  • Pay attention to balance
    • Balance is affected even before belly starts to grow
    • Consider modifying or substituting movements with increased risk of falling as early as you want to i.e. rope climbs, toes to bar, kipping pull ups, and box jump
  • Consider converting the WOD to one of the following schemes
    • AMRAP (as many reps as possible) – these are great because you can go at your own pace
    • Tabata anything (8 mins total alternating between 20 secs work and 10 secs rest): push ups, pull ups, lunges, or mix and match
    • EMOM (every minute on the minute) – you should choose a number of reps each minute that allows you to rest 15-30 seconds each minute before starting the next round


Second Trimester

  • Lying on back – Avoid exercises that involve lying on your back for a prolonged period as the size of the uterus can be large enough to impede blood supply to you and the baby.
  • Sit ups – Substitute once you “start to show” to avoid risk of diastasis recti.
  • Barbells – Replace with dumbbells and kettlebells as growing belly impedes bar path or causes discomfort while performing certain movements.
  • Risk of falling – Modify or substitute exercises that involve the unnecessary risk of falling such as rope climbs, toes to bar, kipping pull ups, and box jumps.
  • Dynamic movements – Due to the release of the hormone relaxin from the end of your first trimester, you should begin to modify dynamic movements such as olympic lifts, particularly those involving squatting-type motions to more controlled movements.
  • Center of gravity – In addition to early balance issues induced by hormonal changes, your growing belly and widening hips may require you to alter your body position and stance from what you’re used to. You may need to widen heels for squats and deadlifts.


Third Trimester Guidelines

Continue to pay attention to balance, avoid exercises that involve the risk of falling, further reduce intensity, and modify or substitute exercises. Just focus on moving several times per week.


Movement Notes Modifications
Air Squat Continue through pregnancy, studies have shown that the air squat may be more beneficial to the pelvic muscles than kegels alone. Pay attention to balance, hold onto something if needed i.e. box, wall, rig ·      Reduce depth to parallel in 3rd trimester

·      Controlled movement

Back Extensions Avoid roman chair or GHD apparatus and inversion as then can induce lightheadedness ·      Good Mornings with barbell or PVC (activate hamstrings)
Back Squat There is already increased pressure on your spine and lower back during pregnancy and back squats can put too much pressure on your lower back. Reduce weight and substitute as desired. Squat to parallel and control movement to avoid dizziness and loss of balance ·      Reduce weight

·      Widen stance

·      Air squats

Bench Press As baby grows, laying flat can put pressure on the vena cava and cause lightheadedness. Most can continue this exercise till week 20 but substitute as early as desired ·      Push ups

·      Inclined press

·      Overhead press

Box Jumps Balance is affected early on, before belly starts to grow. You can eliminate this movement altogether ·      Step ups

·      Lower box height

·      Substitute with air squats

Burpees Be sure to keep bending your knees – do not just bend over at the hip ·      Burpee to plank without the push up

·      Place hands on parallettes, box or elevated surface for push-up

·      Air squat then wall push-up

Deadlift OK until your belly impedes the bar path, reduce weight and increase reps ·      Sumo position- widen stance, narrow grip to inside the knees

·      Use a kettlebell or dumbbells to maintain form

·      Elevate bar from floor using boxes or bumper plates

Front Squat & Overhead Squat There is already increased pressure on your spine and lower back during pregnancy, and balance is affected even before belly grows, reduce weight and substitute as desired. Squat to parallel and control movement to avoid dizziness and loss of balance ·      Reduce weight

·      Widen stance

·      Air squats

GHD Not recommended during pregnancy, substitute as soon as you find out you’re pregnant ·      See “Sit ups”
Handstands and Handstand Push ups Typically not recommended during pregnancy, check with doctor if you are an advanced athlete ·      Strict or push press with barbell or dumbbells
Jump Rope Continue if comfortable, substitute as soon as desired and especially if you begin to pee a little when you jump ·      Run

·      Row

·      KB swing

·      Ball slam

Kettlebell Swing Likely fine to continue this movement, modify if belly is in the way and reduce height of swing as desired ·      One arm swing

·      Swing to eye level

·      Reduce weight

Sit ups As belly grows, abdominal focused exercises increase the risk of diastasis recti, substitute as soon as you want and discontinue at 16 weeks ·      Hollow Rocks

·      Planks (regular & side)

·      Ball slams

·      Hanging knee raises

Olympic Lifts Reduce weight, avoid max efforts, instead increase number of reps and keep weight under 80% 1RM. Switch to hang power movements in second trimester and substitute dumbbells for bar as belly grows. Avoid squat snatch/clean, instead perform power movement then squat under control ·      Reduce weight

·      Hang power snatch/clean then squat under control

·      Dumbbells for barbell

·      Deadlifts

·      Squats

·      Strict or push press

Pull ups Increased flexibility as muscles relax to make room for baby can cause a strange sensation when kipping, stop kipping when it starts to feel uncomfortable ·      Strict

·      Banded pull ups

·      Ring Rows

Push ups Continue throughout pregnancy, modify movement to accommodate belly and drop to knees when form starts to fail ·      Elevate hands using bumper plates under shoulders

·      Place hands on box, wall, or parallettes

·      Front and side planks

Rope climbs Advanced athletes can continue till second trimester. Substitute to reduce unnecessary risk of slipping and falling ·      Rope pulls from floor to standing, 1-3 per rope climb
Running Continue if comfortable, shorten distance or substitute as early as desired ·      Brisk walk

·      Row

·      Jump rope

·      Farmer carry with a Kettlebell or Dumbell

·      KB swing

·      Slam ball

Thruster Reduce weight at first then eliminate dynamic element splitting the exercise into two movements ·      Front squat and strict press with unloaded bar only or dumbbells
Toes to Bar Consider modifying early, the kipping movement may become uncomfortable as early as the first trimester as abdominal muscles relax to allow room for the baby and your growing belly will eventually get in the way. Also, you may experience dizziness and unnecessary risk of falling ·      Knees to Elbows

·      Knee raises

·      Plank on ground and cross knee to opposite elbow

·      Bird Dog (on all fours) cross opposite knee to elbow

Wallball Likely fine to continue, reduce depth of squat to accommodate belly and use lighter ball. If balance is an issue split dynamic exercise into two controlled movements ·      Reduce weight of ball

·      Air squats

·      Controlled squat to parallel then strict press with unloaded bar or light dumbbells




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