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Strength Training In Pregnancy

Your Ultimate Guide For Strength Training In Pregnancy for Runners!

pregnancy strength training Apr 29, 2024

I saw a post the other day that really irked me. It was a list of exercises to avoid in pregnancy.

  1. No direct core work.
  2. No jumping or impact work.
  3. No single leg work.
  4. No heavy weight.


No living…no fun…




We need to do better!

Removing and modifying exercises is not the way I look at training during pregnancy at all.

To me it's about strategy and ADDING things in to support your body through the changes so that you can continue doing the things you love, like running.


Below I’m going to dig into the changes to your body that are happening during pregnancy and how to best support your body through those changes with strength training.




Changes to your body during pregnancy:

(and what I suggest you do to support your body through those changes)


  • Your diaphragm (breathing muscle that’s super important to your core function) gets pushed up and a baby sits in the way of its full proper function increasing the need for practice and awareness in your breathing.
  • Your pelvic floor is under extra pressure from the growing baby which needs to be considered with high impact exercises. It’s not off the table if we address your pelvic floor strength and control.
  • Your abs stretch out big time making it harder to manage core pressure/stability. Believe it or not, having the baby in there actually helps provide some stability with the stretched abs, but soon that baby will be out and in your arms.
  • Your back muscles are overcompensating and tightening to make up for lack of ab strength and to handle extra front weight increasing the need to focus on back body mobility.
  • Your posture changes (and probably  not for the better) during pregnancy AND from holding/feeding the baby after but we can increase our focus on exercises that help balance it back out.
  • The hormones raging through your body cause ligament laxity. Any other underlying muscular imbalances in your body might come out to play! Many of these hormones remain elevated during breastfeeding as well.
  • Your blood volume increases dramatically and that takes A LOT of energy! We need to closely monitor for fatigue and give grace when needed.
  • You may already be undergoing sleep deprivation (pregnancy insomnia is no joke) and increased psychological stress requiring more grace and appreciation for the work your body is doing.


No, that doesn’t make you fragile.


No, that doesn’t mean you all of a sudden have a long list of things you can no longer do.


BUT it does mean you can benefit from being a little bit more strategic with what you build into your strength training to support your running.


General Strategy for Supporting Your Pregnant Body in the Context of Running:


I go a lot more in depth into these topics in my Running For 2 U Course but here’s a quick run down of some of the main changes from above that can affect how running feels AND the 4 main strategies I use in a strength training plan for my pregnant runners  to support their body through those changes.


Strategy for Supporting Your Pregnant Body #1

As your center of gravity changes, you’ll more naturally fall into an anterior pelvic tilt changing the way you load through your core and affecting your range of motion in hip flexion, extension and rotation! All important actions of the lower body throughout your running stride!


Strategy #1: Work On Moving Through Tucking and Untucking Your Pelvis Using Your Proximal Hamstrings NOT Just Squeezing Your Glutes

As pregnancy progresses, the body will compensate for this change in center of gravity by squeezing your glutes to tuck you back under. If you skip down to Strategy #2, you can see why this is not the “best” strategy. Instead, work on connecting with the proximal hamstrings, the hamstrings right up by your butt, to help provide that stability at the pelvis.


In Running For 2 U, we practice this skill with these All 4s Pelvic Tucks.

And using the wall for reference in other core and upper body work, like the Foam Roller Pushups below, reinforces that skill.


Strategy for Supporting Your Pregnant Body #2


To make room for the baby the pelvis moves more into external rotation (picture that pregnant lady duck walk waddle) making it harder to stabilize with your glutes and load through midstance.


Strategy #2: Work On Lengthening Through the Backside and Internal Rotation


Some of that waddle is inevitable, but you can work on preserving the ability to internally rotate as much as possible by hinging for length in glutes and the back of the pelvic floor. Here are a few examples of how we do that in Running For 2 U.




Here my favorite cues are:

  1. “Shift back into your hips”
  2. “Lengthen your backside”
  3. “Breathe into your butthole”


We also practice this dynamically because running is a dynamic movement!



Check out this article on happy hips during pregnancy for runners for more on this specific strategy.


Strategy for Supporting Your Pregnant Body #3 & #4

Ribs flare and thoracic mobility decreases, both affecting your ability to stack and rotate as you run.


Strategy #3: Work On Maintaining and Improving Rib Cage Mobility

So how do you train rib mobility?


You Breathe!

Inhale 360 degrees- expand into your chest, belly, sides and back, relax the pelvic floor down.

Exhale completely from the bottom up, engage the pelvic floor. Feel the deep abs contract. Get all the air out so the ribs come in at the end.


Once you master the breathing you can use it to intentionally create mobility where YOU need it most like in this Inverted Rockback Breathing.



I got a lot more in depth in the breathing to support your pregnant body here.


Squatty Squats with a good stack like this Zercher Squat are a great way to work on that pelvic floor diaphragm connection mentioned above while getting some good expansion in those back ribs.



Strategy #4: Working on Thoracic Rotation with Upper Body Work


This is super low hanging fruit and easy to implement by simply choosing upper variations that allow you to alternate sides for reciprocal motion or add in a reach and rotate to any single arm work as shown in the Single Arm Row with Rotation below.



A note about lifting weights during pregnancy:


These sample exercises don’t show me lifting much weight, purely because these most easily  demonstrate the concepts I’m talking about here.  It’s ok to and I very much encourage you to continue lifting weights during pregnancy.

That old advice of “don’t lift more than 25lbs during pregnancy” needs to die.


1- Because that baby carrier, plus your baby and the diaper bag add up quickly. And if you have a toddler too, forget about it!

2 - Strength training is amazing support for your body during pregnancy.


The way I see it, the stronger you are the easier it is for your body to handle the changes in your center of mass as you grow.


Holding the weight out in front of you like in this Goblet Squat helps you shift your weight back like that Zercher option above.



You can load up those hinge variations too!



Remember, you are pregnant, not fragile!


Your training might look different over the next months/year but...


Different doesn't mean bad.


Different can actually be better!


Running for 2 U doesn’t give you a list of limitations and things you can do.

Running for 2 U provides you with a solid strategy to support the needs of your body every step of the way so that you can continue to move in ways that you love!


Next on your reading list:

Waddling Gait in Pregnancy & How To Fix It!

Best Ab Exercises for Pregnancy

Finding Your Stride: How to Adjust Your Run and When to Stop Running During Pregnancy

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