What To Avoid Taking Workout Classes When Pregnant

Just because you are pregnant, doesn’t mean you can’t take your favorite studio classes! I’ve had a few people ask me where they offer prenatal workout classes in and around Boston and to be honest, besides yoga most studios/cities do not have many options.

Apparently there is a studio in Chicago that offers pregnancy workout classes as well as postnatal, but in Boston it does not exist.

Once you have the baby, check out my Fit Mom’s Guide in Boston on where to workout with your baby in tow.

prenatal workout modifications squat
In addition, most trainers do not know updated prenatal fitness modifications. It is not their faults. As a certified personal trainer, I “learned” how to modify a workout for preggos but when I became pregnant, those modifications seemed very outdated and inaccurate. Unless the trainer recently gave birth within the past 3 years or specializes in pre/postnatal workout stuff, they probably have no idea. This is not a knock on trainers, I was one of them too!

Before Tommy, I had a regular client come to one of my group classes pregnant and her doctor told her to continue doing crunches if they felt comfortable. So she did. I was shocked because this at the time was like the only no-no I really knew about and this was probably 4 years ago.

Prenatal yoga classes are great for learning some of the more specific modifications. Since there is a lot of twisting, back bending, inversions, heated classes and lying down on your stomach (all no-no’s), there are more modifications in a yoga class than most regular workout classes. I found prenatal yoga classes to be underwhelming but I’m glad I went to a few of them to meet other moms in my area and some of the alternate ways to continue doing yoga which can be great during pregnancy to relieve stress, tension and even prepare for labor.

Ok, so here is the deal, these are the modification to take during your favorite studio or gym classes that are not designed for pregnant people.

Avoid Twisting + Closed Twisting Yoga Poses

Avoid twisting at the waist, i.e. what used to be the skinniest part on your torso (about an inch above belly button for many). Your entire body can twist, for example, you’re moving at your hips and your torso follows suit but you want to avoid that twisting movement you get doing a russian twist or a detoxifying yoga twist. This reduces the space and may reduce blood circulation to the baby.

Other twisting moves that you likely would do in a class include a lunge with a torso twist or a plank with a cross body twist. If you love boxing (I don’t do a ton of it so I’m not positive on form/terminology) but sometimes when you “jab” quickly, make sure you aren’t twisting too much at the waist. Make sure that you are twisting at the hips and following movement with shoulders, which I think is proper form*.

Here is a 15 minute prenatal yoga workout video I shot when I was pregnant with Tommy.

Lying face down on your stomach

This might come as a no shit but just putting it out there. You can lie on your stomach until you’ve got a bump. You’ll know when to stop so no cobra pose in yoga or supermen.

Crunches

Personally, I think crunches are a waste of time even not pregnant and when you are pregnant, they really do nothing for you so skip these too unless you want to spend the painful journey of healing a diastasis recti. If you’re in a class that is doing them, instead do a bridge where you lift your hips.

Be Able to Maintain a Conversation

If you love bootcamp or spin class, make sure that your heart rate does not go into the red zone, I.e. you are no longer able to have a conversation with someone. For me, this is above 165 bpm. Wearing a heart rate monitor may help with this however, I usually can tell when I’m getting to an “8 or 9” on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being my all out max effort. I try to max out at a 7.5 or an 8.

Back Bends + Inversions

I mentioned this above and really this is for yoga since I rarely teach anything in my classes with a back bend or inversion. I see pregnant women doing inversions and if you are in the third trimester and baby is head down, do not do these! If baby’s head is not down, then doing an inversion is a potential option to try and get them to flip for an easier vaginal delivery. Often this is a top reason for a C-section if the baby is breeched.

Back bends include wheel pose or up dog. This again encourages your abs to split aka diastasis recti aka more challenging postpartum recovery.

pregnancy workout modifications side plank

Planking

Please see this blog post. It is literally an entire blog post just on planking during pregnancy and why I’m not longer doing them. Feel free to plank until you start to get a baby bump however having a tighter core may make it easier for your abs to separate (I know it makes no sense) and it also may set you up to get a diastasis recti. Really, the goal of working out during pregnancy should not be to get or keep your abs but to grow a healthy baby! Side planks are fine.

Doing a ton of ab work during your pregnancy as they expand naturally to make room for a growing baby is not going to make “getting back to normal” easier for your abs, but it’s going to make it HARDER.

I learned this the hard way. I had coning while pregnant with tommy and had no idea what it was. I continued to do planks. Post labor, I jumped back into ab work too soon and never got my abs at the top to completely reunite. Now at just 24 weeks pregnant, I have had coning that I didn’t have until third trimester last time around.

Some people can do planks all throughout pregnancy and not get a diastasis recti. However, it’s chance you are taking. Your baby will be fine if you choose to do planks. It’s your own recovery we are talking about.

Potentially Hazardous Moves That Require Balancing or Jumping

As you get into the 2nd trimester, your center of gravity changes, making it hard for you to keep your balance. You want to avoid anything that could potentially end up with you falling and getting hurt. This includes a high-ish box jump, running backwards on a treadmill (Hi Barry’s Bootcamp) or a crazy move from KaisaFit where you’re throwing and catching balls at waist height. These should be no brainers but just keep in mind.

Jumps also can wreck havoc on your pelvic floor. Jumping Jacks or there jumps may now make you feel like you have to pee once you get past the second trimester. Running felt fine for me with Tommy up until 29 weeks. This time around, I stopped at like 4 weeks.

Instead of doing a jump squat, just do a body weight squat. Instead of a box jump, do a step up. It might feel lame but remember your goals, birthing a healthy baby!!!

Lying Flat on Your Back For Extended Period of Time

This is a tricky one that honestly, you know when to stop. This only comes into play often with something like a chest press in a class like Barry’s Bootcamp. A simple modification is just to sit on an incline instead. Your doctor probably told you not to sleep on your back because the weight of your uterus can compress a major blood vessel, called the vena cava, disrupting blood flow to your baby and leaving you nauseated, dizzy, and short of breath. This is why I say, you’ll know when to stop doing this! I was good until my third trimester last time.

That’s pretty much it…

Class doing crunches? Do hip lifts. Class doing planks? Do a bird dog. Side planks are fine, I should add. Crazy jumping doesn’t feel right? Just do the move without the jump or stand in place and alternate high knees.

prenatal workout modifications plank yoga bird dog

Certain classes are going to be harder to modify like a megareformer Pilates class at a BTone or SLT. Obviously skip your hot yoga class as well. I really like barre and spin classes as well as my own prenatal strength circuits.

And if you’re not into it, just go for a walk. It will make you feel better I promise!

 

What To Avoid Taking Workout Classes When Pregnant

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5 Comments

  • Justine
    Reply

    I’m so glad I found you (on instagram) Sarah!
    I’m 14 weeks pregnant, have an almost 3 year old little boy and am trying to maintain a fit pregnancy. I stopped doing planks last week after watching your video with Sarah Hayley. It’s hard dialling back my workouts and saying goodbye to my abs but you really have highlighted the “bigger picture” for me. Recovery and strength will be easier pp if I do it right! You’re an inspiration.
    Love from Australia

  • Bob
    Reply

    Most barre classes claim to be the ideal workout for pregnant women. I know you used to do a lot of barre. What do you think about these classes and pregnancy?

    • Sarah
      Reply

      I haven’t been to one in a long time however every studio/teacher is different. Many studios do have many modifications that they will share with students. Bar Method has a ton -- that is where I went for a long time. Bar Method and Exhale are pretty OK I think for pregnancy but honestly, I haven’t been in awhile!

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