Lifting weights in pregnancy

Lifting Weights During Pregnancy

And I’m not talking about lifting 2kg dumbbells.

For too long, the general consensus has been to take things super easy because pregnant women are fragile creatures.



Research says otherwise, and that light-to-moderate strength sessions with free weights or weight machines generally have no adverse health effects during pregnancy (Avery ND, Stocking KD, Tranmer JE, et al., 1999). In fact, healthy pregnant women who took up strength training twice a week for 12 weeks saw a huge increase in their strength. And what’s more, training was associated with a 14% increase in lumbar endurance! (O’Connor PJ, Poudevigne MS, Cress ME, et al., 2011). This means, your lower back is better equipped for handling the postural changes during pregnancy, so hopefully less back pain!


If you are into heavy strength training and use the Valsalva manoeuvre (holding your breath in a way that created pressure internally), it’s best to avoid this as it creates a rapid increase in blood pressure and intra-abdominal pressure, which can temporarily decrease blood flow to the foetus.
Plus, this can negatively impact the pelvic floor support.

Rep Ranges During Pregnancy

There’s a lot of talk about 12-15 reps when pregnant, which is perfect if you’re new to lifting weights, however sometimes it can feel a chore, plus if you’ve been lifting weights previously you’ll probably find that anything over 10 reps feels like an age!

So, I figured it would be handy to write down the rep ranges you can lift and also what the effort should feel like.

(Remember, when pregnant you don’t really want to go above a 7/10 as we need to be able to breathe in oxygen for the baby, plus we don’t want to overheat or build up intra-abdominal pressure!)

  • If you’re lifting a light weight in a high rep range, e.g 2-3 sets of 12-15 reps, your effort should feel like a 5-6/10 in terms of difficulty.
  • When working with a moderate weight, for example 3 sets of 6-10 reps, the effort should feel like a 6-7/10
  • For heavy weights, eg 4 sets of 3-5 reps, the effort should be 7-8/10 HOWEVER THIS REP RANGE SHOULD NOT BE USED AFTER THE FIRST TRIMESTER!
    The intra abdominal pressure is a lot plus it also causes too much downward pressure on your pelvic floor.

Author empointer

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