When I first found out I was pregnant, I was excited, but with this excitement also came distraction. With so many big changes on the horizon, it was tough to focus on much of anything. Whether I was working, grocery shopping, or taking a shower, my mind always went back to my pregnancy and baby.
Suddenly, life as I knew it had so many considerations to be made. Can I drink my daily coffee? What prenatal vitamins are best? Can I still do my normal workouts?
Lucky for you, eventually I was able to pull my head out of the clouds to put together some specific recommendations and resources for you mamas-to-be wondering how and if to modify your lifting program to support your body through this chapter.
Today’s blog is going to focus on Squats during pregnancy as they are one of our favorite exercises to incorporate into our Strong Pregnancy programs. Whether you do them with only your body weight, a light dumbbell, or a loaded barbell– squats can benefit you, your baby, and improve your labor, delivery, and postpartum recovery!
Once you find out your pregnant, there are so many questions, thoughts, worries, and excitements swirling around your mind. If you are a gym enthusiast, one of your biggest concerns the first couple of months will be navigating the gym and learning what exercises you can still do and how to modify them along the way.
One of our favorite exercises to incorporate into our Strong Pregnancy programs for low-risk mamas-to-be are squats. Whether you do them with only your body weight, with a light dumbbell, or a loaded barbell, squats can benefit you, your baby, and improve your labor, delivery, and recovery process!
In fact, many midwives and progressive OB’s will recommend squatting to:
Maintain pelvic floor strength.
Keep your glutes strong, which in turn, will stabilize your pelvis and reduce lower back pain.
Build strength and endurance for holding various positions during labor and delivery.
An additional benefit of squatting during pregnancy is to maintain and/or build muscle in your quads, hamstrings, and glutes for improved body composition, strength, and metabolic rate during pregnancy and postpartum.
What you need to know:
In the first couple months of pregnancy you will be able to squat as you always have without much change to stance or execution, but you still need to listen to your body. If you’re feeling exhausted or weak, it’s 100% okay and recommended that you take the weight, reps, or sets down as needed. It’s also time to stop aiming for personal bests and performing sets or reps where your form suffers at all.
As your baby bump starts growing, your center of gravity will change and your hips, back, and inner thighs may feel extra tight. At this point, you will need to be even more diligent about doing a proper warm-up and you may need to take the weight down more significantly as you adjust to changes in your body and to practice your new form.
For most, this weight drop is temporary and once you feel more stable in your new leverages, you will be able to safely increase the resistance a bit. (And if not, that’s ok too Mama!)
These are the modifications you may need to make to your squat during pregnancy…
Widen your stance.
If you normally squat with your feet at hip-width, for example, you will likely need to bring each foot .5-1.5 inches wider. This will create more space for your bump to fit between your hips, will provide a better foundation for you to stay balanced, and will help to more evenly distribute your weight.
A more narrow stance (if you can even get into a full squat like this) will pitch your chest forward & shift your hips back which will screw up your bar path, put a strain on your lower back & create a good morning movement pattern rather than a squat.
Evenly distribute your breath.
It’s common for experienced lifters to bring their pre-pregnancy diaphragmatic breathing and bracing with them into their pregnancy training.
The problem with breathing like this is that it can create pressure in your stomach by pushing your breath OUT against their linea alba (the line of connective tissue that runs down the middle of your stomach). This pressure can exacerbate diastasis recti during pregnancy & beyond in the postpartum period.
You still want to diaphragm breathe (IE breath air into diaphragm, not chest), but don’t worry so much about creating intense pressure and be careful not to just push out! Evenly distribute your breath down, out, up, and back into your lower back.
Push BACK against the bar.
Even with the wider stance, your new body and leverages are going to create more of a forward lean in your squat. Instead of thinking of standing the weight up, think of pushing back into the barbell & wedging your hips forward to get out of the hole. (consider shot a picture or video of this)
Slow the eccentric portion.
Don’t just drop into your squat letting gravity take over. Squeeze the bar, screw your feet in, drive your knees out, and open your…lower the weight w/ control & intention.
Listen to your body.
Let your body determine the weights you use. It’s not the time to be a gym class hero. Focus on movement and meet yourself, and your body, where you’re at each day.
How to Squat while Pregnant:
Scale when needed.
Look, you’re pregnant. Your body is stretching to extreme lengths to create a human. It’s ok to swap out barbell squats for kettlebell squats, leg press, belt squats, box squats or to use a light dumbbell or your bodyweight to get the job done.
You deserve a gold star for just showing up and working out. Don’t be a slave to past accomplishments. You’ll get back there someday if you want to.