The essential guide to exercise during pregnancy
In 2011 Peter Petrou fitness was rated by WOMOW as one of the top 3 personal training businesses in Sydney Australia and my aim is to make top quality personal training affordable to everyone. I specialise in boxing training, weights training including Olympic style lifting, Kettlebell training, weight loss & women’s fitness including exercise during pregnancy and post partum training and after training numerous clients and my wife during the course of their pregnancy and helping them get into shape afterwards. I was surprised at the lack of quality exercise during pregnancy training advice available. At least the amount of advice available that the average person could read and understand.
This is the second chapter of the book I wrote “The essential guide to exercise during pregnancy”
I have used it as an exercise during pregnancy training guide and I hope you feel comfortable to use it too.
Congratulations on your pregnancy, I feel that your dedication to maintaining your fitness is commendable. As stated previously, providing you were exercising before you became pregnant and you do not suffer from any of the previously listed contraindications, and have the okay from your doctor. You should be able to continue exercising at relatively the same level as before you were pregnant. So long as you take the proper precautions. The two most important factors to consider during your first trimester are being sure to keep your heart rate under 140 beats per minute, one reason being that the foetal heart rate is tied to your own, therefore if your heart is beating at an accelerated rate so is your babies. It is also important not to stay within this heart rate range for no longer than 25 minutes. It is a good idea to perform exercises that allow you to stop or slow down, so your heart rate isn’t constantly racing. One reason why I find weight training to be one of the optimum exercise choices for pregnant exercisers. The other is keeping your core temperature at an acceptable level. Guidelines state that maternal core temperature should not exceed 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit). Overheating the foetus can have disastrous effects, particularly in the first trimester.
There are many options for women who wish to exercise during the course of their pregnancy. I am only going to be dealing with the most common and safest exercise options available, as my general thoughts on this subject are that its better to be safe than sorry. During the course of this book I will always be taking a safety first approach and I suggest you do the same. As stated there are many benefits to training during the course of your pregnancy, there are also several things that can go wrong if you over do it.
Remember whilst training during pregnancy, your fitness goal during this period is not to optimise your physique, but rather to maintain a high level of fitness consistent with maximum safety.
Whilst you are pregnant your primary considerations have to be the acute effects of exercise on the foetus. Foetal temperature, heart rate and oxygenation as well as its chronic effects on gestation and birth weight. Because the mother has greater exercise tolerance than the foetus, any exercise program should be designed with the well being of the developing baby as the primary consideration. As previously stated you want to avoid overheating so you should dress sensibly and be sure to remain well hydrated.
You may notice yourself feeling breathless which is common during the first trimester, if you do its best to slow down or have a rest. You have to understand that your first trimester is a period of adjustment, when your blood volume is initially to low to accommodate you and your growing foetus - this can result in breathlessness and faintness. So you have to adjust your exercise levels accordingly. Some trainers don’t agree with monitoring heart rate during a pregnancy training session and prefer to use a perceived rate of exertion scale. My belief though once again is that its better to be safe than sorry and these guidelines are there for a reason To prepare your body adequately, for the workout you are about to undertake, it’s a good idea spend extra time than you normally would during your warm-up. This is important during the entire course of your pregnancy and not only the first trimester. Proceed through your routine with caution, taking as much time as possible to keep your heart rate within acceptable levels, and being sure not to get to hot. Stop training immediately if you feel faint or pains in the stomach. Remember you’re the best judge of yourself.
It is ideal for you to use a properly regimented weight training program as part of your exercise during pregnancy program. It is unfortunate that many women abandon all weight lifting exercises during pregnancy. If done with correct technique concentrating on lifting a light weight and doing a lot of repetitions (between 15 & 30 reps). Weight training is perfectly safe. Moreover it is the only training module that will allow you to preserve your lean muscle tissue and prevent your metabolism slowing to a crawl. IF YOU WANT TO STAY IN SHAPE DURING PREGNANCY, YOU NEED TO LIFT WEIGHTS.
It is recommend you use a total body workout as the basis of your training during pregnancy routine. I recommend that you do one exercise for each of the major muscles. This will direct the blood flow to all areas of the body, ensuring adequate circulation to the foetus throughout your entire workout. Moreover, each muscle group will receive direct stimulus, helping to maintain your overall fitness levels.
You will also definitely need to maintain flexibility in your muscles and joints. Although be aware while you are pregnant your body secretes a hormone called relaxin. The purpose of relaxin is to loosen your pelvis to make room for your growing uterus and to allow your baby to fit through the birth canal. Relaxin doesn’t limit itself to your pelvis though, and all of your joints will loosen as your pregnancy progresses. Which makes it easy to do damage to your ligaments and tendons. Be sure not to try and stretch any further than before you were pregnant. Hold each stretch for no less than 20 seconds. DON’T BOUNCE OR PERFORM ANY JERKY MOVEMENTS WHILE YOU ARE STRETCHING. A lot of people like to stretch as part of their warm-up, if you are one of these people be sure not to try to take the stretch as far as you would at the end of your training session when you are a lot warmer and your muscles are a lot more pliable.
PREGNANCY TRAINING PROTOCOL.
Exercises- Aim to use only one exercise per muscle group. Training your entire body during each workout. trying to vary your exercises, making sure to avoid any
of the contraindicated movements detailed in chapter 1. The focus during pregnancy is on maintaining an acceptable level of fitness, not on losing weight or looking good in your bikini. try to keep your workout simple and be sure to concentrate on basic movements. stop performing any exercises you find particularly hard or uncomfortable.
Sets- when you are pregnant the number of sets you perform will vary depending on how you feel. (Remember not to strain yourself to much, you are not trying to break any Olympic records or personal bests. You’ve gone and got yourself “knocked up” so you have to train accordingly). At the beginning of your pregnancy, you want to try to achieve 3 sets of each exercise (Done nice and slowly with correct technique). Which is ideal for all levels of fitness. This will sufficiently stimulate your muscle fibres without being to much of a strain on you body or tiring yourself out to much. As your pregnancy progresses you want to adjust your levels of training according to your energy levels. If you begin to feel overtired towards the end of your workout stop and lighten the load next time you train. Thus you will still be able to accomplish everything set out in your routine, only without doing as many repetitions of each exercise.
Rest- The pace of your workout whilst your pregnant is a lot slower than normal. I have my clients wearing a heart rate monitor. Remember you want to keep your heart rate under 140 beats per minute whilst training when your pregnant. If you have specially purchased a heart monitor for training set the alarm so that it beeps at around 138 beats per minute so you can stop what you are doing. When you have finished each set, wait until you see that your heart rate has returned to an acceptable level before starting your next set (Let it get to a near resting state). You want to avoid remaining stationary in between exercises (Don’t just stand still). As this can decrease your cardiac output and bring about cardiovascular complications. Simply walk around slowly after each set to maintain healthy circulation and avert potential problems or try to lightly stretch the target muscle in between sets.
Repetitions (reps)- During pregnancy it is extremely important to use a light weight and do a lot of reps, try not to do any less than 15 reps, between 15 and 30 reps is ideal. Lifting a light weight and doing high reps system is beneficial as it helps to protect your joints and connective tissue from inflammation. Repetitions must be smooth and
controlled, with correct technique. 3 seconds up, pause 1 second, 3 seconds down. A variety of complications can and generally will arise should you swing or jerk up a weight while lifting. Be sure to work through a full range of motion, and regulate your breathing on each rep, keeping it slow and rhythmic.
Intensity- You should perform all your sets with a light weight that is somewhat challenging. Be sure never to struggle you complete a set, as training to intensely during pregnancy can have disastrous ramifications. Your aim is to induce muscular stimulations, not wear yourself out, if training becomes to tiring stop.
Creating a pregnancy routine.
If no unusual circumstances exist, you are ready to begin training. It is recommended that you employ a combination of stretching, light weight training and cardiovascular exercise.
Exercises- For each muscle group, As described before you should use only one exercise per training session. It is recommended that you exercise your entire body three times a week.
Sets- As stated previously you should aim at performing three sets of each exercise. This should provide ample muscular stimulation without overtraining your muscles. Do not move from one exercise to the next (as in a circuit routine). Rather perform one set of an exercise, rest, perform your second set, rest, and then do your third set. After doing three sets of an exercise, move on to your next muscle group. Perform your subsequent sets in a similar manner.
Rest- adequate rest is extremely important during this time, and you must listen to your body. (Don’t adhere strictly to any general training guidelines regarding time between sets). Accordingly if you feel at all fatigued, add an additional day or two of recuperation. Remember that you know your body better than anybody else, if you feel its best to stop and have a break, stop.
Repetitions (reps)- Try to complete 15-30 reps per set, with good form. (These numbers aren’t necessarily set in concrete. Use your own perceived rate of exertion to determine exactly how many reps you complete).
Intensity- you should perform all sets with a weight that is somewhat challenging, without completely taxing your resources.
Women should be encouraged to breathe normally during training as Oxygen delivery to the placenta may be reduced during any act of breath holding. It is a good idea to try to complete the weight training portion of your workout two times per week. As a training effect occurs I recommend that overload be achieved by increasing the number of repetitions rather than by increasing the amount of resistance (weight).
Weight training on machines is generally preferred to using free weights since machines require less skill and can be more easily controlled.
If any particular exercise produces any pain or discomfort, it should be discontinued and an alternative exercise should be performed. A pregnant woman should immediately consult her physician if any of the previously listed warning signs or complications appear.
As stated at the beginning of this chapter providing you were exercising before you became pregnant and you do not suffer from any of the previously listed contraindications, and have the okay from your doctor. You should be able to continue exercising at relatively the same level as before you were pregnant.
During Trimester two there have to be a few changes implemented into your routine which I will be getting into in chapter 3. I will also add a safe workout at the end of chapter 3 that can be completed during your second trimester.
Peter Petrou fitness Pty Ltd
Remember: it’s easy to get fit, it’s just hard work