Your long-time client just told you she was pregnant. Do you automatically think to reduce the loads she was lifting? Do you worry about having her use weights at all? This is a natural tendency because conventional guidance has always said that women should decrease their resistance levels during pregnancy to minimize the risk of injury given the increased stress placed on their bodies. Some women are told not to lift more than 5-8 lbs. Others are told to do body weight exercises only. While risk mitigation is very important, the chart below illustrates how this strategy of reducing loads may have the opposite effect in achieving the desired goal of pain & injury mitigation.
To explain what you are seeing, the horizontal axis tracks the duration of pregnancy in months from conception to birth. The red line illustrates the general weight gain trend of an average-sized woman (from 120lbs to 145lbs). The blue line represents that same woman’s strength level. The specific numbers on this chart are not important. What’s more important is the trend.
If, as her pregnancy progresses, she stops (or significantly reduces) the loads she’s been lifting, her muscles will de-condition and she will lose strength. The theory of progressive overload says that muscles must be increasingly stressed in order to tolerate greater amounts of stress.
In other words, if we don’t continue to stress our muscles with greater loads, then they will not change and adapt to tolerate greater levels of stress. Therefore, when this woman is at the end of her pregnancy, she’ll be weakest when she’s at her heaviest. This leads to movement compensations, and a greater risk of pains & injuries from being unable to manage the added stress placed on her body.
This applies to the postpartum period as well. Consider all the squatting, bending, lifting, carrying (etc) women are forced to do almost immediately after childbirth when their bodies are still recovering. Also, remember that the average 2-year old weighs 25-30 lbs. We want to ensure that women have the strength to bend down and pick up their children, to lift and lower them into cribs, and to maneuver through all the other daily activities without throwing out their backs or living in pain.
Obviously a key goal of prenatal training is to mitigate pregnancy-induced pains and injuries. However, the best way to do this is to ensure our clients are strong enough to manage the increased stresses placed on their bodies. That said, it is very important to take a methodical approach to strength training. In our Pre/Postnatal Performance Training Specialist Course, the “Strength Stage” of training comes after the client has mastered the fundamental principles in the Foundation Stage. She must understand how to move in neutral alignment, how to breathe properly and activate her core during movement, and how to perform fundamental movements with proper mechanics. Only then can we begin to increase the intensity to build her strength.
Give Your Clients the Best Possible Preparation
Learn how to train women in a manner that helps them continue to move with energy and ease throughout pregnancy, confidently prepare for childbirth, and recover quickly and effectively afterward. Become a Pre/Postnatal Performance Training Specialist and start making a substantial impact on your business, and the lives of so many women.