Weight Training While Pregnant

Safely lift your way to fewer aches.

pregnant workout
Photo: Dmitry Kalinovsky/Shutterstock

Lifting weights while pregnant is one of the best ways to minimize aches and pains. Weight machines are ideal, especially for gym newbies, because they control your range of motion. However, if you're accustomed to doing free-weight exercises, you can continue.

Steer clear of any machine with a pad that presses against your belly, such as the seated row machine or abdominal machines. In addition, forgo any overhead lift, since this kind of motion can increase the curve in your lower spine (aka hyperlordosis).

The strength routine below targets the muscles that are key to reducing discomfort during pregnancy. Do 1 or 2 sets of 8 to 12 reps for each except the Plank. Choose a weight that allows you to perform the repetitions properly and comfortably. And after the first trimester, avoid any exercise done while lying on your back.

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Upper/Middle Back

Best Machines: Seated cable row, lat pulldown

Pregnancy Benefit: As your breasts get bigger, your shoulders round forward. Strengthening the muscles between your shoulder blades helps counteract the slump.


Best Machine: Seated chest-press

Pregnancy Benefit: It's important to create muscle balance in your upper body by working your pecs.

Arms/ Shoulders

Best Machines: Biceps and triceps

Pregnancy Benefit: Strong arms. Soon you'll be schlepping a baby, a diaper bag—and the groceries.

Lower Body

Best Machines: Leg extension and seated leg-curl

Pregnancy Benefit: Your quadriceps and hamstrings bear the weight of your pregnancy as your belly grows.


Best Exercise: Plank

Pregnancy Benefit: Keeping your abs strong will help prevent pregnancy-induced back pain.

How to: Lower onto all fours so your wrists are directly under your shoulders. Lift your knees off the floor (don't arch your back) so your body forms a straight line. Hold for 1 to 2 breaths, working up to 5 breaths.

Strength Train at Home

All you need are 2- to 5-pound dumbbells and a chair. Do 1 or 2 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions for each exercise, choosing a weight that is comfortable or simply using your body weight.

- Triceps overhead extensions

- Biceps curls

- Lateral raises

- Squats

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