Yes, you can take a BODYPUMP class when you’re pregnant …
Being pregnant is an exciting thing, but when it comes to working out, it can be pretty confusing. As a pre- and post-natal certified personal trainer and a Les Mills BODYPUMP instructor and participant who is currently pregnant, I’ve got you covered today with tips on how you can modify a BODYPUMP workout class to make it work for you — during any stage of pregnancy. And by the way, these tips will also translate to other resistance workouts that you may do outside of the group fitness room — so it’s not just all about Les Mills BODYPUMP.
But first, let’s get this clear: Every single body and everybody is different. So you should only be doing workouts or exercise moves that feel good on your body. If you ever feel pain or discomfort, you should discontinue the exercise. And by the way, that old rule that pregnant women shouldn’t get their heart-rate over a certain number is long gone. You can work hard, but you have to work smartly.
Also, if you are newer to exercising and you’re newly pregnant, it may not be the greatest time to jump into a full BODYPUMP class. If you are new, I would recommend using your own bodyweight or just the barbell with no weights and doing only the first half of the class to get started. (And for a full primer on what the Les Mills BODYPUMP workout is and what you can expect in your first class, check out this BODYPUMP 101 post.)
How to modify a BODYPUMP class when you’re pregnant
When you are pregnant, there are so many things going on in your body that it’s no wonder you may find working out increasingly difficult. For instance, there’s more blood running through your veins to accommodate the growing baby, so you may find that your heart is racing much more easily. You may also feel that you get winded easier, as your body is already working overtime just to keep the baby alive, as you go through your day. So go easy on yourself, and don’t get frustrated if you instantly feel like you are out of shape. You’re not out of shape. You’re just pregnant.
Here are a few ways you can make BODYPUMP work for you …
Reduce your weight on the big tracks.
Very early on in your pregnancy, you will want to drop down the weight that you use for the big peak tracks, such as the squat track, back track and lunge track. And why? Because your body will be working overtime to keep good form and stay cool, so you should give yourself a break by reducing your weight slightly on these larger muscle groups. You want to make sure you are breathing properly, and giving yourself a slightly lighter load is a smart way to create space to focus on that.
During the first trimester, you’ll be exhausted, then moving forward during the next two trimesters, you will have slightly less strength. At 18 weeks, I’ve already dropped my squat weight by 10 pounds, and I can see myself dropping it a bit more soon. And yes, I’m still feeling the burn with less weight on the bar.
Turn your bench into an incline by stacking more risers under one side.
Technically, you do not have to avoid laying on your back for an extended amount of time until the second trimester. On my own body, I felt like it was time to turn my bench into an incline around week 16 of my pregnancy, which was into the second trimester. And that’s because as your stomach starts to grow, the weight of your uterus could potentially block the major vein that runs along your back to your heart. Not to mention, you may feel increased pressure on your back when you lay flat.
If you position your bench on an incline during the chest track and the triceps track (if it requires laying down), you’ll be safer, and you’ll have an easier time getting up and down, which is an added bonus. Side note: In some of the newer releases of Les Mills BODYPUMP, there are quick transitions from laying on the bench to push-ups on the bench. If that is the case, then you can do the push-ups with your hands on the floor, or if there is room, set up a second bench near you that lays flat. Of course, this is only if the transitions are quick.
It’s important to note that when you are positioned on an incline, the weight of the bar can seem slightly more challenging because of the angle you are pushing, so you may want to reduce your weight. I’ve found that I’m able to maintain my normal BODYPUMP chest weight up until now, but that may change as the weeks go along.
Go slowly with your transitions from the ground to standing.
Although you may want to feel like you can do everything that the rest of the class is doing, one thing you should NOT participate in is jumping into a standing position after being on the ground or moving very quickly from a position on the floor to a position on the knees or feet. As mentioned previously, you are much more likely to get light-headed and lose your footing, because of the increased flow of blood in your body. It’s just not safe. That may mean that when you’re pregnant, you take your time getting up off of the ground and you may even miss a rep or two. Don’t worry about it!
Also, as previously mentioned, when you are laying down on your incline bench, it’s safer to roll off to the side of the bench rather than sitting straight up. This can be challenging when you have a bar in your lap, so be very careful.
Protect your core and choose alternative moves during the core track.
If you are doing a BODYPUMP workout properly, you’ll actually be engaging and utilizing your core throughout the entire class. But still, there’s always a core track at the end of the class. After you’ve finished your first trimester, you’re free to skip the crunches entirely. However, I’ve continued to do them through week 18 — but only when I’m teaching. I do think that I’ll need to stop soon.
Instead of crunching or doing leg lifts on your back while pregnant, you can modify in three big ways. The first option is to flip over onto your hands and knees in a tabletop position and do the “cat cow” exercise, in which you round your back and push through your palms, then lift your chest and pull your shoulders back lowering your stomach. You can also stay in tabletop and extend your legs out and in, one at a time, maintaining a solid position in your core and back, even working opposite arm and leg at the same time. This is the ideal position for working the core while pregnant, at any stage of pregnancy. Finally, the third option is do the the hip bridge for a portion of the song, in which your upper-back is on the ground, heels are planted hip-width distance and you push your hips to the sky while squeezing your butt. And of course, you can keep the same rhythm and tempo that the instructor is cueing, just while performing your own safer move.
While I know you will initially feel strange doing your own thing during the core track, because all three of these moves are floor-based, you will not stand out too much. And you will be protecting that very important and sensitive set of abdominal muscles working so hard for you! Also, you will likely want to skip planks and hovers as you get further along, because they require too much work from the deep ab muscles that risk the possibility of separating, and you don’t want that. When in doubt, choose tabletop.
Drink water and stay near a fan, door or window.
When you’re pregnant, you need to drink extra water and you also need to be aware that your body temperature can heat up much faster than before. If there are fans in the room, try to grab a spot underneath or in front of one. And if there are windows or doors, stay near the ventilation. You should also give yourself the ability to take extra water breaks and stop within tracks when you need to rest and catch your breath. Don’t be a hero!
Let’s do a quick track-by-track breakdown of how to modify a BODYPUMP class when you’re pregnant …
- Warm-up — No major changes, but be extra aware of breathing properly and maintaining a strong posture with your shoulders rolled back and down. Think about keeping tension between your shoulder blades throughout the warm-up, as the extra weight on the front of your body will try to pull your posture forward.
- Squats — Reduce your weight and widen your stance to give your hips more room to move. And even if the instructor says to be in the mid-stance position, you can go wide. You can also use your bodyweight, or hold one weight plate in front of your chest.
- Chest — Put your bench on an incline and slowly transition between sets, rolling on your side before getting up. Perform chest push-ups in a tabletop or knee position.
- Back — Reduce your weight. After your bump gets too big for the barbell during the clean and press portion, instead, you can grab two large plates to do the rows and do a squat press with the plates to substitute for the clean and press.
- Triceps — Put your bench on an incline and slowly transition between sets, rolling on your side before getting up if needed. Perform tricep push-ups in a tabletop or knee position.
- Biceps — No changes! But try to move your feet at least a few times during the track, to avoid standing still for too long.
- Lunges — Reduce the weight on the bar or choose to use one plate or no weight at all. Be careful of your balance as your center of gravity changes. You can also use a bar standing on its side as a “crutch” to help you stay steady.
- Shoulders — Be very careful with transitions from ground to standing and move slowly. Perform your push-ups on your knees or in a tabletop position.
- Core — Skip the crunches and perform modified moves in a tabletop position or bridge position. See tip above for more.
- Cool-down — Be aware of your increased joint flexibility, and don’t force your body too deeply into stretches. Also, do not twist toward the midline of your body or away from the midline, and don’t lay on your stomach for any reason. Perform additional stretches after class if you need more.
Lifting weights is important for everyone, and you’ll be setting yourself up for a fitter pregnancy by committing to attending one, two or even three BODYPUMP classes a week.
But remember: The most important things you can do as a pregnant BODYPUMP participant are to monitor how your body feels, take plenty of water breaks, move at your own pace and stop anything that gives you discomfort. You can do it! Pump it up!
How you can try BODYPUMP at home for FREE on Les Mills+ for 30 days!
By the way, if you to try BODYPUMP (and all the other amazing Les Mills group fitness workouts) at home, you can experience a totally free 30-day trial of the Les Mills On Demand (Les Mills+) streaming workout service, using my affiliate link here.
Good luck, be safe and listen to your body!
P.S. Interested in learning more about how you can stay fit while balancing your hormones and improving your overall health and fertility? Check out my ebook “Fit & Fertile.”
Questions of the day
If you’ve ever been pregnant, what was your favorite exercise move during pregnancy?
Have you ever taken BODYPUMP?