How to modify a BODYPUMP class when you’re pregnant

Yes, you can take a BODYPUMP class when you’re pregnant …

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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

How to modify a BODYPUMP class when you're pregnant by A Lady Goes West

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 …

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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. 
  5. 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.
  6. Biceps — No changes! But try to move your feet at least a few times during the track, to avoid standing still for too long.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Core — Skip the crunches and perform modified moves in a tabletop position or bridge position. See tip above for more.
  10. 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!

Save on BODYPUMP equipment

By the way, if you want to do BODYPUMP at home, you should totally grab the right gear. Use my code ASHLEY10 for a discount on Les Mill SMARTBAR equipment 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?

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    1. Yup! You can do more than you can’t do — but you also just need to know the basics, because it can be scary! πŸ™‚ Thanks, Susie!

    1. Thanks, Heather! I can only imagine how pregnant women feel when they have no fitness background and are totally unsure on what’s okay — because doctors sure don’t help hhehhe! πŸ™‚

  1. Thanks for these tips! I am a Les Mills BODYPUMP instructor, 9 weeks pregnant with my first, so this is all new to me. I haven’t had to modify much at this point, but I will definitely keep these tips at the top of my mind over the next few weeks.

    As it relates to the modified core moves you describe above, what is your suggestion when it comes to teaching BODYPUMP – do I just verbally cue the class through the correct core choreography since I won’t be able to demo/work alongside the class? Thanks! πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Michelle! Thanks so much for reading and saying hello. First of all, CONGRATS on your pregnancy. I hope you are feeling okay right now.

      Now, a huge portion I did not touch on in this post is teaching BODYPUMP while pregnant when you get further along. And I would be VERY UNPOPULAR for this opinion – because women at my own gym and women worldwide are teaching BODYPUMP up through even 39 weeks. However, once your bump is big, you have to make a LOT of changes to your form. For instance, using plates for the back track, etc. And these are not options that we want our participants to do. I know for myself, that I am NOT willing to compromise my own form too much just to teach a class and risk injury. I also know that I will not let my participants have to guess what a proper move is because I’m too pregnant to demonstrate it correctly. That may mean giving up teaching earlier than a lot of women do until I can come back after pregnancy.

      That being said — I think many pregnant women/instructors will do crunches very far into their second trimester and then just TELL the class how and what to do. And if your group fitness manager is fine with that, then you can do it. Although I know the Les Mills folks wouldn’t approve — as they want instructors modeling perfect form for as many reps as possible, perhaps only sitting up to check the form in the class and connecting. So if you are comfortable just doing one to two reps, then sitting up slowly and coaching your class — that’s a great option for you. But I will warn you that you will get some opinions from some die-hard Les Mills people that it’s not okay.

      Other options — if you have an instructor taking your class, bring them to the front so that THEY demo the move and you coach it. You can’t do this with members though as the model, because some gyms think that is a liability to have a member up front.

      Also another option — find the best core tracks with the LEAST amount of crunches and only teach those. πŸ™‚

      I can’t tell you yet what I will do when I’m not able to safely do crunches any longer, because I have a few more weeks of being able to do them. But I will make a game-time decision.

      Good luck!!!! Let me know if you have any other questions. πŸ™‚

  2. Love this! I felt so much better when I worked out while pregnant! After about 25 weeks though my workouts started to look different.

    1. Hi Bethany! Great job, lady! I’m glad to hear you felt good with workouts – and YES, I do expect my workouts to change slightly as the weeks go on. Safety first!! πŸ™‚ Thanks for saying hi!

  3. Great tips! When I was pregnant I loved spin, and regularly attended until I was about 37 weeks and too big to reach around my belly lol. I definitely had to decrease my exertion as I progressed, but it felt good my whole pregnancy.

    1. Hi Emily! Nice work, lady! I’ve heard from a lot of women that cycle/spin were their favorite exercises later on in the pregnancy.

  4. Great post–I’m so looking forward to getting my workouts back! I decided to stick to walking for now because of my pelvic pain. It’s worth it though πŸ˜€ Soon I’ll be able to do the hiit and strength training I miss!

    1. Hi Heather! Oh no, pelvic pain? When did that start? You TOTALLY don’t want to do extra exercise if you’re having something like that going on. So props to you for being smart and for continuing on your walks.

  5. THANK you for this! It wasn’t until well into my 2nd trimester a instructor ( and a fellow mama) approached me and asked if I knew the modifications for Bodypump…saaay whaat. She actually had a handout I guess given to her by Les Mils that showed the modifications and it was so helpful. I found I had to do different exercise for chest as it was hard to lay on my back after a while even with the bench incline at an angle but I”m so glad to have people sharing this with others so no one gets injured and everyone can keep ‘Pump’ing it up!

    1. Yes, I have that handout from Les Mills too and would give it to people who were pregnant when they needed it. I’m glad you stuck with BODYPUMP in spite of some moves not being right for your at that stage. Thank you for reading, my friend! Be sure to share this one with your fellow preggo PUMPers. πŸ™‚

  6. Hi! I just came across this post. Thank you! I am in the process of becoming a Les Mills certified trainer. And just found out that I am expecting. I’ll be about two months ago get when the intial training is. Will it be possible for me to attend and finish the training while pregnant? I’m not sure what to expect at the training. Any and all information would be great.

    1. Hi Melisia! Congrats on your pregnancy! Here are the things I would worry about — you may tire easily and need extra snacks and hydration, so focus on keeping your energy up during the training with lots of healthy food and water and coconut water. You may also struggle with the BODYPUMP challenge, which is a physical challenge you’ll have to complete — but it’s doable. As far as being only 2 months along, you should be fine to do the full workout without modifications. The big thing is you’ll want to get your assessment video done IMMEDIATELY after training so you can film the FULL workout before you need to modify the core exercises when you start to get uncomfortable in your second trimester. Overall, you can definitely still do it! Let me know what else I can answer! πŸ™‚

    2. Hello! I have the same question as Melisia Tinsley – I just found out I am expecting and will be going through the training in September. I am wondering if Melisia has any update on her initial training… This is a long shot, but I am curious and so nervous! Thanks for the great post!

      1. Congrats on your pregnancy, Natalie! Stay hydrated and well fed and good luck at training! I don’t know how things went for Melisia — but hopefully they went well. Thanks for reading!

    3. Hello! Thanks for the great blog post!

      I just learned I am expecting my second child, and I have already signed up for initial training for body pump. I will be going through it at 8 weeks pregnant, so it was so helpful to see Melisia’s comment and your response! But I am curious how the training went for Melisia and if she has any further insight… I realize this is a long shot, but I am so curious and of course, nervous.

      Thank you!

    1. Hi Liza — So I used to put four risers on one side and one on the other — it’s not super stable, so you have to be careful. I also tried three on one side and one on the other too — whatever is more comfortable for you.

  7. Here I am, 14 weeks pregnant, sitting at a YMCA in Houston Googling about BodyPump and pregnancy on my lap top before the 4:30 PM class. THANK YOU FOR THIS!!! SOOOOO HELPFUL! I’m shouting for joy, not screaming at you. πŸ˜‰ WOOO!

  8. How many times a week would you recommend doing Body Pump if you are pregnant? I used to do it 3 times a week but am thinking of dropping down to two times a week. I am only in my first trimester but exhaustion is making it hard to keep up with it.

    1. Hi Kelly, You’ll probably get a little more energy back in the second trimester. But listen to your body and take it slow for now. You can do BODYPUMP 1-3 times a week while pregnant, but always have an off day or a cardio day in between sessions, so you don’t do BODYPUMP back to back on consecutive days. I’d say 1-2 times a week would be fine, if you do some walking or cardio on the other days.

  9. I love body pump and I wasn’t sure if I can continue doing it during pregnancy. This is awesome and thank you for the useful information.
    One question – I am doing body pump at home and I don’t have a bench. I used to lay on the floor but wondering if I can replace the bench with a Birth ball for my chest track?

    1. Hi Fatima. That’s a great question, if you are going to use a birthing ball for the chest track, I would only do it with really light dumbbells and not a barbell — it’s a bit too risky getting under a barbell on a ball, and it may not provide enough of an incline. If it were me, I would either skip the chest track at home without a bench while you’re pregnant, or just do the push-up portion on your knees and skip the rest with the barbell. It’s not ideal, but hopefully this helps!

  10. I just did the first workout and I’m at 32 weeks. I followed all your advice on stance and lower weights and it went perfectly, I feel so good! I must say I am familiar with Bodypump and weight training (good postures and weight handling is not new for me at all), but despite that I think the advice you give is very helpful. Thanks a lot!

  11. Thank you for this! This was perfect and exactly what I needed. I’m a 7-year-veteran BodyPump instructor who is pregnant for the first time (currently 17 weeks so just about where you’re at when you wrote this!) and have been doing most everything normally (though lighter) to this point and was wondering how best to modify certain things. The plates instead of bar for the back exercises makes perfect sense! Thanks again!

    1. Hi Rene! Congratulations on your pregnancy, and I hope you keep moving and feel great throughout the rest of your pregnancy with these tips. Thanks for reading and saying hi! πŸ™‚ xoxoxo

  12. Hi
    This was really useful to read, thank you. As you mentioned you would continue to do crunches until you no longer feel safe, at which point would you deem yourself to be no longer safe to do them? I’d like to continue ab exercises for as long as possible, but just wondering what warning signs I will need to look out for. Thanks

    1. Hi Lara! I would probably start doing your ab-work on all fours in the quadruped position in the second trimester. While yes, you know your own body, that position really is a good one, and it becomes easier to get into than being on the floor on your back. It’s hard to say exactly WHEN you need to give up crunches, because it’s different for everyone. But remember that the all-fours position is still really good for abs and back, so I’d switch to it sooner rather than later! πŸ™‚ Hope this helps!

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