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by Casey McIlvaine

Developing or recommending a training program for a client during pregnancy is somewhat of a team affair involving you as the personal trainer, the pregnant client, and their primary care physician. While every pregnancy as well as every client has different needs, there are some basics that trainers should adhere to in developing or designing such workouts.

The first and most important step before recommending any personal training program for a pregnant client is to get clearance from her doctor on anything that you consider for recommendation. It’s a good idea to share the workout in writing with the physician via the client so that they can gauge the intensity, frequency and duration of the exercises.

Be prepared to modify the workout as the pregnancy progresses by taking out higher impact exercise and substituting lower impact exercises. Watch flexibility with hormonal changes as women who are pregnant tend to get over flexible in their lower limbs as their bodies prepare for birth. You should always watch her heart rate during each workout session and be sure she’s not getting over heated or overdoing it during the session.

heart rate monitor

Pregnant women should and can strengthen their core and transverse abdominals as these are important to support the growing weight of the baby. These exercises can also help prevent some of the most common complains and complications such as diastasis recti (abdominal separation), back pain, and pelvic instability.

There are many exercises that work well for pregnant women in relieving some of the aches and pains of pregnancy while being safe and not adding any aches and pains. The pregnancy website has an extensive list of detailed pregnancy workout plans. They include everything from detailed core and pelvic exercises as well as upper and lower body exercises that are ideal for many pregnant clients (for example, the following image of a yoga pose called “bridge”).

A woman engaged in bridge pose, a form of yoga that strengthens the abdominals and lower body.

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) provides a useful pregnant exercise guidelines FAQ page for pregnant women that is a great place to start as well. This includes such important tips as avoiding exercises that risk falling, avoid intense joint stress and any exercises that risk abdomen trauma. You can check the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), and the American Council on Exercise (ACE) for further guidelines and details.

It’s imperative for personal trainers to remember that just as every client’s needs and limitations are different, so too is each pregnant client and pregnancy different. It’s best to obtain a specialty certificate in training pre-and post natal exercise clients in order to ensure that you are well versed in all of the possibilities and options before recommending a workout program to a pregnant client.


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