1. GHDs: Do this, not that! If you are pregnant and go to a CrossFit box, you have likely heard the recommendation to avoid GHDs. When referring to GHD sit-ups, this recommendation is spot on! You want to avoid the huge range of motion and hyperextension through your midline that the GHD sit-up demands and you want to avoid overtraining the rectus abdominis muscle (see number 3!). However, there is a use for this machine! Using the GHD AKA the glute ham developer for hip extension to develop guess what- the glutes and hamstrings!- is an excellent exercise for the pregnant CrossFitter. As we become more (ahem) "front-loaded", we benefit from having strong glutes, hamstrings and erector spinae to balance out the weight in front and keep us standing tall.
2. Olympic Lifts: From the Hang There will likely come a time in your pregnancy when you prefer not to perform cleans and snatches with a barbell. As our belly expands, our bar path must move out and around to avoid contact. I began to consciously change my bar path slightly at about 16 weeks pregnant so that my contact with the bar was a little lower on my thigh and I avoided a brush up or "scoop" into my lower abdomen. I found that it was easier to adapt that pull from the hang rather than the floor. From the hang, you can set up where you to make contact with the bar and then extend and pull under the bar from there. I am now 22 weeks pregnant and "the bump" has definitely popped out more. For now, I am continuing to do light barbell lifts from the hang with this modified bar path. As I grow and have to change my bar path even more, I will likely switch to using a dumbbell or kettlebell for movements so that I am not reinforcing an inefficient movement pattern with the bar coming out in front and wrapping around me.
3. Give your rectus abdominis a break, train your transverse abdominis
The rectus adominis are your 6-pack muscles, they run vertically and are connected down the middle by the linea alba. Separation of these ab muscles can occur during pregnancy as the belly expands. This is called diastasis recti and it can effect 25-33% of all women in pregnancy. Doing lots of reps of movements with flexion and extension of the rectus adominis (think sit-ups, crunches, etc) during pregnancy can increase the risk of diastasis recti.
Instead, do exercises that will train and strengthen the more internal abdominal muscles that run across the torso rather than straight up and down. This muscle is called the transverse abdominis and can best be trained with isometric exercises (requiring that the muscle braces/stabilizes rather than flex or extend). In the exercise I demonstrate here, you will press your low back into the floor and brace, as you lower or extend your leg, do not allow your low back to lift off the floor. Your transverse abdominis is working to keep you braced and in position as your hip flexes and extends.
4. Squat! We, the inclusive we, as in all human beings, should squat more and to full range of motion below parallel! We as pregnant women benefit from full range of motion squats for all the same reasons as the regular population- lower body strengthening, fully balanced strengthening of the posterior chain as well as the quads and improved mobility and joint health. For us pregnant women, one additional benefit to squatting is developing strength and comfort in a position that is very common during birth. Whether actually squatting while holding on to something for support or laying in bed, commonly the knees and hips will be flexed to well beyond 90 or "parallel". Incorporate squats into your weekly regimen, with or without weight, just keep that full range of motion!
5. Remember your why and write it down!
As a competitive CrossFitter, it was important for me to stay focused on my “why” at times when I faced setbacks, training got tough and motivation was low. Focusing on why I trained brought me back to the bigger picture of my goals: to qualify for the CrossFit Games and to maximize my athletic performance in every possible way. Now that I am pregnant, the why has changed and it should for you too. As CrossFitters, we all know how motivating it can be to compete with the person next to you, it can push you to run a little faster, take a few less breaks and go a little harder. During your pregnancy and the postpartum months that follow, more than ever before, you should be focusing on form, moderate rather than high intensity and injury prevention. By keeping your pregnancy goals in mind, you can change the inner voice (or external coach’s voice!) telling you “push harder, chase down the person in front of you” to “move well, breathe and be grateful for this moment of physical preparation”. It helps to write down your goals and reinforce them regularly! Here is mine: my goal is to have a healthy pregnancy, to be prepared mentally, physically and emotionally for the unknowns of birth and to be the best role model and mother I can be.