Squat Modifications for Pregnancy

“Squat 300 times a day, you’re going to give birth quickly.”

-Ina May Gaskin

Back Squat

Back Squat

 All trimester recommendations are general guidelines that we have found to work well for our prenatal clients.  As a disclaimer these guidelines should not be considered the set-in stone standard for every pregnant woman as every pregnancy is unique.  Our recommendation is to adjust the variation of the squat on how you feel each day

1st Trimester

During the 1st trimester the belly is usually not a factor, so squatting looks fairly similar to pre-pregnancy.  Main adjustments will be the loading.  All lifts should decrease to the 70% 1RM loading, focusing on muscular endurance with 2-4 sets at 8-12 repetitions. 

FRONT SQUAT

Each main lift should be a super-set with a stability exercise, usually 10-20 repetitions.  Stability exercises for the squat should focus on single leg and quadricep stabilization such as step ups or box lower downs.

2nd Trimester

During the 2nd second trimester lifts may still look the same as pre-pregnancy depending on how the prenatal client is feeling still.  The size of the belly, stability of joints, and comfort tend to influence which variation may be most appropriate during the 2nd and 3rd trimester. 

Front squats may no longer be comfortable with additional load of the belly and breasts on the front side, thus back squats or other alternative loading such as goblet hold or dumbbells may be more preferred.  Barbells are not required to squat!  Experiment with various loading, to include unilateral loading (holding a kettlebell or dumbbell in the front rack position only on one side). 

Dumbbell Squat

Dumbbell Squat

Goblet Squat

Goblet Squat

If joint stability is a factor consider adding a box squat to the hold variation (back squat, goblet squat, dumbbell squat to a box).  If performing box squats where the hips do not achieve full range of motion, ensure that you are incorporating unloaded air squats that focus on full range of motion.  If needed, utilize rings, a scarf, or something to hold onto in order to achieve full depth.  Squatting is incredibly important for labor! 

Goblet Box Squat

Goblet Box Squat

Barbell Box Squat

Barbell Box Squat

3rd Trimester

During the final trimester, the belly is reaching max capacity and may be interfering with your ability to squat at a normal stance.  Widening the stance to a sumo squat tends to be the best option for prenatal women who are looking to still squat with a load. 

Box squat variations tend to be fairly accessible throughout this trimester as they decreas the depth of the squat.  Again, if you are utilizing a box squat variation, ensure you still work full range of motion with air squats or a support squat variation.   

Unloaded Box Squat

Unloaded Box Squat

In review, the trimester progressions previously covered are merely guidelines found to work well for our prenatal clients. Again, remember that every client and pregnancy is unique.  Some of our prenatal clients will exercise in particular variations for longer than others, while some may even exercise in the third trimester variation in their first trimester.  Please approach each lift with awareness of what may feel good in your body each day. Don’t forget to make room for your belly as it grows and ensure that proper form is maintained so the appropriate muscle groups are being activated. 

Gina Conley