Deadlift Modifications for Pregnancy

By: Gina Conley, Head Coach of MamasteFit, BS in Exercise Science & Prenatal/Postpartum Corrective Exercise Specialist

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 deadlift on how you feel each day. 

Feel free to explore various loading options as well, such as barbell, trap bar, dumbbells, kettlebells, or even sandbags.  Don’t restrict yourself to a barbell because that is what you believe deadlifting is; pregnancy is a state of growth, so use this time to explore movement in a way that support your pregnancy.

1st Trimester

Deadlift First Trimester

 During the 1st trimester the belly is usually not a factor, so the deadlift 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. 

We like to pair the deadlift with a hamstring and glute focused stabilization exercise, such as single leg or staggered stance deadlifts, single leg or staggered stance hip thrust, or bridge marches.    



2nd Trimester

During the second trimester, the belly tends to start getting in the way of the lift.  This may happen earlier in subsequent pregnancies, but generally it will be harder to maintain the conventional deadlift stance due to the belly. 

Our modifications include elevated deadlifts in conventional stance and sumo deadlift for the second trimester.  The elevated deadlift decreases the range of motion, allowing for more space for the belly; essentially, you don’t need to bend down as much to grab the bar. 

elevated deadlift.JPG

The sumo deadlift makes space for the belly by widening the stance; the sumo deadlift has decreased range of motion compared to a conventional deadlift, but has the same activation of the hamstrings and glutes, and more activation of the quadriceps. 

3rd Trimester

During the third trimester, we experience the most growth in our bellies.  Some pregnant mamas can stick with the second trimester variations and move just fine, but some want a little more space.  Elevating the sumo deadlift can provide more space for the belly by having the widen stance with decreased range of motion.  Again, the sumo stance still activates the hamstrings and glutes as much as the conventional deadlift, but it will be easier to get the bar off the ground with the elevation. 

elevated sumo deadlift third trimester

The deadlift is a functional movement and should still be trained throughout pregnancy, but we may need to modify it based on comfort and accommodating for the belly.  Each of these modifications are not mandatory based on trimester, and should be explored based on your individual pregnancy.  Each pregnancy is unique, even for the same woman, so timelines should not be strict in your fitness protocols. 

You may find that substituting the barbell for kettlebells or dumbbells supports your pregnancy more, or even adjusting to the kneeling deadlift variations to still train the hinge movement pattern but with less stress on the lumbar spine.  

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Interested in prenatal programming that offers variations based on trimester?  Check out our prenatal programs.  We offer a strength specific program and a strength endurance program for prenatal women that we have tested and refined at our training facility.  If you are local to our training facility, come check us out!  You do not need to have a lifting background to enjoy our intentional programming.

Gina Conley