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Understanding the Benefits of Strength Training for Birth

People, pregnant person centered, in a Strength training class in Minneapolis.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), exercising during pregnancy, especially strength training, offers significant benefits. These range from reduced risks of gestational diabetes and cesarean births to quicker postpartum recovery. Let’s explore the top five benefits of strength training during pregnancy and three strategies to do it safely and effectively.

Benefit 1: Pain Relief from Postural Shifts

Postural shifts are necessary to help your body accommodate your growing baby. Typically, these shifts during pregnancy look like an increased anterior pelvic tilt (swayed lower back and tight hip flexors), a rib flare where the bottom angle of the ribs expands sending the center of gravity back in space (low back compression), and externally rotated legs to widen the base of support (weaker adductors and tighter hips). As these shifts occur over a prolonged period, certain muscles can become short and potentially overworked, while others are lengthened and underused. Mindful movement and specific core training can dramatically reduce pain associated with these changes.

Benefit 2: Protect Joints and Improve Balance and Stability

The muscular hypertrophy, as in an increase in muscle mass, from strength training, adds support for the joints during pregnancy. Enhancing core stability, shoulder strength, and upper body stability helps the body feel aligned and stable. Pregnancy hormones, such as relaxin, create laxity in the joints and connective tissue to accommodate growing babies. This hormonal increase can bring a sense of imbalance. Training the body using unilateral exercises (performing an exercise one side at a time), along with mindfulness and breath work, helps find a new, stable center of gravity.

Benefit 3: Prepare the Body for Labor and Delivery

The unpredictability of birth likens it to a major athletic event. Preparation both physically and mentally can greatly impact the birthing experience and improve post-birth outcomes. Strength training has been shown to facilitate easier labor. According to a study by Clapp (1998), women who engaged in regular strength training experienced a significant decrease in the need for medical interventions during labor, including a 50% decrease in the need to artificially rupture the membranes and a 75% decrease in the need for surgical interventions.

Benefit 4: Increase Energy and Improve Moods

The perinatal period, which means the period from the beginning of pregnancy through the first year postpartum, often brings increases in anxiety and depression due to hormonal changes and feelings of uncertainty. Strength training boosts norepinephrine levels, a neurotransmitter linked to greater attention, improved sleep, and increased energy levels. Participating in group strength training classes can also foster feelings of connection, boosting self-esteem and confidence.

Benefit 5: Pregnancy As Wellness, Not Illness

While some advice suggests taking it easy, maintaining physical strength through appropriate strength training underscores pregnancy as a time of wellness. Intentional exercise reduces the risk of injury without necessarily decreasing exercise load. Always consult your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise regimen, especially if you have conditions like preeclampsia or placenta previa.

Embracing strength training during pregnancy isn’t just about staying fit; it’s about preparing your body and mind for the journey of childbirth and beyond. Consider speaking with your healthcare provider to tailor a strength training routine that works best for you. Remember, each step you take toward maintaining your strength is a step toward a healthier pregnancy.


Clapp, F. J, III, M.D. Cram, C MS. (2012) Exercising Through Your Pregnancy. (Second Edition) Addicus Books, Inc. 

Clapp, J. F., Ill. (1998). Exercising Through Your Pregnancy. Champaign, Ill. Human Kinetics

-Amanda Schoppe, Amanda is an expert in all things perinatal movement, from the beginning of pregnancy though the first year postpartum. She is a prenatal and postpartum corrective exercise specialist and core rehab consultant, a birth doula and a newly minted postpartum doula. Additionally, Amanda offers one on one health coaching support to help align your lifestyle and goals with how you feel from inside out. Her passion lies in meeting individuals where they are to support them through a strong, embodied and personalized experience. 

You can join Amanda in the studio at Blooma Mat Pilates (prenatal safe) and Full Body Strength. If you crave more individual attention, inquire about one on one movement or health coaching sessions or all inclusive packages. Starting in August, Amanda is so excited to be facilitating both the 6 week Pregnancy Centering Series and Motherhood Series at Blooma.

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