Can women weight train during pregnancy?

As a mom of three, I can remember asking my doctor all of these questions. It is always wise to seek your doctors advice, each woman is different and each pregnancy likewise.  I will tell you this, two out of my three pregnancies I stayed exercising regularly and eating clean and they were night and day compared to the one I did not.  I had so much more energy, gained little weight and overall just felt better.

My doctor had advised me with each pregnancy that if I was working out before I got pregnant, I could continue the same workout routine as long as I felt like I could!

GREAT advice!

However, the guidelines and attitudes about exercise during pregnancy have changed considerably through the years, and will continue too.  Always seek your doctors advise!  As medicine and research advances we now know a lot more about the benefits and risks of exercising during pregnancy. As a result, much more specific guidelines have been established.

Pregnancy Exercise Benefits

  • Decreased risk of gestational diabetes & long-term obesity
  • Control of gestational diabetes
  • Improved energy levels
  • Improved posture
  • Improved muscle tone, strength, & endurance
  • Enhanced recovery from childbirth
  • Reduced back aches
  • Reduced bloating & swelling

It’s important to understand that this is a time in her life to MAINTAIN health & fitness and achieve the benefits that exercise has to offer during pregnancy.  Don’t use pregnancy as a time to just gain weight and let yourself go, that isn’t healthy for you or the life you are carrying!  Training to make significant improvements in fitness and performance while pregnant should be avoided until postpartum due to the risks and many changes that occur during pregnancy.

Weight Gain

The amount of weight a woman should gain during her pregnancy is largely determined by what her current weight was prior to becoming pregnant. Excess weight gain and failure to lose this weight six months postpartum are predictors of long-term obesity.

  • Normal weight prior to pregnancy: 25-32 lbs.
  • Overweight prior to pregnancy: 15 lbs.
  • Underweight prior to pregnancy: 40 lbs.

Exercise Risks

Physician approval for exercise is always required prior to continuing or starting an exercise program.  There are always risks when exercising, but you should pay extra attention to your body during pregnancy.  Below is a chart of symptoms and signs you should be looking for if you are exercising during pregnancy.  Should any of the following warning signs occur, exercise should be discontinued the mother should consult her physician.

Exercise Warning Signs During Pregnancy

Vaginal BleedingMuscle Weakness
Shortness of breath prior to exerciseCalf pain or swelling
DizzinessPreterm Labor
HeadacheDecreased Fetal Movement
Chest PainAmniotic Fluid Leakage

Exercise Frequency

Exercising three-four times per week is recommended for pregnant women. Recent research indicates that women who exercise five or more times per week have substantially increased odds for a low birth weight baby. Pregnant women who exercised two or fewer times per week have modestly increased odds for a low birth weight baby.

Exercise Intensity

A pregnant woman who was exercising prior to being pregnant would likely tolerate a higher exercise intensity better than someone who was previously sedentary. Age is also a factor, there would be a significant difference in exercise heart rate between a 19-year-old pregnant girl and a 40-year-old pregnant woman.

The primary concern with exercise intensity during pregnancy is blood flow to the baby. With increasing exercise intensity, increased blood flow to the working muscles could decrease blood flow to the baby and in turn, oxygen levels. An appropriate guide to use is a fairly light to somewhat hard rate of perceived exertion. The mother should be able to talk while exercising (known as the talk test).

Exercise Duration

The standard recommended exercise duration during pregnancy is 30-40 minutes. However, on some days, fatigue may occur earlier than others, especially as you get further along in your pregnancy. The duration of the session should be determined by how the mother feels that day. During the first trimester, when the baby’s major systems are beginning to form, fatigue is very common.

Although most women can exercise at this time, it is important to stop exercising before excessive fatigue sets in. Energy levels typically increase during the second trimester but the duration guidelines should still be adhered to.


At least 300 additional calories per day are required for exercise during pregnancy to supply the mother will additional energy and avoid compromising the growth of the baby. A carbohydrate-rich pre-exercise meal should be consumed and fluids should be consumed before, during, and after exercise.


Exercise during pregnancy has MANY benefits. Women who were previously inactive can safely engage in an exercise program once cleared by their physician. Following these recommended guidelines will help maintain health & fitness while minimizing exercise risks associated with pregnancy.


Tonya Ridge

Tonya Ridge

I'm Coach Tonya. I work hard and I expect great things form our athletes. I've been around the fitness industry for a very long time and I can say this for certain: Our members here at The Lions Den are amazing. They work hard, they take pride in their training and never complain. Strength Training and Bootcamps are my thing. I'm always on the floor or in a class. (and you should be too)