Training Log

Starting Strength in the Real World

My Approach to Training and Pregnancy

by Staci Rudnitsky, SSC | June 10, 2016

staci rudnitsky squats while pregant

Imagine trying to write programming for an upcoming meet – except you don’t know exactly when the meet will be, or where. You’re fairly certain that you know what lifts will be contested, but other than that, you know next to nothing.

That’s pretty much what training during pregnancy was initially like for me. As much as I thought I knew about training myself, at the very beginning I just felt lost.

As someone accustomed to setting a goal and subsequently following a specific training program, I quickly realized that I needed to let go of my performance expectations. Once I learned to concentrate on the quality of the movement and how my training contributed to my overall well-being in and out of the gym, it was relatively smooth sailing for the months that followed.

I developed a set of rules to follow, the primary one being that if it didn’t feel good, I didn’t do it. To this day, this is the number one principle I adhere to with the pregnant women I train. The rest of my rules followed a similar theme: if there was any discomfort or any doubt, it wasn’t performed. But overall, I found that there was no need to be concerned with “overdoing” it. The body is fairly self-regulating, and as much as I thought I may have wanted to, I wasn’t able to push the intensity excessively during pregnancy – certainly not dangerously. The trick was to listen and adjust accordingly.

As my pregnancy progressed, sets of 5s quickly transitioned to triples, and by the 34th week (the last week I trained the barbell lifts), I was primarily doing heavier singles, followed by higher sets of lighter weights to add volume when I was feeling ambitious. Deadlifts were dropped at about 24 weeks (I wasn’t big yet, but I just wasn’t comfortable pulling from the floor) and replaced by RDLs and Rows. 

Training days followed the basic structure of the Novice Linear Progression of Squat/Press/Pull, but weight selection was fluid and based on how my warm-ups felt. On good days, I’d go fairly heavy (I even PRed my overhead press while at the SSCA Convention in Wichita Falls at 27 weeks). On days when I was beat, they stayed lighter. If anything felt really wonky, I would substitute dumbbell or bodyweight variations.

But for the most part, I didn’t focus on the weights or the volume – I approached each day in the gym as an opportunity to continue to use my body and stay connected to the sport I loved. 

Training the pregnant client (yes, even if that client is YOU), requires an open mind, flexibility, and an appreciation that your body is already doing the hard work – everything else is just icing on the cake.  

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