Olympic Weightlifting During Pregnancy
Updated: Sep 8
Much in the world of pregnancy fitness falls into the “can you vs should you” dilemma. Some movements, for example muscle ups or hand stand walks, are more of a concern for safety. Sure, you possibly CAN do those things while pregnant, but risking falling and landing on your stomach just isn’t worth it when there are things you can do instead. Others, like Olympic weightlifting movements, are more for technique preservation.
If you have spent time with Olympic weightlifting, you know all the lifts are highly technical. There’s a reason people new to things like crossfit often struggle with these movements the most. They aren’t just about strength or form, but also about speed and power. Many athletes in the weightlifting world spend years refining their lifts, and hammering the most efficient bar path to be able to move the most weight.
Early on in pregnancy (first and second trimester), it may be very possible to continue training without much effect on bar path. For snatches, if fear of contacting too high in a pull is causing difficulties, a no contact snatch or hip snatch can easily be substituted! Another great option to continue training a similar stimulus to the snatch while eliminating the bar path issue is to swap snatches for a snatch balance! If you are feeling pelvic floor symptoms during a squat snatch, consider performing a power snatch followed by an overhead squat-this decreases the dynamic landing in the catch of a snatch and may be enough to decrease symptoms. If overhead squats continue to be symptomatic, perform power snatches instead!
Cleans can easily be modified as well. If pulling from the floor becomes difficult, hang cleans may be substituted. Trading a squat clean for a power clean + front squat again decreases dynamic forces on the pelvic floor.
As pregnancy progresses, there is just no way to maintain a proper bar path. As the video shows, rather than having a straight up and down bar bath, the bar has to drift away from the body and around the baby bump.
A great way to modify this movement during later stages of pregnancy is to swap the barbell for some dumbbells. This way, you can continue to work strength, and a similar movement pattern, without the risk of ruining any work you have put in prior to pregnancy on form. Dumbbell cleans and dumbbell snatches are a pregnant athlete’s best friend!
Although it’s frustrating to have to modify for potentially 4-5 months depending on how early your bump grows, I can vouch that it is just as frustrating to try to relearn proper mechanics after months of moving with an inefficient, incorrect technique.
Throughout all stages of pregnancy, one thing to consider is fatigue when performing barbell cycling during metcon workouts. While some women feel they are able to maintain proper breathing early on, as they fatigue, they tend to perform transient valsalva breath holding during movements. Paying attention to intensity levels, honing in on breathing, and following the "talk test" rule for determining intensity (you should be able to have a conversation with someone else during exercise, even if it is a breathy conversation) can all help in decreasing overexertion during metcons involving barbell cycling.