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How to do Pull Ups During Pregnancy

When we talk about pregnancy exercise, we usually create false dichotomies around "safe" exercises and "unsafe" exercises.


The truth is, it's more of a continuum.


Pregnancy is dynamic, and requires modifications throughout to account for the physiological and anatomical changes.


These changes don't happen overnight, they are imperceptible from one day to the next.


So many women are fearful when they enter their first trimester - the assumption is that there are certain exercises that are dangerous and must be stopped immediately.


Besides scuba diving and contact sports, this isn't the case.


To illustrate my point: Pulls Ups During Pregnancy


The major problem that pull ups pose during pregnancy: they are very high demand on the anterior abdominal wall.


As the abdominal wall gets stretched out, its ability to cope with that demand is compromised.


Another question that I commonly get is: are planks safe during pregnancy? You can read more about that here.













Here's a video demonstrating how you might modify the pull up movement from trimester to trimester:



Guidelines for performing pull ups during pregnancy:


FIRST TRIMESTER


If you can already do pull ups, you can continue, since your anterior abdominal wall won't yet be affected (i.e. you don’t yet have a belly)


Don't be disheartened if your strength decreases dramatically (from 10 to 5 pullups) - muscle changes during pregnancy is inevitable, and there are already changes in your connective tissue that may dictate your force production.


If you can't yet do pull ups, now probably isn't the time to start. Building strength during pregnancy is very difficult. Stick to rowing variations or pulldowns.


SECOND TRIMESTER


As you start to show, the demand on your abdominal muscles may become detrimental. Switch to a rowing variation that is lower demand on the abs (there's no shame in doing this earlier if you need to).


In the above video, I demonstrate an inverted row - but there are other options too (TRX row, standing row, supported dumbbell row).




THIRD TRIMESTER


Your enormous belly will likely start becoming quite cumbersome when getting in and out of certain positions, and you may notice significant decreases in strength.


Not to mention you will likely weight 10-15 kilos more than you did at the beginning of your pregnancy!


There will also be considerable strain on your abdominal muscles as your belly will likely be quite large.


Instead of pull ups, prioritize rowing and pulling variations that are easy to get in and out of (adjustable cables are 👌). Consider incorporating single-arm variations as they may require more work from your core as a stabilizing unit.


It's hard to find the middle ground between being overly fearful and keeping yourself strong and fit, but there is a middle way filled with delicious nuance when it comes to pull ups during pregnancy, and working out in general.


If you're looking for some ideas around returning to fitness after giving birth, check out my best postpartum workout tips here!


Have more questions around pull ups, or training during pregnancy?

Grab my free pregnancy mobility routine that's full of guidance and more tips!







Hi, I’m Jen, a Pregnancy and Postpartum Fitness Specialist who seeks to help women stay fit and strong during this chapter of their lives with evidence-based exercise and nutrition strategies - with none of the usual mummy BS

Join my online programme: Strong Pregnancy for a month-by-month exercise programme that helps you stay fit, strong and mobile.

I also have a postpartum programme: The Complete Postpartum Programme and offer online coaching.

I’ve got some incredible content on the gram for you