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How I Scaled or Modified my CrossFit WODs During Pregnancy

“…be aware that the pregnant body is not the high-performance CrossFit machine you’re used to driving. To protect yourself and your passenger, you don’t necessarily need to get off the fitness expressway. Just downshift out of the fast lane”. Andrea Nitz, The High-Performance Pregnancy

Scaling CrossFit for Pregnancy

Although common sense and listening to your body will always be a top priority, there are also a few specific things that are generally advised when CrossFitting whilst pregnant:

  • Not lying on your back once you get into the second trimester (so blood flow is not cut off to the vena cava) – so I no longer did Bench Press for example, usually scaling to a Bent Over Row or DB Press instead

  • GHD Sit-ups are out. And as for normal sit-ups from approx 20wks gestation (for the above reason, and also so not to risk tearing abdominal muscles), I scaled to Hanging Knee Raises and then again to a plank in the last few weeks when I was getting too much pressure on my abdominals from the HKRs. Again though this will be different for everyone and dependant on your core strength and belly size etc.

  • Max effort / 1RM lifts should be avoided, as too many things can go wrong

  • Rope Climbs & HSPUs are also advised against, especially in later stages, due to the risk of falling. (I scaled Rope Climbs to either just Rope Tie ins or Rope Pulls, and HSPUs to a Push Press)

  • Box Jumps aren’t recommended (also due to risk of falling); however as I personally find box jumps a very comfortable movement with lots of clearance, and wasn’t getting any dizziness or balance issues with them, I continued these right up until a few days before I gave birth.

  • Don’t push to absolute exhaustion, as you can reduce oxygen to baby. You should be able to have a conversation while you are working out – you shouldn’t be gasping for air.

  • Be very mindful squatting below parallel, especially in the later stages of pregnancy. It is usually advised not to squat below parallel, due to the increased relaxin hormone in your body softening your joints and as not to put additional pressure on your pelvic floor.

  • Substitute barbells for dumbbells if your belly starts to get in the way

  • Stay hydrated and drink plenty of fluids and avoid getting overheated

A few other Subs I personally used (and can remember!) that others might find useful:

  • Snatch / Clean – towards the end of my pregnancy I subbed to Hang Power versions of these or hang version with pause and controlled decent squat if lightweight

  • Pull-ups were subbed to Ring Rows when I could no longer do them any more

  • When I could no longer run or row, I did the AirDyne (Assault Bike) instead

  • Push-ups were scaled to Push Ups on a box when the belly started to get in the way

  • Ring Dips were scaled to the dip station and then to box dips as needed

  • Toes to Bar were scaled to Hanging Knee Raises

  • Burpees once it became uncomfortable to get down on my belly were scaled to a kick out only, or on a box

Further Resources on CrossFitting during Pregnancy:

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