Personal Training Pregnant Clients | Prenatal Training Advice
Exercise makes you feel good! We know this, study upon study upon study has revealed the countless benefits that exercise has in reducing aches and pains, improving and stabilizing our moods, improving the effectiveness of system functions such as cardiovascular and nervous systems as well as improved self-esteem and general appearance. These are the reasons that we continually preach to our pregnant clients to motivate them to continue training.
Traditionally, women were warned against exercising whilst pregnant as it was a danger to their unborn child, however, after much research in this area, the benefits far outweigh the myths associated with training whilst pregnant. There are so many changes that happen to the female body while pregnant, not only physical changes but emotional and hormonal changes as well.
Benefits of Exercise for Pregnant Clients
Pregnant clients should be encouraged to continue training throughout their pregnancy but there are things that we, as PT’s need to be mindful of to keep both the mother and the baby’s safety at the forefront of their training programs. A low to moderate intensity training regime has a multitude of benefits to both the mother as well as the health of the unborn baby.
Some of the most beneficial exercises to prescribe to pregnant clients include the following. Always keep in mind your client’s previous physical activity levels.
- Strength training
- Pregnancy specific exercise classes
- Swimming and water aerobics
- Incidental exercise such as climbing the stairs instead of taking the escalators
Mistakes Trainers Make When Coaching Pregnant Clients
Training pregnant clients can be some of the most rewarding work you will do in your personal training career. The added benefit is that the rapport and trust that you have built up with this client during their pregnancy will ensure you have a client for life. These are the clients all personal trainers want.
If you haven’t had much experience working with pregnant clients, despite having the best intentions and doing some reading, you may find yourself making some mistakes, likely without realizing it.
Remember to Share Information with Your Clients – NOT SCARE!
As fitness professionals, we need to educate our pregnant clients with information about their bodies that can help support them in their pregnancy and postpartum journey. It’s important to stay educated yourself on topics such as diastasis recti, pelvic floor dysfunction, incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse. These topics might feel overwhelming, but they are essential for prenatal personal trainers and clients to understand.
One of the most important things to keep in mind when educating a client is to take an approach of sharing, not scaring. Encourage your client to support their body as best as possible, take care of themself, honor what feels good and what does not.
Prenatal personal training isn’t about cutting out all the exercises someone loves to do for the next nine months. It’s about is helping the body function optimally, supporting the body’s changes throughout pregnancy, and preparing your client for postpartum recovery.
Designing Training Programs that Don’t Evolve
There should be noticeable changes in the movement modifications, intensity, reps, and purpose of your exercise sessions through each trimester of pregnancy. Do your client’s workouts look exactly as they did before they were pregnant, even though they are now dealing with all-day sickness in their first trimester? Are they doing things like squat jumps for interval training in the third trimester? What is the purpose of each exercise you include in a training program and how does each exercise fit into the big picture? It’s critical to adapt to the needs of your pregnant client based on how they are feeling every step of the way.
Establish a Balance Between More and Less Intense Exercises
Strength training is absolutely encouraged in pregnancy. The loads your client uses for many exercises will likely need to get lighter as their body changes but do know that moderate lifting is safe for pregnant clients who have been approved by their doctor. Cardiovascular exercise and interval training workouts can be performed all throughout pregnancy if that is something your client wants to do and you are programming the specific workout to suit their body’s needs during every phase of their pregnancy. Establish a balance between more and less intense exercises throughout each week. Determine how many times a week your client truly enjoys exercising and then fill in the gaps with lots of body movement on the other days.
Learn as Much as You Can About Pregnancy
What is the body going through cardiovascularly, musculoskeletally, and hormonally in pregnancy? How will this affect your exercise programming? While you don’t need to go to graduate school to coach pregnant clients, you do need to learn about what the body goes through during pregnancy.
Learn about the changes to the abdominal wall, the support structures of the pelvic floor, and how the hormonal changes affect the joints of the body. Understand that energy levels can change throughout pregnancy, that morning sickness can last all day long, and that your client might not even be able to think about eating a vegetable or piece of meat.
Pay Attention to Your Client’s Body Alignment and Breathing
In pregnancy strength training it’s common for the body to not be in optimal alignment to support the core and pelvic floor. You will likely see your client’s ribcage thrusting upwards or their bottom and tailbone tucked under, or a combination of both. Make sure your client “stacks” their ribcage over their pelvis especially with weighted exercises. This alignment is equally optimal in strength training exercises, interval training, and basic core work.
In terms of breathing, first, ensure that your client actually is breathing while performing an exercise! Watch that they are not holding their breath, especially when under load and while lifting. While holding the breath is a common technique during heavier lifting for non-pregnant lifters, in pregnancy it is unlikely to help support or improve core and pelvic floor support in most bodies.
Cue your client to exhale on exertion. This means that they will exhale as they do the toughest part of the exercise. For example, cue them to start their exhale breath before they pull a deadlift and continues it through the top of the pull. Similarly, when performing a dumbbell chest press, they should start their exhale before they push the weights upwards and continues until the weights are overhead.
This breathing technique can help to support and better manage the intra-abdominal pressure created when working with heavier loads.
Effective and safe prenatal personal training requires attentive coaching, smart program design, an understanding of the stress that your client’s body undergoes in pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. Avoid these mistakes and you will help your clients have more comfortable pregnancies and strong postpartum recoveries
Continuing Your Training and Coaching Education
Check out what it takes to start a career in personal fitness training. This is your most affordable and fastest way to become a highly qualified personal trainer.
Is your recertification coming up? Learn more about earning your CEU credits. You can find the full list of CEU courses here.
There is always something exciting about earning a new training or coaching certification and applying that new knowledge of how you train your clients. This also helps you hit the reset button.
NESTA coaching programs are open to anyone with a desire to learn and help others. There are no prerequisites.
That’s it for now.