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Pregnancy and Postpartum: Pull Up Progressions

Welcome back, readers! The next progression that we will work through on the rig pertains to pull-ups. As a reminder, modifications are typically made based on an athlete's comfort level, physical abilities, as well as any presence of symptoms that we are modifying for. Some reasons that we may want to modify ourselves or for our pregnant athletes can be due how comfortable they feel performing the skill, how they are physically feeling during their pregnancy, can they perform the exercise and reps, and if they can perform it while maintaining and prioritizing the quality of the movement over speed.

The next reason may be due to aches and pains that they may notice as they progress through their pregnancy, whether it is in their low back, abdomen, pelvis, etc., or if they are noticing any pelvic floor symptoms such as urinary incontinence, pelvic heaviness, or pelvic pain or discomfort. Kipping can be a trigger for pelvic floor symptoms, especially under fatigue, due to the increased force and momentum required to perform this skill. If these symptoms occur it’s important to help ourselves or our athletes find the right modification that allows them to continue to work on these skills and reduce symptom presence as they progress through their pregnancy.

When returning to the gym during postpartum, it is important to pick up where the athlete has left off. So during pregnancy, If an individual started with kipping pull-ups, regressed to strict pull-ups, and continued to regress down to a modified pull-up to a barbell, then, I recommend starting with a modified pull-up to rebuild strength and gradually progress back up to a strict pull-up and then kipping pull-ups. This would allow the athlete to build that foundational strength before adding in increased power and force to kip and reduce the risk of pelvic floor symptoms, such as incontinence, but also orthopedic injuries, including shoulder pain, back pain from being deconditioned in my core, or even increased rips in my hand from lack of grip strength.

Below are some modifications that you can incorporate if you or any of your pregnant athletes are experiencing any of the above struggles or symptoms. The following exercises are written in order from most difficulty to least, allowing athletes to work through them during their pregnancy and postpartum journey. While they are written in a regressed order, modifications can and should be selected based on your or your athletes' preferences, comfort level, symptom modulation, and, of course, ability to perform the skill.

  • Strict Pull-Up

  • Kip From A Box

  • Strict Pull-Up with Single Leg Box Assist

  • Strict Pull-Up with Double Leg Box Assist

  • Modified Pull-Up to Barbell

Still unsure of what to do? Contact us for an assessment to help you learn customized modifications and keep you training. We use a 3 step process to help athletes feel better and move better, which includes:

1. Fixing your pain.

2. Figuring out the root cause.

3. Providing you the necessary tools to get back to being active and not dealing with this



Gingerich, J. & Prevett, C. (2023, April). CMFA: Pregnancy & postpartum [Powerpoint slide]. Institute of Clinical Excellence.

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