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Squat Modifications During Pregnancy

Regardless if you are at a CrossFit gym, barbell club or crunch fitness, one of the staple movements that we see in programming is the squat and that is solely due to the functionality of this movement when it comes to our day-to-day lives. Whether you are squatting down to pick something up off the floor, pick up your child, or squatting to a toilet or chair, it’s a movement that we will perform multiple times throughout the day and has immense benefits when we train it in the gym.

During pregnancy, the body goes through many changes which can alter energy levels, how movements are performed, and/or intensity while exercising. Steadily over the first 7 months of pregnancy, we see a rise in blood volume and stroke volume (Kepley et al., 2023). This cardiovascular change can result in individuals feeling easily winded or fatigued, even just going upstairs due to the increase in work our heart and vascular system is doing to move blood through our body and to the fetus (Prevett & Gengrich, 2022). Along with this, the diaphragm rises, and the rib cage expands upward and outward to accommodate growth of the fetus. These changes ultimately increase how often we are breathing and increase oxygen consumption. As pregnancy progresses, body mass increases, and we see an increase in lumbar lordosis, anterior pelvic tilt of the pelvis, and increased joint laxity around the pelvis (Tan & Tan, 2013). These musculoskeletal changes cause an increased demand on the pelvic floor muscles and hip extensors by changing pelvic and lumbar positioning.

However, because of these natural changes, we may notice female athletes refrain from training squats due to discomfort with an increase in bump size, fatigue or discomfort with movement and prescribed intensity/load/volume, or they may be experiencing pelvic floor symptoms, such as incontinence, pelvic heaviness, or aches and pains in their back, pelvis, or legs. Regardless of the cause, there are modifications we can incorporate to keep training this movement and keep reaping the benefits, such as increased strength, endurance, and even confidence in our bodies.

The first thing we can try is widening our feet and toeing out, especially if we are noticing discomfort with increase in belly size. This creates external rotation at the hip. And allows more room for the baby bump as we squat.

Next, if you notice incontinence or urinary leakage with squatting, we can work on breathing out with exertion and lowering the weight to prevent these symptoms from occurring.

Lastly, if you notice pain with squatting, we can lower the weight or try squatting to a box instead. This will reduce the demands on your pelvic floor muscles as well as back or hips by changing the range of motion (ROM) that your body is taken through.

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.

Kepley, J.M., Bates, K.,& Mohiuddin, S.S. Physiology, maternal Changes. (March 2023). StatPearls

[Internet]. StatPearls Publishing. Available from:

Tan, E.K. & Tan, E.L. (December 2013). Alterations in physiology and anatomy during pregnancy.

Best Practice & Research, Clinical Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 27(6):791-802.

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