How To Modify Your Pull Ups During Pregnancy And Postpartum

June 24, 2021

Pull ups are an exercise that will likely need to be adjusted as you journey through pregnancy and into postpartum in order to optimize your core and pelvic floor health. There is no concrete timeline on when you will need to modify, or if you will need to modify, as every pregnancy is unique. Personally, I started to find them pretty uncomfortable around 20 weeks, so I discontinued a strict, unsupported variation from there on out. While an exercise or the load may not be heavy for you from a muscular perspective, it still creates a lot of force and demand on the core and pelvic floor, which is already under increased stress. Training during pregnancy requires a shift in mindset, when choosing exercises for myself, and my clients, I ask myself: does this support my/their long term performance or just my/their current ego?

When Is It Time To Modify?

It’s time to scale back the movement when you start notice abdominal coning (a bulge at your core that pops out when you exert your core and/or hold your breath) and it can no longer be fixed by refocusing on breath and deep core activation. This means your core is being pushed beyond its current threshold and intra-abdominal pressure is no longer being equally distributed. You also might notice a tugging sensation in your abdomen since your muscles have started to weaken from the growing belly and a shift in your center of gravity. By full term, pregnant bodies will have some degree of diastasis recti & continuing to do these movements could lead to a worsened diastasis or a weakened pelvic floor. I like (and recommend) to err on the side of caution to avoid aggravating a problem that might lead to a longer recovery postpartum.

Additional Signs/Symptoms:  

  • Leakage 
  • Pelvic sensations that are uncomfortable 
  • Pain during or after workout

For postpartum women: allowing your body to heal is priority. If you have signs of doming, coning or pressure or peeing, then regress back and continue building strength before attempting a unsupported, strict pull up.

Modifications To Consider In Your Prenatal Programming:

Leg Supported Pull Up: this variations adds support from your lower body to perform the reps. Thus, taking stress off your core and pelvic floor. However, this is still a somewhat advanced variations and requires enough upper body/back strength to complete.

Inverted Row – can also be done on a TRX. Easier to perform than the pull up, however this does not make it less effective. Using the TRX will allow you to scale back the movement further. As you progress through your pregnancy, you will likely find pulling movements become more comfortable in an upright position. Even though you have modified from the pull up, you will still need to watch for signs of coning/bulging and any pressure on the pelvic floor.

Kneeling Pulldown (Banded). Beginner friendly variation, can also be done seated on bench.

1 Arm 1/2 Kneeling Cable Pulldown: you may find as you get further along into your pregnancy, you have more core control/stability when using 1 arm, over 2. If you notice any rib flaring during a double arm pulldown, this variation is one to try.

Straight Arm Pulldown: can also regress this to a kneeling position. I have shown this variation with one arm, to allow for better control of the movement.

For a more comprehensive approach to training during pregnancy, check out out my online prenatal/postpartum programs

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