Movement Insight: Pull-ups During Pregnancy


Can I do pull-ups during pregnancy? 

Should I do pull-ups while pregnant? 


When we say pull-ups we are referring to strict pull-ups, kipping pull-ups, butterfly pull-ups, and you could even throw ring strict and kipping muscle-ups in the mix. 

Pull-ups are a gymnastics movement that requires strength, coordination, and overall awareness. To perform an efficient pull-up, a base level movement called the hollow body must be practiced and achieved in order to perform the movement efficiently. If this movement has not been practiced appropriately, chances are we will have compensation patterns. These compensation patterns will reveal core dysfunction and/or core compensations during pregnancy, especially as our belly grows. 

Make note that as our belly grows our center of gravity shifts. This is a normal adaptation of pregnancy in the female human body. However, there may come a time in which movements that were appropriate and doable at the beginning of pregnancy are no longer appropriate — such as pull-ups. When performing a movement and signs/symptoms of core dysfunction reveal themselves, know that the entire core, including your pelvic floor, has increased demand on it and your body is trying its best to get the task done with a compensation pattern. Training with compensation patterns is not effective or sustainable training. 


What are the signs/symptoms? 

Coning is the most obvious symptom that our entire core section is being taxed beyond its current threshold. Coning is revealing that your intra-abdominal pressure is not being equally distributed throughout the entire core (mid) section. And note, when we say core we mean the entire midsection not just your six-pack ab muscles (rectus abdominis). The linea alba, which is the fascia down the middle of the rectus abdominis, is no longer able to manage the task to its ability. 

By full-term, all pregnant bodies will have some degree of diastasis recti. Continuing to do movements that are no longer appropriate, or ones that enhance the coning, will have a tendency to make diastasis recti exaggerated (or worse) and ingrain bad habits (compensation patterns) into our subconscious. This will require extra healing time. Good thing you know where to get the BIRTHFIT Basics: Postpartum program ;) 


Additional Signs/Symptoms:  

  • Coning 
  • Significant pulling, stretching sensation that is uncomfortable
  • Leakage 
  • Pelvic sensations that are uncomfortable 
  • Cannot do strict pull-ups without coning 


When should you modify pull-ups during pregnancy? 

We choose to start training for the motherhood transition as soon as we find out we are pregnant. We are in season training for birth and an efficient postpartum healing experience. However, please remember that every pregnancy is different as every person came into pregnancy with a different body and different experiences. And the choice is up to you as to when to adapt movements and train intentionally for birth. 

We generally go to strict movements as soon as we pee on a stick and it’s positive. This builds strength and allows us to focus on our breath for each rep. As we said, we are now in season training for birth. We are not training for competitive fitness, the CrossFit games, volleyball, soccer, or track season anymore. We are intentionally training inside the motherhood transition. 

If you cannot do 3-5 strict pull-ups without coning then we’d better not see you doing any gymnastic kipping pull-ups. We let go of butterfly pull-ups and kipping muscle-ups as soon as we find out we are pregnant. Strict muscle-ups are fine if there is no coning but we usually let go of these or move these to seated strict muscle-ups when there is a big belly growth spurt. 


Modifications for pull-ups during pregnancy: Please watch the YouTube Video 

  • As always, go back to the intention of the training session or specific workout within the training session. Are you focusing on volume? Or horizontal pulling? Or vertical pulling? 
  • Ring Rows
  • Standing banded rows 
  • Single-arm row anything 
  • DB rows 
  • Lat pull-downs 
  • Banded Wood Chop 
  • Towel 
  • Banded pull-aparts / face pulls 
  • Standing sled pull 

For a more comprehensive approach to training during pregnancy, check out our BIRTHFIT Online Prenatal Program.


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