Kettlebell use during pregnancy?  Safe or not?

I trained in kettlebells a few years back and I’ve done extra training since.  I love using them myself and most of my clients enjoy working with them too.  Most.  I’ve had some stunning results with kettlebells – watching one of my lovely clients struggle with a basic squat and lunge due to an ankle deformity but absolutely nail a kettlebell swing and snatch sequence filled me with pride and delight – that the body can do so much despite individual differences.  I’ve become a little worried though as a number of well conditioned pregnant clients came my way with separation of the abs.  This is common enough in late stage pregnancy (1 in 3) but when I have clients presenting with separations as early as 12 weeks pregnant it has just got to be the workout – the workout and the hormones – pregnancy hormones. Kettlebell use during pregnancy were the common thread.  I asked around, and tried to find any articles on kettlebell use during pregnancy with research material attached to them.  I wanted more that the regular safety net that PT’s use ‘if your doctor approves then it is ok’.  My first question is ‘does your doctor know what a kettlebell swing is?  Has your doctor analysed the movement considering both the american and russian swing?’  I believe we will never have a definitive answer to ‘are kettlebell swings safe during pregnancy’ for the simple fact that no ethics committee is going to approve testing a hypothesis – yes it is, or no it isn’t.  I could not find anything research based, but I did find this article.

Here’s a quick summary of safe pregnancy exercise guidelines:

  • pregnancy is not a time to explore new weight lifting experiences
  • each stage of pregnancy is different and you may get approval at trimester 1, but you will continue to need clearance to avoid injury
  • lower your weights
  • avoid overhead moves that are dynamic (including the american style swing)
  • avoid breath holding
  • separation of the abdominals is one issue, pelvic floor strain is another

Here are some particularly thorough guidelines around exercising during your pregnancy.

Download them here and perhaps share them with your fitness professional (what you want to hear from them is ‘thanks very much I’ve already read this”)
Personally kettlebell use during pregnancy does not sit well with me when the move is dynamic, heavy, and utilises a lot of core.  The hormone relaxin is the game changer so even if you get clearance you wont be swinging kettlebells during your pregnancy with me.  There are many other safe exercises for the pregnant client.

Make contact if you’d like safe exercise options during pregnancy . . . .