CrossFit While Pregnant: The 6 Best Exercises For During Pregnancy

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends maintaining a consistent exercise routine during your pregnancy, and research has found that working out while pregnant benefits not only maternal health but the health of the growing fetus as well.

However, not all types of exercise are necessarily safe while pregnant.

Therefore, common questions become, can you do CrossFit while pregnant, and are CrossFit workouts during pregnancy safe? What are the best CrossFit exercises for pregnancy? What CrossFit exercises should be avoided while you are pregnant?

In this guide, we will discuss whether you can do CrossFit while pregnant, the benefits of CrossFit during pregnancy, and important safety tips and CrossFit pregnancy modifications to employ to protect not only your own body but also the body and healthy development of your growing baby.

We will look at: 

  • Can You Do CrossFit While Pregnant?
  • What Are the Best CrossFit Exercises During Pregnancy?
  • Can You Do Burpees During Pregnancy?
  • How Should I Modify CrossFit While Pregnant?

Let’s get started!

A pregnant belly.

Can You Do CrossFit While Pregnant?

If you are a diehard CrossFitter, and you are expecting a baby, one of the first questions you might have after celebrating the joyous news of your pregnancy is: “Can I do CrossFit during pregnancy?“ 

So, is CrossFit safe during pregnancy?

As with most types of exercise, there isn’t a straightforward yes or no answer to whether it is safe to do CrossFit workouts during pregnancy.

The good news is that it is generally possible to do CrossFit while pregnant as long as you’re having an uncomplicated pregnancy and are cleared by your physician to work out.

However, although an increasing number of women are doing CrossFit while pregnant, given the high-intensity nature of the workouts, there are some important CrossFit pregnancy modifications to ensure your safety when combining the physical demands of CrossFit and pregnancy.

Therefore, while you can likely continue doing CrossFit workouts while pregnant, you will also probably need to make some adjustments and modifications to your CrossFit workouts during pregnancy.

A pregnant woman stretching.

This may involve adjusting the CrossFit workouts themselves to be shorter, less frequent, or lower intensity, as well as changing up or modifying certain CrossFit exercises while pregnant and/or avoiding certain CrossFit exercises during pregnancy altogether.

It is also important to keep in mind that pregnancy is an ever-changing process over nine months.

This means that what might work in terms of CrossFit and pregnancy at one point in your pregnancy journey may not work in a different trimester or even a different day or week within the same trimester.

That said, there are some general guidelines for CrossFit and pregnancy for each trimester as overarching recommendations.

However, it is always of the utmost importance to listen to your body rather than any “CrossFit and pregnancy guidelines.”

You are an individual, and your own body and needs during pregnancy are all that matter in terms of doing CrossFit while pregnant in your own life.

A pregnant woman on an elliptical machine.

Factors such as your body size, fitness level prior to becoming pregnant, CrossFit experience, type of CrossFit workouts and exercise you are doing, stage of pregnancy, overall health condition, and how your body is feeling while pregnant will all affect the best CrossFit pregnancy recommendations for you.

The good thing about CrossFit workouts is that they are scalable, which means that you can modify CrossFit during pregnancy to better meet your body’s changing needs.

Excessive running, jumping, and high-impact exercise may be contraindicated during pregnancy for many women.

While some vigorous CrossFit workouts fall under this type of exercise, there are CrossFit pregnancy modifications for workouts in general, as well as specific CrossFit exercises while pregnant that will make your workouts safer.

Let’s look at some of the best CrossFit pregnancy exercises and worst CrossFit pregnancy exercises that should either be avoided altogether or modified.

What Are the Best CrossFit Exercises During Pregnancy?

Here are some of the best CrossFit exercises during pregnancy:

A person on a rowing machine.

#1: Rowing

Rowing is one of the fundamental CrossFit cardio exercises.

This is a great CrossFit workout while pregnant because it is low impact but strengthens your entire body.

In the final trimester, you may have trouble using the full range of motion leading up to the catch position at the front of the rowing machine due to the size of your belly, but generally speaking, pregnancy CrossFit rowing workouts are fantastic for most stages of the journey.

#2: Overhead Squats

Another good CrossFit pregnancy exercise is the overhead squat.

Make sure you are squatting with good form, and sit your hips back so that you do not bother your knees as your body weight increases during pregnancy.

Your knees should not be traveling forward beyond your toes.

If the exercise starts to get too hard in the later stages of pregnancy, decrease the weight that you use or hold a dowel or unweighted rod above your head.

A squat.

One CrossFit pregnancy modification for this exercise is to perform the overhead squat in a Smith machine if you have difficulty balancing, particularly in the later stages of pregnancy.

Instead of using free weights and having to balance yourself, the Smith machine will keep the barbell tracking in a fixed plane of motion, and there are built-in safeties so you can drop the weight if it becomes too hard.

#3: Push-Ups

It’s hard to get through a CrossFit workout without doing at least a handful of push-ups, but the good news is that you can continue this CrossFit exercise while pregnant.

As your belly grows, you may not be able to get as deep with your push-ups, or you may need to elevate your hands up on a bench or plyo box so that there is not only space for your growing abdomen but also the relative resistance on your body decreases.

It becomes much harder to move your body weight when you have the added weight gain from pregnancy and a growing baby!

Elevated push up.

#4: Thrusters

The barbell thruster or a dumbbell thruster exercise is a mainstay in CrossFit training.

This CrossFit pregnancy-friendly exercise should be safe throughout the entire journey of your pregnancy in most cases.

Plus, it’s a great way to rev your metabolism by working all of the major muscles of your body and increasing your heart rate.

#5: Sled Drags

It may seem counterintuitive when considering CrossFit while pregnant to include sled drags as one of the viable CrossFit pregnancy exercises.

After all, sled drag runs are metabolically taxing and require tremendous power, strength, and explosive speed.

However, the weighted sled actually slows you down and can reduce the impact of regular sprinting.

For this reason, the sled drag CrossFit exercise can be safe during pregnancy for most women.

Of course, if you are experiencing any sort of pain with running or pulling, you should not do sled drags.

A fan bike.

#6: Airdyne Bike

Like the rower, a great CrossFit pregnancy exercise is the fan bike, also known as an Airdyne or Assault Bike.

This low-impact cardio exercise works the lower and upper body because of the handles.

The benefit of Airdyne pregnancy CrossFit workouts is that this type of cardio machine is not only joint-friendly but also all about relative effort, and you don’t have to worry about choosing certain resistance levels; you simply pedal based on feel.

Can You Do Burpees During Pregnancy?

Many women looking for CrossFit pregnancy tips and wondering if CrossFit and pregnancy are compatible in any way ask, “Can I do burpees during pregnancy?”

Burpees are a staple CrossFit exercise and a great way to torch calories and work almost every single major muscle in your body.

As mentioned, there are no hard and fast rules about CrossFit while pregnant, and every expectant mother trying to combine pregnancy and CrossFit will have a different experience.

A burpee position.

While it cannot be said that you cannot do burpees while pregnant, it is often necessary to modify CrossFit burpees for pregnancy.

While pregnant, the main risk of this CrossFit workout is ramming your belly into the floor during the push-up component and the high-impact jump.

A good CrossFit pregnancy modification for burpees is to perform the exercise in front of an elevated plyo box.

Perform the normal squat, using good form to sit your hips all the way back.

Instead of dropping your hands to the floor and jumping your feedback, place your hands on the elevated plyo box and step your feet back to perform a push-up there.

If jumping is uncomfortable or if you have loose ligaments in the pelvis or pain in the round ligament, skip the jump altogether and bring your arms straight up overhead. 

Otherwise, perform a little hop before beginning the next squat.

A pregnant woman working out.

How Should I Modify CrossFit While Pregnant?

In addition to modifying burpees, there are plenty of other ways in which you will probably need to modify CrossFit during pregnancy.

Again, the necessary CrossFit pregnancy modifications will depend on your stage of pregnancy, level of fitness, type of CrossFit workouts and exercises you are doing, and how your body is feeling.

Exercises like double unders often need to be substituted for basic kettlebell swings or other forms of cardio like the rowing machine or Airdyne bike.

You will likely need to lower the weights of the kettlebells you use for kettlebell swings and most barbell exercises.

If your balance becomes poor, doing CrossFit workouts at the gym, where you have access to a Smith machine, is ideal so that you have the balance built in. 

Otherwise, you should switch to dumbbells instead of barbells and focus on bilateral exercises like squats instead of unilateral exercises like lunges and split squats so that you have a wider base of support and less inherent need to balance your body.

A sled pull.

With squats and deadlifts, it can be helpful to use a sumo squat position, which means that you can turn your feet outward about 15° so that there is more room in the hips and pelvic area for your belly in the later stages of pregnancy.

During snatches and cleans, you will have to change the path of the barbell as your belly grows, so a good CrossFit pregnancy modification is to use dumbbells because it is easier to bring them out to the side separately around your tummy without changing your form or hyperextending your back.

Here are a few CrossFit exercises to avoid while pregnant:

  • Box jumps: the risk of falling is too high
  • Rope climbs
  • Anything that involves lying on your back after the first trimester
  • Kipping pull-ups due to the increased laxity of the ligaments during pregnancy and the strain that this exercise places on your shoulders
  • Max lifts or max efforts
  • Handstand push-ups or any inversions

It can also be helpful to wear a belly band when doing CrossFit during pregnancy to help provide a little bit of additional support to the lower abdomen.

Overall, aside from speaking with your OB/GYN, the best advice for CrossFit while pregnant is to listen to your body, scale back in intensity and volume, use lighter weights, slow down, and enjoy being active in this season of your life.

Also, understand that you won’t be hitting your CrossFit PRs right now, but you can get back at it after you have recovered from giving birth.

For more tips about working out while pregnant, check out our guide to running during pregnancy here.

A glute bridge.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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