crossfit and pregnancy modifications

Have you been finding yourself googling crossfit and pregnancy 24/7 since you found out you were pregnant?

That was totally me in my first pregnancy and as it turns out there isn’t a lot of great information out there to guide you through continuing to workout thru your pregnancy.

The advice out there is super generic and ranges from “to what you’ve always done” to “don’t do anything!” I hear from women everyday that their OB or midwife has no idea what Crossfit is and has been a little skeptical of them continuing this intense exercise in pregnancy.

As a pregnancy and postpartum athleticism coach I’ve spent the last several years training women through their pregnancies and postpartum chapters. Plus, I’ve experienced 3 pregnancies myself, read more about my personal experience training through pregnancy HERE.

I totally get that exercise is a part of your identity and you want to continue. I also understand that how we train during this chapter must be different.

Pregnancy feels like forever right?

The truth is though that its very temporary. Chances are you want to be one of those grandma’s that is still deadlifting at 75 and in order to make that happen, how we modify exercise in this season of life matters.

I have an entire guide devoted to walk you through how to adjust your training in each trimester of your pregnancy. It’s so much more than exercise modifications alone.

I highly recommend you download your copy of the for free HERE and use it in conjunction with the modifications below.

crossfit and pregnancy modifications

So what about exercise modifications?

Are sit ups ok?
When you should stop running?
Can you keep doing pull ups?


Below I have a few of the most common exercises you’ll want to modify in Crossfit (and general exercise) during pregnancy.

crossfit pregnancy modifications

9 Modifications for Crossfit in Pregnancy

1- Burpees

Early in the second trimester will be a good time to take out regular burpees from your workouts. Your growing belly makes it hard to lay on your stomach, additionally we want to be aware of what your abs are doing during the movement. Going down to the prone (think plank) position can put a lot of pressure on your linea alba (connective tissue between your ab muscles).

Modification 1- Good in the second trimester

Burpees to a box

Modification #2- Good in the 3rd trimester

Seated Ground to Overhead

2- Push Ups

I see a lot of pregnant women doing knee push ups as a modification. This isn’t a bad option, but personally I prefer incline push ups. They are still super challenging and a bit safer for your core.

Watch for: Doming/coning out of your abdomen. If you see this, try raising the incline and breathing through the movement. If you’re still seeing the doming, it’s time to cut push ups. Try seated overhead dumbbell press.

3- Toes to Bar

Toes to Bar is a super dynamic exercise that can put a lot of strain on your core and pressure on your pelvic floor in pregnancy. When exactly you should cut this from your workouts will vary from person to person, but early in the second trimester is a good baseline.

When it comes to a modification, it doesn’t necessarily have to be another core exercise. You could sub a glute exercise or a back exercise, both are important muscle groups to strengthen in pregnancy.

A few substitutions I like that are core specific: Farmer/Suitcase Carries, Palloff Press, Side Plank.

core exercise ideas in pregnancy

4- Sit Ups

I hate sit ups on a normal day, but in pregnancy they are an exercise to avoid beginning in early second trimester. It’s not that you CAN’T do them, physically you probably can, but should you?

Sit ups can put a lot of pressure on your linea alba (connective tissue between your abs) and leave you at risk for a diastasi that doesn’t heal well in pregnancy.

Modification: Glute Bridges, Slam Balls, or any of the toes to bar modifications above

5- Running

Running is another one of those can you vs should you exercises.

Yes you can probably run at 7,8 months pregnant, but should you? Growing a baby puts a lot of pressure on your pelvic floor (the muscle group that holds in your uterus, bladder, and rectum). When you add high impact exercises on top of that its a lot of unnecessary stress on an already stressed system.

I know you want the cardio burn, you can still get it.

Modifications: Rowing and biking

rowing in pregnancy
cardio in pregnancy

6. Snatches & Cleans

When it comes to olympic lifts in pregnancy its not that they are risk for your core and pelvic floor. Instead its the fact that your belly is growing and impeding your bar path. Instead of keeping the barbell tight to your body you have to take it out around your growing belly.

Repeat this over time and you’re going to drill a super inefficient movement pattern that is hard to break postpartum.

Begin to modify when your belly impedes the bar path. This will differ for every woman, somewhere between 16-24 weeks.

Modification: Dumbbell Cleans & Dumbbell Snatches

7. Deadlifts

I love deadlifts! One of my favorite exercises and one that you can continuing doing through pregnancy as long as it feels good.

As your pregnancy progresses you’ll want to modify your stance, in your 3rd trimester you may be more comfortable with kettlebell deadlifts.

Modifications: Sumo Stance and Kettlebell Deadlifts

crossfit pregnancy modifications

Note: When choosing a weight select something that you can lift without holding your breath or bracing your abs.

8. Pull Ups

Being able to pull your body over a pull up bar is the best. It has done wonders for my self confidence and I was bummed when I had to modify pull ups in pregnancy.

However, the amount of demand a pull up puts on the core and pelvic floor is a lot. Personally, I noticed a ton of straining in my abs and pressure in my vagina when doing pull ups as early as 8 weeks.

Again, when you should modify this exercise will vary from person to person, but remember, this is a hard exercise for an already stressed system.

Modifications: Ring rows and Band straight arm pull downs

9. Handstand Push Ups

Flipping upside down is very likely to make you dizzy and a handstand requires a lot of work from your abs. This is a good one to begin to modify early in the second trimester or early if you feel dizzy.

Modifications: Dumbbell Overhead Press (Seated later in pregnancy)

About your damn ego

When it comes to training in your pregnancy, all of these modifications will be super helpful, however the most important thing to get in check in pregnancy is your brain.

If you’re into crossfit and other forms of intense exercise chances are that you have one of those shit talking brains. You know what I’m talking about right?

It says things like:

“You’re not trying hard enough”
“Everyone is finishing faster than you, hurry up”
“You’re losing all the strength you’ve gained”
“That other girl over there is pregnant, and she isn’t modifying”


Your brain, your ego, it wants to run the show, but you my friend are in charge of keeping it in check. This will be the hardest thing you do in pregnancy and chances are you’ll have to calm your ego over and over again throughout.

Remember, this chapter is temporary, you’ll be able to do all the things you love soon enough, but for today, let yourself be pregnant. Modify the movements and trust the process and your body.

If you need a workout plan to tell you exactly what to for workouts in pregnancy, I’ve got you. Brianna Battles and I created The Pregnant Athlete Workout Program to keep you active and safe through your pregnancy. Every workout is designed for the exact stage of pregnancy you’re at, modifications already built in. Get all the details HERE.

crossfit pregnancy program