Loaded Movement Training (LMT) is moving in multiple planes and directions under load. It creates a platform for fitness programming that is reflective of what moms actually do as part of their activities of daily life, as well as maintaining integration with the core/pelvic floor. LMT better supports moms because of the ease of adapting to their shifting needs and abilities as the trimesters progress. It can also be adapted to suit the cardio/respiratory conditioning abilities of the pregnant client throughout the trimesters. ViPR facilitates resistance training, mobility, flexibility, agility, and muscular reactivity to truly prepare a woman for the demands of real life, especially if she is a mother to other children while being pregnant. 

Figure 1: Mom-to-be Laura Deitz demonstrates Loaded Movement Training with ViPR

It’s a confusing time to be pregnant in the modern world. From Pinterest to Facebook, pregnant women are surrounded by images of what they ‘should’ look like and how they ‘should’ be exercising at all turns. The information also goes from one extreme to the other: pregnant women are either shown achieving PBs at track meetings, continuing with their CrossFit classes till the bitter end or sitting sedately on Swiss balls and attending aqua natal classes.

For many professionals and non-professionals alike, pregnancy exercise protocols abound with folklore and myths, such as the dangers of working at a heart rate over 140bpm and performing work with arms extended overhead. For many women, this is a time in their lives when they are highly motivated to do what is good for both themselves and their growing baby, and improving their fitness and overall wellness is a high priority. Most want great information on how they can exercise in a way that gets and keeps them strong for the challenges of pregnancy but, equally, is safe for them and their baby and respects the demands that pregnancy is placing on their body throughout the trimesters.

So, what do moms do for most of their day? Lift, pick-up drag, push, pull, bend over – mostly while already carrying a load and then transporting the load – so it follows that when we’re really seeking to create ‘functional training’ for moms during their pregnancy, ideal programming would involve supporting and training their ability to do what it is they simply do. During pregnancy exercise programming, one of our key roles as fitness/wellness professionals is the maintenance of pain-free, integrated movement throughout the trimesters with the major goal of getting the mom prepared for the end of her pregnancy when the load on her system is greatest and, of course, super strong for the demands of labour.

So, enter a progressive ‘thoughtspace’ for truly FUNCTIONAL pregnancy exercise where we’re less inclined to create programmes where moms are sitting on Swiss Balls, breaking their ‘clean and jerk’ PBs, lying down or moving only in ways that don’t really reflect the demands of their daily lives – enter training that is totally focused on training pregnant women to empower them to do what they need to, have to and want to do with ease and confidence

Check out Laura Deitz here at 35 weeks’ gestation moving a 4kg ViPR in ways that will truly prepare her for the demands of her life. She’s pushing and pulling, moving in multiple planes, working high, working low, and integrating functional movement patterns with core and pelvic floor work.

So, as mentioned above, when we start linking the principles of LMT with the ‘exhale on exertion’ principle (exhale on the ‘work’ or concentric phase of the exercise) we can further enhance the synergyistic relationship between the breath and the pelvic floor/core and, furthermore, by loading the myofascial lines and muscular sling systems we’ll also unconsciously load the pelvic floor and its supporting cast to create a fit-for-movement pelvic floor exercise, adding another much-needed layer to Kegels – what a bonus!

How does that work?

Well, movements such as lateral stepping and returning eccentrically load the pelvic floor via the adductors on the way out, and concentric unloading occurs when the woman returns to the start position (muscle movement and hypertrophy principles 101). Hip flexion and extension also have the same load/unload effect for the pelvic floor through the integrated connective tissue system, as does squatting and lunging.

Figure 2: Burrell J, Powell S, Dear L and Nourse P (2011), Functional Movement Versus Kegels  


Figure 3: Vaginal EMG of pelvic floor when performing Kegels (conscious activation) versus a lateral tilt and return (unconscious activation)

Pregnancy is also a time of considerable change from a biomechanical and postural alignment standpoint and ViPR also works as a brilliant ‘release’ tool for all those posture/pain/discomfort hotspots that so many people experience. Without a therapy/bodywork background you may think that you don’t have the skills to ‘de-kink’ your pregnant client, but here you can become the master or mistress of freedom and bring your client some much-needed relief virtually instantly. Contrary to popular myth and general fitness education, most pregnant women are not at the mercy of destablizing pregnancy hormones that render ‘stretching’ a no-no – those with first-hand experience of time in the trenches will testify that a nice bit of bodywork is always well received and hardly ever contraindicated. By considering ‘activity of daily life’ movement patterns and integrated theories that encompass the myofascial and muscular sling systems, we can create ‘release’ programming that truly addresses the changes.

Next time

Look out for Parts 2 and 3 of this blog, where we’ll discuss ‘release’/flexibility strategies for the pregnant client using LMT, LMT and the pelvic floor, and considerations for the client healing a diastasis recti.

Caveats, cautions and contraindications

Certification is a MUST when working with this population. There are no short cuts to offering a safe, effective, and referral-worthy service. Your clients deserve your dedication.