Pull-ups. It took me a long time to master them and now I’m nearly back at square one! You see the thing is this, early on in my pregnancy I watched a YouTube video of an incredibly fit pregnant woman performing unassisted pull-ups at 9 months of pregnancy. The lady in the clip was pretty amazing: 9 months pregnant and still easily performing 24 kipping pull-ups! So, when I saw this I thought to myself – excellent, at least my pull-ups will still stay strong throughout my pregnancy. Sure, I may not be doing 24 of them at my 9 months mark – but hey, I’ll be happy with a straight 10 in a row.
Rule number one: never compare your ability to weighted vest for calisthenics another’s! (At least not whilst you’re pregnant). Whilst this super-fit mamma flies through her pull-ups no problem, I have noticed that gradually as each month ticks on for me I am struggling more and more with my pull-ups. And that’s okay! Well, frustrating yes, but a temporary frustration that makes both Crossfit and pregnancy combined, a humbling experience for me. This week we did a WOD that involved a lot of pull-ups, and having gone from doing pull-ups with no band to a yellow band (at around the 12-week mark), I strapped up my yellow band the bar as per usual. I proceeded to fly through my pull-ups no problem until I literally bounced off the band at pull-up number 5. It just wasn’t happening. I felt heavy, I was out of breath, I felt like my tummy was being stretched too much – altogether it just felt wrong. I grabbed a band of a higher resistance level (the band I first used over a year ago to learn how to do kipping pull-ups), and immediately felt comfortable again. 5 pull-ups became 10, and so on…
Later that day I posted my frustration at my rapidly-declining pull-up strength, on Facebook. A friend commented, saying I shouldn’t forget I’m technically doing pull-ups with an added weight vest on now (currently an extra 6 kgs). I really liked that analogy and it got me thinking: perhaps going back to basics with my pull-ups at this gradually-increasing body weight, will actually make me stronger when I return to my pre-pregnancy pull-up form?! Probably not, probably a skewed logic on my part however, it’s a nice little thought that I’ve been toying with this week; a thought that seems to make me feel a little more heartened when I get frustrated at my efforts!:)
Toes to bar is another tricky exercise, although a movement I haven’t encountered much struggle with to this point. Currently, because my tummy isn’t too pronounced, I have no difficulty in getting my toes to touch the bar. I can definitely feel the extra weight and the extra effort required to get them up there yet it’s not causing me any discomfort at this stage. I can do about six toes to bar in a row (half the amount I could do pre-pregnancy), and feel that in two weeks time I’ll probably switch over to knees to elbow. The most important things to keep in mind when doing any movement on the bars during pregnancy, are safety, balance and keeping your movements controlled. Depending on the distance of your gym’s bars to the floor, you may want to use a box to step onto to help you reach the bars instead of jumping from the ground. The last thing you want is to jump for the bars, lose your grip and fall to the ground! Keeping a controlled kip is also important as so many joints and muscles are loosened during pregnancy due to the release of many different hormones, and it can be very easy to pull a muscle. When on the bars I personally try and stay focused on engaging both my core and scapula (shoulder blade) so that I don’t lose form and pull a muscle in my abs or neck. Whilst the scapula may seem like it doesn’t have a very significant role, it in fact helps coordinate all the surrounding muscles (about 18 of them) to keep the shoulder moving correctly, as well as helping to stablise the neck when the shoulder has to move. So, respect that scapula!