Crossfit Mama Knows Squat

It was not intended to cause an uproar when Lee-Ann Ellison posted a photo of herself squatting a heavy weight during pregnancy.

But it sure did.

It caused a flurry of uneducated but passionate people spouting wives tales all over the internet.

There are definitely things that you should not do during pregnancy to keep the baby safe: things that promote prolonged intense shortage of oxygen and nutrients (racing), things that put the baby at risk of direct injury (horse back riding, skiing), and things that we just aren’t so sure about (scuba diving).

There are also things that put the mother at risk: things like heavy lifting (orthopaedic injury & passing out).

In terms of Lee-Ann putting anyone at risk, I’d say she put herself at risk. But then, looking at the photo, I’d say she knows better.

The slurry of insults and objections came from people who maintained their fitness through prenatal water aerobics and walking. There’s nothing wrong with either exercise but we’re talking apples and oranges. For my first pregnancy I picked up a massive pile (that would have probably infuriated half the people on the forums) of books from the library on “exercising during pregnancy”. Walking, stretching and gentle swimming… that’s really not going to maintain my fitness level. And it probably wouldn’t maintain Lee-Anns.

I work with postnatal ladies all the time in my fitness career. They have zero core stability or functional strength to actually take care of a child. Injuries abound.

The one concern that has any medical merit from the articles I read was about “placental abruption” – which occurs in about 1% of all pregnancy. That sounds bad. However, heavy lifting is not cited as a risk factor in any real medical literature outside of ladies that have job that include heavy lifting AND heavy chemical exposure.

It’s not as if she is saying that all pregnant women should be overhead squatting 90lbs. That would be unsafe. She saying that she did it. And it was safe. Just as not all women would be safe running or even walking briskly. There is great variance in fitness levels and talents. But just because I can’t imagine squatting that much weight pregnant, doesn’t mean that I can’t draw inspiration from the fact that this lady can. It gives me a little more drive to keep moving as my waist expands.

Either way, this is not my decision to make. This is a decision that Lee-Ann has made based on years of getting to know the capabilities of her own body and two previous pregnancies. And I am sure it has been made in conjunction with professionals in the industry.

Pregnancy is not a time to push yourself, but it is a time to keep going, your baby’s health depends on it.

Click to access Abruption.pdf

Published by Yo Mama So Fit

Coach, obstacle athlete, runner and mother to Amelita and Seren.

2 thoughts on “Crossfit Mama Knows Squat

  1. Having suffered a placental abruption, I can’t dismiss it as easily as this article does. On top of which, crossfit makes me immediately think of rhabdo, which is something that doesn’t go at all well with pregnancy. I can imagine this woman did cause quite an uproar with these photos.

    1. Thanks Terry!!

      Placental abruption is absolutely very serious and 1% is a high number for such a serious complication. I’ve just yet to find any research that links heavy lifting to it… yet almost every forum does. I am not sure there is usually an identifiable cause. Again on forums, ladies search for what object they picked up that caused it (a bag of flour? a pumpkin? my toddler?) and I think the blame is unfounded based on what I know of it. It just seems wrong to have so much discrepancy.

      Agreed. There is definitely a big problem if you push yourself during pregnancy to the point of rhabdomyolysis. Again, pregnancy is really a bad time to push yourself and totally irresponsible – especially for a prolonged period. My support for her comes from the fact that I really don’t think she’s pushing herself that hard (at least by the photos). I think she can just pretty comfortably lift way more than me.

      In terms of rhabdomyolysis and crossfit, I really would like to see some research or at least statistics come out. It is certainly dangerous enough and there is enough anecdotal evidence that people and trainers should be weary – but at the same time, I am not sure it wasn’t overstated in the “Dirty Little Secret” article. It does seem like a disproportional amount of the people affected by it are beginner exercisers (who should be building a solid base before approaching such an intense workout program) but who knows! I can’t find any stats. Trust me, I am far from a Crossfit fanatic and I have seen first-hand the dangers it presents (which are many) but I think overall they’ve got something right in terms of people needing more functional, and more intense, movement. There are still heaps more problems with people dying of preventable sedentary diseases. It may have swung too far, but Crossfit probably has still saved more lives (especially by getting weightlifters and sedentary men to take on more heart healthy cardio) than it has lost them.

      But I get you and you make a very good point about taking things too far. Thanks for the reply!

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