When to Stop Doing Barbell Work in Pregnancy

“When should I stop doing barbell work in pregnancy?” This is a question I hear often, and today’s discussion is going to specifically speak to the snatches and cleans.

The answer? As soon as your bump starts to protrude and get in the way of the barbell path.

Cleans & snatches rely on your central nervous system (CNS) for the patterning of the movement. The more you practice the bar path pattern, the more it gets ingrained into your body (and the less you have to consciously think about every single step).

Ever wonder why your coach makes you do rep after rep with a dowel or empty barbell when you are so obviously strong enough to load on weight? CNS patterning. If you can’t nail the patterning down with a dowel, you’re definitely not going to get it when weighted.

So, as soon as you start changing the bar path to accommodate your growing bump, you’re rewiring alllll that hard work and time you’ve put in to make those tiny tweaks to progress your form.

Avoid making it harder on yourself postpartum by having to re-learn the bar path. During pregnancy switch to a single arm dumbbell hang position for cleans and snatches when your belly lets you know it’s time to set the barbell aside for a while. And I promise - it’s temporary, you WILL get back under that bar again.

If dumbbell cleans and snatches aren’t doing it for you, some alternate movements could include:

  • Kettlebell swing: KBS are a dynamic hip-powered movement, so you’re still mimicking some of the skills that cleans and snatches us. Of course it will depend on where you are in your pregnancy, and if swinging a bell around your belly is feasible.

  • Front squats: While not dynamic in nature, front squats are a great alternative since you’re focusing on the foundational squat for a full clean or snatch.

  • Hip thrusts: While not dynamic in nature, they again are a hip-hinge motion, and strengthening glutes during pregnancy can be so helpful to avoid or treat pelvic pain.

  • Anything you want: For real. Your movement substitutions don’t HAVE to mimic what everyone else is doing. If they’re doing cleans, but you feel like your body could really use some chest opening and back strengthening, turn it into some sort of row instead. There are no hard rules when it comes to this.


Talking load in these movements during pregnancy is a whole other discussion for another day😉.

P.S. I’m hosting a core & pelvic floor workshop on February 16th, you can grab your spot here! It’s a week before the CF Open starts, so it’s a great chance to ask me anything you want about the Open during pregnancy or postpartum.