Best Exercises for When You Are on Your Period

If you exercise regularly, you likely have trained during your period. You may have noticed increased fatigue or reduced performance, especially before your cycle begins as well as during the first few days of menstruation. Although being consistent with exercise is a good idea, taking a step back during your period is also understandable.

Many women experience symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, bloating, and cramping that make exercising feel more difficult and much less appealing. But staying active if you are up to it, can actually help reduce these symptoms.

Knowing which exercises may help relieve some of the symptoms you experience during your period can help you continue to be active if you want to. As well, there are hormonal changes and even advantages to certain exercises during this time of the month.

Be sure to contact your healthcare provider if you experience symptoms—whether physical or psychological—that interfere with your ability to perform your daily activities.

How Your Period Affects Exercise

Your first day of menstruation is considered day one of your cycle. For an average 28-day cycle, ovulation is typically on day 14, dividing the cycle into the follicular phase before ovulation and the luteal phase after ovulation. When you are on your period, the hormones progesterone and estrogen are at their lowest point in the cycle. This change can cause lethargy and lack of motivation.

Not everyone's cycle will be the same, and the differences between each cycle and person are common. You may also not experience fatigue or other adverse symptoms before or during your period. Some others may experience much worse effects making even daily tasks a challenge.

Possible effects that you may experience include a decrease in endurance and stamina which can greatly impact your performance during training. Typical symptoms such as cramping, bloating, fatigue and headaches can obviously interfere with both the will and enjoyment of exercise as well.

During this time, choosing lower intensity activities that help relieve symptoms and focusing on form rather than maximum effort and performance may be best. This is true regardless of your physical symptoms because mood changes and motivation may wane as well. Be kind to yourself and allow a break from the more intense activities if you are not feeling up to the task.

Several studies demonstrate opposing findings when it comes to how the menstrual cycle affects training aspects such as power output, time to fatigue, and strength. Researchers stress that adapting training to your individual needs is best as each menstruating person will feel differently. Most studies examine the differences between the luteal and follicular phases.

Many people will start to feel more energetic and strong shortly after their period begins—around day 3. If this is the case for you, step up the intensity of your workout if you feel up to it.

Watch out for heavy bleeding combined with activity during your period.

Females are at a higher risk of iron deficiency, especially if they are active. This fact combined with heavy menstruations can lead to anemia. If you have heavy periods, discuss this with a healthcare provider along with any other symptoms you may have.

If you want to create a workout plan during your period, the following exercises are excellent choices. However, everyone will feel differently, so adjust by leaving any movements out that do not feel right. You should always come away from your training feeling better than before, so keep that in mind when working out during your period (or any time of the month!)

Also, be sure to warm up before any workout thoroughly. Use dynamic, active warm-up movements. Then, you can proceed with the following exercises in order. The ideal repetitions and sets are outlined for each exercise, but you should adjust to how you feel before and during the workout.

This is a full-body workout you can do 2 to 3 times during the week. Be sure to rest between lifting sessions. Add in light cardiovascular activity after your lifting routine or on your rest days for an active rest session that can also combat some of the side effects you feel on your period.

1

Squats

woman performing the barbell squat

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Target your quadriceps and glutes, as well as your core with the barbell squat. If you are feeling up to it, a compound exercise like barbell squats is excellent during your period.

If you are not feeling energetic, take the time to work on your form rather than trying to lift heavier than usual. You can always perform squats with dumbbells or even bodyweight to take the intensity down dramatically.

However, some studies show that greater strength and power gains may be realized during this week, so it might be a good time to push the weight if you are feeling strong. Just balance the weight you lift with the intensity, scaling back on the number of repetitions and increasing the rest time between sets.

Try three sets of three to six repetitions with 3 to 5 minutes of rest between sets.

2

Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press

woman performing dumbbell shoulder press seated

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The dumbbell shoulder press is a movement that should be performed slowly and with control to avoid injury to the shoulder joint. It is a perfect upper body exercise to add to your week during your period.

You can perform low volume, low-intensity dumbbell shoulder presses while seated. This may feel better if you experience a heavy feeling in your vagina during this time of the month.

Aim for three sets of six to eight repetitions with 2 to 3 minutes rest in between sets.

3

Push-Ups

woman performing push up against bench

LeoPatrizi / Getty Images

Push-ups are a compound bodyweight exercise that focuses on the chest muscles but will also help strengthen your entire core, including your back and deep stabilizing abdominal muscles.

If you don't have a lot of energy for a long workout, compound movements that work multiple body parts will make your workout more efficient and effective.

Try slow and controlled push-ups, focusing on form. Because everyone's ability to perform push-ups is different, perform three sets of as many reps as you can before you feel only two more are possible before your form will fail.

Going slow with control during pushups will help work your core muscles too, which may not feel great to target with specific isolated ab exercises like crunches during your period. If you find traditional push-ups too challenging, try performing them against a bench or wall instead.

4

Romanian Deadlift

woman performing stiff legged deadlift

Brit Worgan / Getty Images

Round out your strength training workout with the stiff-legged or Romanian deadlift, which will target your hamstrings and glutes.

The Romanian deadlift is less taxing than a traditional barbell deadlift and can be performed with a barbell or dumbbell. Try three sets of six to eight repetitions, with 2 to 3 minutes rest between sets. Go slow with control and focus on form.

5

Single Arm Dumbbell Row

woman performing single arm dumbbell row on bench

ciricvelibor / Getty Images

The final exercise in this workout is the single-arm dumbbell row. It is a back exercise but will also work your rear shoulder and your core to a lesser extent.

It will likely feel more comfortable to do this exercise with one knee on a bench during your period. You can either lay the bench flat or on an incline to rest your non-working arm and leg for support.

Working one side at a time will lower the intensity of the row movement while allowing you to really concentrate on your form during the movement. Try three sets of six to eight repetitions with 2 to 3 minutes of rest between sets.

6

Light Cardio Active Rest

woman swimming in pool

Uwe Krejci / Getty Images

Perform light cardio after your strength training session if you are feeling up to it and/or on your off-days as active recovery.

Active recovery with light aerobic activity can help combat muscle stiffness and soreness while simultaneously reducing symptoms such as cramping.

Cardio Options

Safety and Recovery Tips

Everyone's experience with working out on their period will be different and can change month-to-month. The important factor is to listen to your body and give yourself grace if you need to take a break from activity during this time.

There are no exercises that are considered off-limits during menstruation, but you may feel fatigued easier, leading to the possibility of poor form and injury. Be sure to back off when you need to and err on the side of caution by performing less volume and intensity.

Pay close attention to how you feel in terms of energy levels, making sure you get enough sleep, high-quality nutrition, and recovery time. Continuing to be active during your period can help keep you on track and combat some side effects, but it is not wise to push too hard when you do not feel the most energetic or motivated. Focus on self-care, restoration, and recovery instead.

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