Prenatal Pilates

Being pregnant is a wonderful time but it can also leave you feeling physically and mentally less than yourself. Many women want to keep fit and healthy which is not only good for them but it benefits your unborn child too. Fit mamma means healthy baby! So what are some of the advantages of doing Prenatal Pilates exercises?

Prenatal Pilates benefits:

  • Strengthens your core stabilizers
  • Prevents back problems
  • Improves your mobility
  • Improves mood
  • Improves posture
  • Improves energy levels

 

Important muscles to recruit during the exercises:

Pelvic floor engagement:

  • The pelvic floor muscles work in synergy with your transverse abdominis offering stabilization and support of the entire lumbo-pelvic region.
  • Engage by drawing your sitz bones inwards and up towards your pubic bone without moving your pelvis. Should feel a gentle lift away from your underwear. Some say its a feeling of resisting to go the toilet.

Transversus abdominis engagement:

  • TVA muscles act as a girdle around the torso and provide support to the entire area of the torso throughout movement.
  • Engage simultaneously with pelvic floor and imagine you are tightening a corset around your centre. Feel the waist draw in and around keeping a neutral spine.

Both Pelvic Floor and TVA should be engaged with no movement in the spine. The main feeling is one of the muscles moving up and in towards your centre of gravity.

Remember that whilst pregnant your body has a hormone called relaxin running through it. This hormone does just that, it relaxes your ligaments and allows the body to stretch. So strengthening your muscle stabilizers is even more important to create stability and prevent going out of alignment at any stage.

Exercises:

Spine twist

Set-up

  • Sit with your legs crossed and arms out to the side.
  • Neutral spine from your tailbone to the crown of your head.
  • Arms reaching out to the side.

Start:

  • Inhale to prepare.
  • Exhale rotate from your lower rib cage to the crown of your head.
  • Inhale to return.
  • Exhale rotate in the other direction

Repeat: 8 times alternating sides.

 

Mermaid

Set-up

  • Sit with one leg infront in external rotation and the other leg behind in internal rotation.
  • Sitz bones are grounded to the floor as much as possible (dont worry if the back leg sitz bone is slightly lifted).
  • Hip bones and shoulders square.
  • Arms reaching out to your side with neutral spine

Start:

  • Inhale to prepare.
  • Exhale lead from your waist and lower rib cage over toward your front leg into a lateral bend. Keep your hand and arm in line with your body. Resist the floor with your hand and draw your shoulder blades down to stabilize your shoulder girdle.
  • Inhale reach back to the mermaid start using your waist.
  • Exhale laterally bend over to the other side.

Repeat: 8 times alternating each side.

 

Mermaid with hip lift

Set-up:

  • Sit with one leg infront in external rotation and the other leg behind in internal rotation.
  • Sitz bones are grounded to the floor as much as possible (dont worry if the back leg sitz bone is slightly lifted).
  • Hip bones and shoulders square.
  • Arms reaching out to your side with neutral spine

Start:

  • Inhale to prepare.
  • Exhale lead from your waist and lower rib cage over toward your front leg into a lateral bend. Keep your hand and arm in line with your body. Resist the floor with your hand and draw your shoulder blades down to stabilize your shoulder girdle.
  • Inhale hold
  • Exhale lift the hips off the floor and weight onto your supporting arm and knees. Squeeze your bottom muscles. Reach your arm over your head and keep your lower abdominals drawn in.

Repeat: 6 times each side.

 

Spine stretch

Set-up:

  • Sit with your  legs straight or crossed.
  • Sitz bones grounded and tall through  your spine in neutral.
  • Hands interlaced behind your head, elbows slightly forward.

Start:

  • Inhale to prepare
  • Exhale draw in through your lower abdominals as your curl from the crown of your head, ribs over the hips. Create a long “capital C” over your pelvis.
  • Inhale hold.
  • Exhale start to curl up from the your tail to the crown of your head using your abdominals to articulate through the spine.

Repeat: 6 times.

*As your precious bump grows you might be more comfortable sitting with your legs crossed like in option B. Another option is to sit on a chair.

 

Tricep push-ups

Set-up:

  • Hands under your shoulders and legs hip distance extended on your toes.
  • Press your body away from the floor and lift up from your sternum to stabilize your shoulders.

Start:

  • Inhale lower down as low as you can keep your abdominals in and elbows by your side.
  • Exhale press away keeping good form.

Repeat: 8 times

*Lower knees to the floor as a regression. Knees to the floor is the best option to start with if you have never done push-ups before. Another option is to keep your knees under your hips and weight forward as you see in the picture at the end.

 

Book openings

Set-up:

  • Lie on your side with your spine in neutral.
  • Arms infront of you in line with your shoulders.
  • Legs bent and heels in line with your tailbone.
  • Place a pillow or block under your head to keep your neck relaxed.

Start:

  • Inhale reaching your top arm up toward the ceiling.
  • Exhale rotate from your top rib down to the bottom one opening up your chest.
  • Inhale return your arm to the ceiling.
  • Exhale lower your arm to the starting position.

Repeat: 6 times each side.

 

Cat stretch with extension

Set-up:

  • Hands underneath your shoulders, shoulder distance apart. k
  • Knees under your hips, hip distance apart.
  • Neutral spine from the crown of your head to your tailbone.

Start:

  • Inhale to prepare.
  • Exhale draw in your sitz bones and begin to curl the spine from your sacrum to the crown of your head.
  • Inhale leading with your tailbone begin to extend your spine and squeeze between your shoulder blades.

Repeat: 8 times alternating sides.

 

4pt kneeling alternate arm and leg lift

Set-up:

  • Hands underneath your shoulders, shoulder distance apart. k
  • Knees under your hips, hip distance apart.
  • Neutral spine from the crown of your head to your tailbone.

Start:

  • Inhale to prepare.
  • Exhale stabilize through your centre and simultaneously lift opposite arm and leg off the floor.
  • Inhale steadily return.

Repeat: 8 times alternating sides.

 

4pt kneeling hip extension with hamstring squeeze

Set-up:

  • Elbows under your shoulders, shoulder distance and knees under hips, hip distance.
  • Neutral spine from the crown of your head to tailbone.

Start:

  • Inhale prepare
  • Exhale extend one leg towards the ceiling creating a nice line from the crown of the head to your toes.
  • Inhale hold the extension and reach longer.
  • Exhale keeping your knee still in space and bend your leg bringing your heel dorsi flexed to your bottom.
  • Inhale extend leg.
  • Exhale bend leg.

Repeat: 8 times each side.

 

4pt kneeling abductor squeeze

Set-up:

  • Hands under your shoulders, shoulder distance and knees underneath your hips, hip distance.
  • Spine long from the crown of your head to tailbone in neutral.

Start:

  • Inhale to prepare
  • Exhale slightly shift your weight to one side whilst abducting your other leg to your side using your glutes and outer thighs. Keep your hips closed and facing the floor like traffic lights.
  • Inhale lower your leg
  • Exhale lift your leg out to the side again.

Repeat: 8 times alternating sides.

 

The exercises above all strengthen your core stabilizers, especially your oblique muscles and transverse abdominals. Hip extensors such as your glutes and hamstrings help to open up the hips and increase strength to help support your pelvis. More exercises that are beneficial can be found in exercises to get rid of love handles.

Every woman is different and it is important to go at your own pace. I have taught some ladies well into their 3 trimester. Remember there will be good days and bad ones. If you have exercised well before your pregnancy you will be able to do more. If you hardly exercised prior to your pregnancy I would suggest going to a qualified Pilates Instructor to watch and guide you through your Prenatal Pilates exercises.

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