Pilates is such an incredible exercise to do when you are pregnant or postnatal. It will strengthen muscles to help support postural changes, bring awareness and strength to deeper core muscles and pelvic floor plus it will help to build overall strength, endurance and flexibility to prepare for the physicality of child birth and child care. Another benefit is it will provide an overall understanding and awareness of the power of breath!
These are my top 5 exercises to do either in pregnancy or during the postnatal phase (after you have had the 6 week clearance from your health care professional).
1. Dead Bugs
How to – Lie on your back or if you are pregnant (past 16 weeks) prop yourself up on your elbows. Feet are flat on the ground, hip distance apart.
Inhale breath – float one leg to table top (knee over hip, calves parallel to the ground)
Exhale breath – gently lift your pelvic floor, connect with your belly as you lower the leg back to ground
Alternate legs slowly and with control
Reps: Start slow with 5 reps on each side and build up to 10-15
Benefit – Safely works transverse abdominus (TA) and increases awareness of TA and pelvic floor activation. This is one of my favourite exercises to do post birth in clients with abdominal separation. It applies tension to the transverse abdominals which assists in strengthening and ‘closing the gap’ of the linea alba (connective tissue that may separate when we are pregnant).
2. Leg Raises In Side Lying
How to – Lying on your side, propped up on elbow, elbow directly underneath shoulder. Hips stacked on one another and both legs long with top leg toes slightly flexed towards you.
Inhale breath – Lift top leg without any movement of the pelvis, reaching heal to the opposite wall the entire time to keep leg long
Exhale Breath – lower leg down slowly and with control
Reps – 10-20 on each side
Progressions – leg pulses at hip height, drawing dinner plate circles with your heel
Benefit – Increase strength of glutes which will help support postural changes in pregnancy. The side lying position also makes it a comfortable and practical way for pregnant or postnatal mums to safely exercise their abdominals without increasing abdominal pressure (with can lead to diastasis recti/ abdominal separation)
3. Book Openings
How to – In a sidelying position, knees are bent, bottom arm cushioning head for support, top arm stretched out in front hovering off the ground.
Inhale Breath – Float arm towards the ceiling
Exhale Breath – Eye Gaze follows arm as it rotates towards the opposite side of the floor ensuring hips continue to stay stacked on one another and there is no movement of the pelvis
Reps – 5-8 on each side
Benefits – Improves posture and mobility of the shoulder and thoracic spine, which can get extremely tight and rigid during pregnancy or in the postnatal period with hours spent breast or bottle feeding a new baby.
4. Knee Hovers
How to – In a 4 point knelling position (knees directly under hips, hands directly underneath shoulder).
Inhale breath to prepare
Exhale breath – Scoop the lower abdominals and lift the knees away from the floor and hold for 5 seconds before lowering knees carefully back down.
Reps – Repeat 3 times
Progressions – Increase amount of time knees are off the ground, build to 10 seconds per hold.
Benefits – strengthening the transverse abdominals by lifting the knees away from gravity. This is also a great upper body weight bearing exercise to increase strength of shoulders, pectoral muscles and deltoids
How to – Sitting in a ‘Z sit’ position, knees bent to the same side, hand knee facing resting on the ground, opposite arm stretched out parallel to the ground
Inhale to lengthen body
Exhale – Press hand gently into floor and take opposite arm overhead making a lateral curve of the spine. Keep length through both sides of the waist, pelvis still and sit bones heavy on the mat.
Inhale into fanned ribcage
Exhale – return to seated position
Reps – 5 each side
Benefit – One of my favourite exercises for our pregnant clients to help support posture. During pregnancy back extensor muscles may get short and tight with the weight of the growing belly at the front of the body. The mermaid exercise helps to stretch and lengthen these muscles to prevent excessive extension of the lumbar spine and an anterior tilt of the pelvis (which can contribute to lower back pain and extra strain on abdominal muscles).
Images and article written by THE TEAM AT BUMP HEALTH