9 Exercises You Can Do For 9 Months During Pregnancy
by Eloise Bonel
Pilates is a great exercise modality for expecting mothers. It is low impact and can be modified to accommodate a mother’s changing body, as well as the different needs she will have as her pregnancy progresses. However, whether you are a Pilates teacher or a baby-mumma-to-be, it can be confusing to know which exercises are appropriate throughout the nine months of pregnancy.
The following exercises are designed not only to provide an endorphin-releasing workout, but will also strengthen the muscles around the pelvis, the spine and the legs to support the body as it changes, and also mobilise the lumbar and thoracic spine which can become tight.
Please consult a physician before undertaking any exercise program during pregnancy. These exercises are intended for mothers-to-be who do not have a high risk pregnancy or any complications or underlying medical conditions.
1. Half Roll Down
Modified from a full Roll Down, the Half Roll Down uses the abdominal muscles to scoop the baby in and up and open up the lower back.
Set Up: Standing against a wall with knees slightly bent, about hip width apart, hands on your thighs.
1. Inhale: Scoop your abdominals to pull the baby in and up to prepare.
2. Exhale: Peel your spine off the wall one disc at a time, sliding your hands down to your knees.
3. Inhale: Pause
4. Exhale: Continue to scoop your belly to peel your spine back onto the wall, one disc at a time.
This is a modification of Swimming on the mat, bringing the movement to a standing position, but still challenging the back extensors and spinal and pelvic stability.
Set up: Standing against a wall with knees slightly bent. Scoop your abdominals in to prepare, and bring your arms in line with your ears. Extend the spine to open your chest in between your arms (like in the Cat Stretch).
1. Lift your right arm, and then lower it as your left arm lifts (like you’re swimming in the ocean).
2. Try to keep your pelvis steady against the wall, and keep lifting your belly in and up.
3. Wall Push Up
A Push Up against the wall reduces the load of an ordinary Push Up, but these are still very challenging, particularly if you move slowly. Keep your elbows in close to your body for a Tricep Push Up.
Set Up: Stand about two foot lengths away from the wall. Place you hand on the wall, directly under your shoulders. Scoop your abdominals in and up to hold a neutral spine.
1. Inhale: Bend your elbows to lower your body toward the wall. Keep scooping your belly, and lengthening your tailbone toward your heels.
2. Exhale: Push your hands into the wall to return to the starting position. 4. Wall Rotation
The Wall Rotation is a nice way to open up the chest and mobilise the thoracic spine.
Set Up: Stand side on to the wall, with your hip pressing into the wall. Scoop your abdominals and lengthen your tailbone toward your heels.
1. Inhale: Open your opposite arm out to the side, and let your chest and head go with you, but keep your hip glued to the wall. Only rotate as far as your can keep your pelvis still against the wall.
2. Exhale to return to the starting position. 5. Hip Extension
Standing Hamstring work is a great way to activate our hamstrings without laying on our stomach.
Set Up: Stand about one-and-a-half foot lengths away from the wall. Place you hand on the wall, directly under your shoulders. Scoop your abdominals in and up to bring your pelvis into a slight tuck.. Extend one leg behind you off the floor, keeping your pelvis tucked.
1. Lift your leg behind you, keeping it straight and your pelvis still. Try to keep your knee as straight as possible.
2. Lower your leg to the starting position, then repeat.
Work the same leg for 8 repetitions before changing sides. 6. 2-Point Kneeling
This exercise is really great for promoting core stability and pelvic-lumbar stability, something we need to work on as our body changes.
Set Up: Starting in a quadruped (all 4s) position, lifting your abdominals in and up, keeping them engaged throughout to support your spine.
1. Extend one arm and opposite leg, keeping your body as still as possible.
2. Alternate sides. 7. Cat Stretch
The Cat Stretch uses the abdominals to bring the spine into flexion to stretch the lower back in the first phase, and works the back extensor muscles in the second phase.
Set Up: Starting in a quadruped (all 4s) position, in a neutral spine, maintaining engagement of you abdominal muscles to stabilise the spine. Inhale to prepare.
1. Exhale: Scoop your lower abdominals to tuck your pelvis toward your head.
2. Return to a neutral position.
3. Inhale: Extend the spine to open your chest in between your arms, keeping your pelvis still and your abdominals engaged.
4. Return to a neutral position. 8. Mermaid
This is one of my favourite exercises for stretching the obliques and lower back.
Set Up: Sitting cross-legged (or any way that is comfortable), reach one hand up to the ceiling.
1. Inhale sitting tall to create length in the spine
2. Exhale to lift up and over, reaching long through your top arm and driving your pelvis down into the mat.
Repeat other side.
Clams are another favourite exercise of mine, because they are simple yet so effective.
Set Up: Laying on your side, use a towel or a cushion under your baby bump so it is supported. Drawing your abdominals in and up and lifting out of your bottom waist. Bend your knees and bring your feet in line with your bottom.
1. Keeping your feet together, open your top leg. Only open as far as your pelvis stays still. Keep scooping your abdominals in. 2. Close your top leg.
Work the same leg for 8 repetitions before switching to the other side.
I hope this has been helpful! For any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch—I’m all ears. If you are a Pilates teacher looking for a pre and post-natal course, I highly recommend the BASI Pilates certificate course, “Pilates Through Pregnancy and Beyond," created and presented by Ashley Ritchie.
For more information on Pilates through pregnancy, register for Ashley Ritchie's Pilates Through Pregnancy and Beyond BASI Pilates certificate course.
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Photo credit: Stanislava Isaeva (IG: @pilates_me_slowly)