It’s no secret that physical activity can improve your health and is important at every age. If you’ve always exercised before you were pregnant, but now worry about how much to too much while your pregnant, 360 Fit Haus offers some terrific tips.
Did you know that Pilates is one of the best and safest forms of exercise both during pregnancy and afterwards? We have seen an increased number of pregnant women turning to Pilates to stay fit and healthy both during and after their pregnancies.
In pre-natal Pilates, we focus on building up deep abdominal strength to support the weight of the baby; strengthening the lower back and pelvic floor muscles that are used during labor and delivery; creating postural support as the weight of the growing baby continues to pull the spine out of alignment; and doing targeted stretches for the hips, buttocks, lower back, and any other areas of the body that experience pregnancy-related aches and pains. Because Pilates can be modified for anyone’s ability, it’s safe to undertake if you haven’t been extremely active leading up to your pregnancy; or, we can continue with more athletic workouts as appropriate for your current fitness level. Additionally, pre-natal Pilates helps you calm your mind and improve your mind-body connection, learn how to breathe deeply, and increase circulation to the fetus. These are skills that will be helpful during and after labor and delivery. If you have never done Pilates before, it will be important for you to find a pre-natal Pilates class or an instructor who can give you a lot of one on one attention. It is not recommended that you begin doing Pilates on your own if you haven’t already worked with the fundamentals. Most Pilates exercises can be modified as your body and abilities change, so be sure to communicate with your instructor if you feel tired, out of breath, dizzy, or otherwise unwell.
Engaging Transverse Abdominal Muscles & Pelvic Floor
The transverse abdominal muscles are the deepest layer of the abs, and are felt to be working at the belly button and below. These lower abdominal muscles are the ones you feel when you cough. It is very important for pre-natal moms to work on their TA muscles, especially if there is a risk of diastasis recti (separation of the abdominal wall). We like to use a ball between the inner thighs for these exercises to help engage the abdominal muscles along with the inner thighs and pelvic floor.
1. Using Breath to Activate Lower Abdominals
You should feel like your stomach muscles are pulling into the body, not pushing outward. Squeeze the ball so you can feel some inner thigh resistance, and take a long inhale through your nose for 5 counts. Exhale 5 short exhales strongly through your mouth. Aim for 5-10 sets of this breath work.
2. Finding and Strengthening The Pelvic Floor
The pelvic floor muscles are the foundation for the core of the body. They both help stabilize the pelvis and support the organs of the lower abdominal cavity. This supportive hammock of muscles, tendons, and ligaments are at the base of the pelvic bowl. Despite being so important, the pelvic floor muscles can be hard to feel! While seated, think of pulling the two bones in the bottom of your bottom together and up, like you are drawing the energy from your inner thighs up through the center of your pelvis to your belly, and then out through the crown of the head. The muscles strengthen gradually, so try to contract 15-20 reps, 3-4 times each day.
3. Mini Roll-Back/Roll-Back with Twist
Squeeze the ball and press your feet firmly against the mat as you start to round out your lower back and curl back towards the mat on an exhale. Go back until you feel the abdominal muscles, inhale as you pause in that position, then exhale as you return to the upright seated position. 8-10 reps.
Add in a rotation to challenge the obliques, or the muscles you feel in the sides of the waistline. Rotate towards one side, then curl back towards the mat on an exhale. Pause in that position as you inhale, then exhale to sit back up. Alternate sides, 8-10 reps each side.
4. Side Lying Hip Work
Lie on your side with your head on your arm for support. Use a small rolled up towel or pillow under your head if you need better support for your neck. Bend the underneath leg for stability and place your hand on the ball in front of you to keep some challenge in the abdominals. Make sure your hips are facing the same direction, as the top hip in particular loves to roll back in this position! Lift your top leg until you feel the glute and inner thigh muscles working on an exhale, then hover it over the mat when you come back down on the inhale. 10-15 reps on each side.
Pilates is beneficial post-partum in terms of helping you recover from the physical and emotional demands of childbirth. Due to Pilates’ focus on pelvic stability and correct abdominal engagement, we can gently strengthen the pelvic floor and abdominal wall muscles that got stretched out during pregnancy. We can also work on re-engaging the deep abdominal muscles if you delivered by C-section. This focus on correct abdominal engagement and pelvic floor recruitment will contribute to a flatter stomach, a trimmer silhouette, and bladder control. We also work to quickly build up arm and upper back strength for bending, lifting, and carrying your baby. Post-natal Pilates will increase your athletic endurance, help you release stress and sleep better, and improve your overall emotional and mental state.
Start off on all fours. Line up the shoulders over the hands, and the hips over the knees. On an exhale, round the spine up towards the ceiling without moving the shoulders or hips. On an inhale, stretch the spine as if the chest is pulling towards the fingertips and the tailbone is reaching towards the ceiling. Repeat 5-6 times.
Start off on all fours. Line up the shoulders over the hands, and the hips over the knees. The spine and pelvis are in a neutral position, so the ribs and belly are lifting away from the floor, while the shoulders are pressing apart to engage the lat muscles under the armpits. Without moving the hips, ribs, or supporting thigh bone, slowly extend one leg out behind you on the exhale, letting the toes stay on the mat. Inhale to return to your starting position. Alternate 8-10 reps. This is a great exercise for learning how to stabilize the new shape of your hips, as well as strengthening the upper body to carry the baby. Modification: If your wrists are uncomfortable with the arms straight, drop down to your forearms.
A qualified Pilates instructor (look for someone with a Pilates Method Alliance-approved comprehensive teaching credential) can help you prepare your body for the changes it undergoes during the prenatal period, the rigors of childbirth, and the needed rehabilitation after your baby is here! Experience a fit and healthy pregnancy and beyond with Pilates for Moms at 360 Fit Haus. 1400 Colorado Blvd. Suite C Los Angeles, CA 90041. firstname.lastname@example.org / 323.474.6315