Pilates Mat exercises are a great way to keep your core strong throughout your pregnancy. Most of the exercises target your abdominals, low back, and pelvic floor. Strengthening these areas with Pilates can make pregnancy and delivery easier helping to cope with your increase of weight, reducing back pain while stabilizing your hips and pelvis, strengthens your pelvic floor, supporting your uterus, increases your balance, and using your breath to relax and control your movements.
Tips for performing the exercises below:
- Perform a Kegel with each repetition. Kegel exercises strengthen your pubococcygeus or your PC muscles. These are the muscles that help you start and stop urinating. They will also help with an easier birth.
- Contract your Transverse Abdominals. Transverse abdominals are the deepest layer of your ab muscles and are under the baby. These muscles act like a corset that wrap around the body to cinch you in. During labor these muscles will help you push.
- To ensure good posture and proper alignment during all the movements; keep your shoulders relaxed away from your ears, a flat, straight back, hips and shoulders aligned
- Think one breath, one movement and try to breathe for counts of 5-7 seconds.
The 5 Pilates Mat Exercises:
- The Clam- Strengthen your hips and gluteus. Lie on your side and bend your knees to a 45-degree angle. Lift your feet about one inch off the floor. Keeping your toes touching, Exhale, raise your top knee about 4- 6 inches, then inhale, lower to return to start. Perform 20 on each side.
- Cat/Cow- Strengthens and stretches the lower back and low abdominals.Position your self on your hands and knees. Hands should be shoulder width apart; knees should be hip width apart. Find a flat back. Inhale, drop your naval towards the floor letting your low back arch slightly, exhale pull navel to spine to curl lower back under.
- Side Lying Knee to Chest Kick Outs- Strengthens outer gluteus/hip. Helps to stabilize hips and low back. Lying on your side with your head supported, bend your bottom leg on the floor for support and balance. Then, raise your top leg on a 45-degree angle toward the ceiling. Extend through the toes, inhale, bend the knee toward your chest, exhale extend the leg on the 45-degree angle, flexing the foot.
- Forearm Plank- Strengthens the core muscles, upper body, and lower body. Position your self on your forearms and knees. Then extend one leg back at a time finding the plank. The plank can be modified by staying on the knees, with a straight line from shoulders to knees. Hold the position for 30=90 seconds taking deep breaths.
- Side Kneeling Leg Lifts- Strengthens the core muscles, outer hips and gluteus, upper body, and balance. Come to a side balance with right knee on the floor and right hand on the floor, they should be in line with each other. Extend your left leg with toe pointed and touching the floor. Place your left hand on your hip. Inhale to prepare. Exhale lift the lift leg o the height of your hip, inhale to lower.
If you’ve never done Pilates exercises before, start out slow. Check out your local gym and studios to see if they offer a Prenatal Pilates class or invest in a Prenatal Pilates exercise video that you can do at home. Prenatal classes focus on the needs of pregnant women as they move through each trimester.