As a Pilates enthusiast I was always curious how child bearing would change my body. It has been fascinating, exhausting and exciting all at the same time. I am learning how to embrace the changes, and I'm privileged to share what I’m learning with you.
- Can I do Pilates When I'm pregnant?
- When should I stop Pilates when pregnant?
- How often should you exercise during pregnancy?
- Top 10 “Go-To” Pilates Exercises
Yes, Pilates is generally safe but check with your physician first.
For more information read Why Pilates During Pregnancy is a Total Must-Do
Pregnant women should try to exercise 3-4 times per week for 30-60 minutes. Keep your routines at a low intensity, building to moderate intensity (heart rate 60-80% of target) avoid any exercise where you lay flat on your back.
And once you get to 16 weeks pregnant, avoid exercises where you lie on your back. As there's not a lot of research on pregnancy Pilates, make sure you look for a specific pregnancy class or a one-to-one teacher who is trained to work with pregnant women.
This is a list of my Top 10 “Go-To” Pilates Exercises to honor my baby-making body. After completing these 10 exercises from head to toe I feel taller, longer, stronger, and more connected to my growing baby boy. I hope you do, too!
1. Upper Trap Stretch with Theraband
Targets: The Neck – A good neck stretch is essential for releasing tension in the traps, which may be causing headaches. I believe they are brought on by all the catnapping I’ve been doing.
Tips: Be sure the theraband is secured to something below your waist height that is fixed to the floor.
Relax your neck and feel the muscles lengthen and stretch. Let the theraband pull your muscles long. Do not try to pull the band toward you. Remember this is a stretch.
2. Strong Arm Series with Theraband
Targets: The Arms – Getting the scapulas to move efficiently, and strengthening the arms will save you a lot of pain when you get to hold your precious baby for hours and hours both in your arms and in that car seat you’ll be lugging around.
Tips: I like to sit on a stability ball for added pelvic and abdominal conditioning.
Squeeze the shoulder blades down your back, as if they’re sliding into your back pockets. Release any tension you may feel in your neck. Keep the abdominals and obliques engaged; imagine hugging your baby with your ab muscles.
3. Lat Pull Down with Calf Raise at the Tower
Targets: The Lats - You’ll be glad you doubled up on arms and that posterior core when it comes time to feed baby! This exercise also gives you a spectacular chest stretch, which you might not have even realized you needed. You’re welcome.
Added Bonus* the calf raises will help that balance of yours that keeps getting thrown off by the expanding belly and ever changing center of gravity.
Tips: Again, squeeze the shoulder blades down your back, as if they’re sliding into your back pockets. Release any tension you may feel in your neck. Keep the abdominals and obliques engaged; imagine hugging your baby with your ab muscles.
For the chest stretch (shown in the last image) grab the bar behind you and let the springs pull the arms straight back, allowing the chest to open.
4. Seated Teaser with Chest Stretch on Wunda Chair
Targets: The Torso – As the belly expands, it may feel like this area is getting enough attention. You may choose to skip this exercise altogether, especially in the 3rd trimester when it’s a challenge to just get out of bed.
Tips: Use a heavier spring for more support. Place a box under feet to support rectus abdominals. Think of this exercise as an active-stretch. Imagine lifting your heart to the sky and hugging your baby as you lift and lower the torso. Enjoy the stretch through the chest as you press the pedal down.
5. Kneeling Leg Sweeps on Long Box
Targets: The Obliques – Your obliques are included in the several layers of core muscles to help hold baby in place and then to help push baby out when it’s time. These muscles are very important and deserve to be strengthened and stretched. I love this exercise because you’re using your entire body; building upper strength, core strength, glut strength, elongating through the front and challenging balance.
Tips: The hips and pelvis are extra sensitive now. Use a light spring with the foot strap, or perform the exercise without the strap. Proper shoulder, spine and pelvis alignment is very important in this exercise.
This exercise has 2 movements- a straight leg sweep and a side kick. Alternate movements. Be sure to use the glutes to fully extend your moving leg parallel to the floor without arching the low back. Keep contracting the obliques to control the knee kicks. Imagine hugging your baby up toward your spine.
6. Mermaid on WundaChair
Targets: The Obliques (again) – As mentioned above, the obliques are so important for carrying and birthing your baby boo. Here’s another one of my favorite exercises for the obliques. I especially love sneaking in this stretch at the end of the ‘work’ because it creates more space in my torso, which means fewer kicks to my ribs!
Tips: Hip and shoulder girdle alignment is key. Keep the shoulders from creeping up into the neck when you lift your torso. Imagine lifting up and over a ball. Let the obliques do the work! And take the time to really enjoy that stretch at the end.
7. Scooters on the Reformer
Targets: Butt, Glutes – With the loss of some major abdominal strength, a strong booty is key to supporting your spine and stabilizing the hips. And who doesn’t love a firm tush?!
Tips: Use a light spring. Tell your butt cheek to get to work! And squeeze that muscle as you fully extend the leg back. There should be very little pressure in your arms- they are just there to keep your balance. Keep the pain out of the low back by slightly leaning forward and hugging baby up toward spine.
8. Side Lying Press on the Reformer
Targets: The Thighs – I’m hoping this newfound cellulite on my thighs is only temporary. In an effort to address this area, I’ve found this exercise to be a staple in my daily routine. These are great for when you just want to lie down and get a quick burn.
Tips: Place the ball where it’s most comfortable for you. Some days it feels best supporting my head, other days it feels best supporting my ribcage. Push through the heel of the foot for more of an emphasis on the glutes. Lift your heel off the footbar to feel the burn in your thighs. As always, hip and shoulder alignment are key.
9. Hip Opener on the Wunda Chair
Targets: The Hips – It’s kind of amazing (and dreadful) that your hips are literally being pried apart in preparation for baby’s grand entrance. This change has caused some aches and pains for me. Here is one stretch that has helped ease those pains.
Tips: Don’t perform this stretch if your hips are already too loose. Listen to your body and only go as far as comfortable and safe.
10. Hamstrings Stretch on the Wunda Chair
Targets: The Posterior Chain – Low back tightness and pain is no joke when carrying around a growing child, an extra organ (your placenta), and larger breasts! Your back may be screaming for a stretch. The added tension that the pedal and springs provide can be heavenly.
Tips: To get the full effect, always begin this stretch with a deep, healthy breath, bringing arms overhead, and slowly diving down toward the pedal. Keep your weight over your heels and round your back. *Come up VERY slowly so you don’t get dizzy. Your blood volume is at an all time high!
Where to Buy
These 10 Pregnancy Pilates exercises can be performed at home. However, the advanced movements should only be performed with a trained Pilates professional
Hi, I’m Laura Fain; certified Prenatal Pilates Instructor, proud owner of Rev Pilates Studio, and one happy, anxious, healthy, soon-to-be mommy!