As your body develops and changes, staying active is crucial to keeping energy levels high. Exercising also helps prepare your body for the endgame — labor, delivery, and the demands of parenting. A gentle, prenatal Pilates routine alleviates tension while keeping you fit and strong throughout your pregnancy. It also works your abdominal muscles, strengthens the pelvic floor muscles, and builds core stability — according to Brynne Billingsley, Pilates instructor and owner of Progressive Pilates Williamsburg. Billingsley has worked with both prenatal and postpartum clients and developed this quick, seven-exercise series as a safer and more comfortable alternative to traditional Pilates classes.
These modifications are especially helpful as your belly becomes more prominent in the second and third trimester. Some of the exercises are versions of common Pilates moves that use equipment such as the Tower; by replacing the springs and bars with resistance bands, you can recreate the movements in your living room. While this routine uses a physioball and resistance band, you can also supplement with props you already have (such as pillows and a towel). Of course, always chat with your doctor about what is best for your individual mom-to-be needs.
Ahead, your plus-one Pilates workout.
1. Band Lifts
Lie on your left side and fold your left arm under your head. Place a deflated ball, pillow, or yoga bolster under your belly for additional comfort. With the resistance band tied and placed just above your knees, bend your legs, forming a right angle with your hips. Lift and lower your right leg a few inches, 10 times. Then, externally rotate by lifting your right knee up and behind your body 10 times. Repeat with the opposite leg.
2. Bend & Stretch
Remain in the same starting position as “Band Lifts,” but take your right leg out of the band and place the ball of your right foot in the band loop. Keeping your right foot flexed, slowly straighten the right leg and then return to the starting position. Do 10 reps; then repeat with the opposite leg.
3. Tabletop Tricep Extension
Come into a tabletop position with your knees under your hips and your wrists directly below your shoulders. Place the resistance band under your left palm and grab the other end with your right hand. Keep your gaze towards the floor to avoid neck strain, and keep your right elbow close to your torso. Now, straighten your right arm and slowly bend back to the starting position. Do 10 reps; then repeat with the opposite arm.
4. Modified Cat Stretch
Kneel on a mat or the floor, and place the ball in front of your body with one hand on each side. Move the ball forward and away from your body, articulating each vertebra of the spine. Begin with tucking your chin towards your chest; then roll the ball forward, extending to a flat back. Take a couple of breaths, and then articulate back to kneeling. Do 5 reps.
For extra arm and core work, raise the ball off the floor to chest level (shown) and then overhead.
5. Band Squeeze On Ball
Sit on the ball with your feet flat on the floor and your spine long. Hold the resistance band in both hands with your elbows next to your body. Stretch the band to the sides by pulling your hands apart, keeping your elbows glued to your torso. Make sure both arms are tugging equally. Do 12-20 reps.
6. Hip Circles
Remain seated on the ball, place the band on the floor, and put your hands on your hips. Keeping your spine long, begin to rotate your pelvis in a clockwise motion. Complete 4 circles and then switch directions and do another 4.
7. Ball Mini Bounces
Remain on the ball, place your fingertips on your shoulders, and roll your shoulders down and away from your ears. Start to bounce, lifting up and down on the ball. If needed, bring your feet closer for a firmer, more grounded positioning. Do as many or as few reps as you’d like to finish the routine.