Seven reasons why Pilates is a great exercise method for females PREPARING for pregnancy.
We often hear that Pilates is a great form of exercise to do during pregnancy but it can also be a useful way to help prepare the body beforehand as it specifically focuses on building strength in the areas that can weaken with the load of pregnancy. The following list provides seven great reasons why we should use Pilates in preparation for pregnancy.
It will help to:
• Strengthen the body’s “core” to build a strong base before the changes of pregnancy – targeting our pelvic floor and deep transverse abdominis as well as our rectus abdominis, obliques, back extensors, glutes and shoulder stabilisers.
• Prepare the body for pregnancy – we can specifically focus on strengthening the muscles we know to weaken during pregnancy and stretch the muscles that can tighten, to be prepared.
• Decrease the risk of injuries – strengthening our smaller, local stabilisers will definitely decrease the risk of injuries around our joints when we eventually have the added heavy “resistance” of pregnancy.
• Use the opportunity to strengthen with exercises that may need to be avoided when pregnant – there are lots of exercises and positions that need to be avoided or modified during pregnancy (e.g. “curling” up exercises, planks, twisting, bridging and lots more), so this is the perfect time to use these exercises to build strength before we have to modify or avoid them for the duration of the pregnancy.
• Better prepare for the “load” of pregnancy on the body – i.e. stronger pelvic floor, muscles around the hips, obliques e.t.c.
• Improve focus and concentration – the main principle of Pilates is concentration which helps to improve focus, mental clarity and alertness and promote better awareness of our body and its muscular function.
• Bring both your body and mind into alignment – “the mind, when housed within a healthful body, possesses a glorious sense of power”, Joseph Pilates. I love this quote about Pilates and what better time than any to realise this while preparing your body and mind for the journey of pregnancy and giving birth.
Three great Pilates exercises to include in your PREPARATION routine would be:
(please note that it’s always best to seek medical advice (ideally a physio specialising in women’s health) before undertaking any exercise prescription, the following exercise recommendations are also based on a relatively trained client with no complications and/or limitations).
The hundred –
WHY: to improve focus, coordination, stamina, abdominal strength.
HOW: Lie on your back, chest is lifted in ab curl position with arms hovering by your side, legs are extended straight in the air (not too low, only so far that you can maintain a neutral spine with bottom of the ribs softened to the mat), while holding that position, pulse the arms, breathing in through the nose for five pulses and out through the mouth for five for a total of 100 times (10 rounds). Easier alternatives would be with legs bent with feet lifted or legs bent with feet on the ground, one hand behind the head for support or lying flat on the mat, head down. Harder would be to lower the legs further with each round of exhalation.
Leg Circles –
WHY: to improve hip stability and mobility.
HOW: Lying flat on back, straighten one leg towards ceiling in line with your hip, the leg on the ground may remain bent or can be extended along the mat (slightly more challenge to hip stability). Circle the lifted leg 5 times going across the body first and then 5 times taking it away from the body first. The larger the circle the harder it will be to maintain hip stability (remember this should be the main focus).
Side Plank –
WHY: to focus on balance, stability and total body strength including obliques
HOW: Sitting side ways on a mat, lower to your right elbow (which should be positioned directly under your right shoulder. Extend the left arm toward the ceiling and lift the torso and hips off the ground, keeping knees bent (a harder alternative would be to extend top leg and further to that, having both legs extended). Hold position for 30 secs, focussing on breathing and with each out breath deepening your abdominal/pelvic floor contraction.