Build strength for labor and stay in shape during your entire pregnancy with this circuit of four amazing Pilates mat exercises.
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Prenatal Pilates for Moms-to-Be
It's nice to have an added incentive to work out: This prenatal Pilates routine that's safe to do in every trimester not only builds strength, balance and stamina, but can help you have an easier labor, too. "Doing Pilates throughout your pregnancy will help keep you relaxed during delivery," says Lizbeth Garcia, San Diego–based Pilates instructor and creator of the 10 Minute Solution: Prenatal Pilates DVD. Get your doctor's OK first, then begin with a brisk 20-minute walk to warm up, and do five to 10 reps of each move.
Stand with your feet wider than your hips, knees bent, feet turned out comfortably and hands on your hips. Bend your knees and sweep your right hand toward your left knee as you look down [a]. Sweep your right arm upward and to the right as if you were drawing a sword out of a hip belt, looking up toward your hand [b]. Complete reps, switch sides and repeat.
Benefits: Strengthens legs, back and abs; improves balance
Kneel on a mat or carpet, with your knees hip-width apart and your abs pulled in (if necessary, place a folded blanket or two under your knees for comfort) [a]. Squeezing your butt, inhale as you lean back, keeping hips up. Reach your arms up to shoulder height, palms down [b]. Exhale, returning hips to the upright position as you lower your arms.
Benefits: Strengthens hips, buttocks, lower back and abs
Wag the tail
Get down on all fours, making sure your wrists are aligned under your shoulders. Draw your belly in and lift your left knee up and to the side [a], making sure your shoulders stay away from your ears (i.e., don't shrug your shoulders). Draw circles with your knee while keeping your abs pulled in [b]. Complete reps and switch sides.
Benefits: Strengthens lower back and abs; increases flexibility and stability
Kneel on your right knee and place your right hand on the floor under your shoulder. Extend your left leg out to the side, foot on floor, hips facing front and abs pulled in. Reach your left hand to the floor as you look down [a]. Inhale as you slowly draw your arm up to the sky, opening your chest and looking up toward your hand [b]. Exhale, lowering arm to starting position. Complete reps, switch sides and repeat.
Benefits: Strengthens arms, abs, hips and back; improves balance