Prenatal Pilates Workout

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The Ideal Mom-To-Be Workout

Prenatal Pilates is an ideal workout for moms-to-be. For one thing, the moves strengthen the entire body, especially the muscles used during labor: the abdominals, lower back and pelvic floor. Practicing Pilates regularly also can relieve lower-back discomfort and other pregnancy-induced aches and pains, as well as help you feel supple and relaxed.
"As pregnancy progresses, your center of gravity is pulled forward," explains Pilates instructor Jennifer Gianni, owner of Embodyment Studio in Venice, Calif., and star of the Fusion Pilates for Pregnancy video (Tapeworm, 2004). "Prenatal Pilates focuses on working the core muscles in the center of your body, bringing it back into proper alignment. Doing these moves regularly also will help you bounce back into shape quickly after you give birth."
The following Pilates program, designed by Gianni, can be done every other day; do cardiovascular exercise such as walking or swimming on the "off" days. To begin, do a traditional Pilates warm-up: Stand in place and do 16-20 alternate knee lifts and arm reaches, exhaling through your mouth when your knee is lifted. After your workout, create a 45-degree incline by propping blankets and pillows againsta sturdy chair or couch. Sit down and lean your back against the incline. If you feel dizzy, lie on your side. Close your eyes and breathe gently for 5 minutes. As with any prenatal exercises, check with your doctor before you begin this program.

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Thoracic Breathing

Sit straight in a sturdy chair, feet flat, forming a straight line from head to hips. Place your hands at your upper ribs and inhale through your nose, expanding front and back ribs. Exhale through your mouth, drawing ribs in. Repeat for 1 minute.

Good Form
• Breathe properly Inhale through your nose until you feel your back and side ribs expand. Exhale through your mouth with pursed lips as you draw your navel in toward your spine.
• Initiate all movement from your core (the center of your body) Draw your navel in toward your spine before beginning any movement.
• Focus on alignment Keep your eyes on the horizon, relax your shoulders and keep your head in line with your hips.

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Seated 100s

In the same position, straighten arms at your sides, palms facing back. Inhale through your nose for 5 counts as you move your arms rhythmically from front to back in a small, quick pumping motion. As you exhale through your mouth for 5 counts, continue to pump your arms while drawing your navel toward your spine. Repeat for 1 minute. Strengthens abdominals, shoulders and upper back.

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Wall Roll-Down

Stand with your back and head against a wall, feet placed wider than hips, heels about a foot away from the wall and knees slightly bent. Draw your navel in toward your spine, inhale, then exhale as you peel away from the wall. Start by lowering your chin to your chest, then round your shoulders and spine. Do not lower your head below hip level [B] (see next slide for photo). Hold for 1 full breath, keeping abs drawn in. Inhale, then exhale and slowly roll up to standing. Repeat for 1 minute. Strengthens abs and back and improves posture.

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Standing Heel Beat

Stand straight with your right side to the back of a chair. Keep your right hand on the back of the chair, left hand on hip, abs drawn in, shoulders back and down, chin level. Turn your toes out and bring your left heel toward your right instep. Inhale and lift your left leg out to the side and point your toes slightly (see next slide for photo). Exhale, flex your left foot and touch your left heel to your right heel and pulse tiny "beats" for 1 minute, squeezing buttocks and inner thighs and breathing normally. Switch sides and repeat. Strengthens hips and thighs.

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Standing Heel Beat

Stand straight with your right side to the back of a chair. Keep your right hand on the back of the chair, left hand on hip, abs drawn in, shoulders back and down, chin level. Turn your toes out and bring your left heel toward your right instep (see previous slide for photo). Inhale and lift your left leg out to the side and point your toes slightly. Exhale, flex your left foot and touch your left heel to your right heel and pulse tiny "beats" for 1 minute, squeezing buttocks and inner thighs and breathing normally. Switch sides and repeat. Strengthens hips and thighs.

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Shoulder Stabilization

Kneel on all fours with your knees under your hips and wrists under your shoulders. Draw your navel in toward your spine, keeping your neck in line with hips. Inhale, then exhale as you slowly extend your right arm in front of you at shoulder height, abs drawn in (see next slide for photo). Slowly lower and repeat with opposite arm. Continue sequence for 1 minute. Strengthens back extensors, shoulders and deep abdominal muscles and improves posture.

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Shoulder Stabilization

Kneel on all fours with your knees under your hips and wrists under your shoulders. Draw your navel in toward your spine, keeping your neck in line with hips (see previous slide for photo). Inhale, then exhale as you slowly extend your right arm in front of you at shoulder height, abs drawn in. Slowly lower and repeat with opposite arm. Continue sequence for 1 minute. Strengthens back extensors, shoulders and deep abdominal muscles and improves posture.

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Leg Circle

From the all-fours position, lie on your right side, legs straight and slightly in front of your hips. Place a pillow lengthwise under the side of your belly and put your right elbow, forearm and palm on the floor. Place your left hand on the pillow in front of you, lift the right side of your torso away from the floor and draw your abs in. Tighten your pelvic-floor muscles, squeeze your buttocks, keep your hips aligned and still and gently flex your feet and lift your left leg to hip height. While breathing normally, "draw" 8 small circles in a clockwise direction, then 8 small circles in the opposite direction without moving your hips (see next slide for photo). Repeat sequence for 1 minute, then switch sides. Strengthens thighs, hips, buttocks and pelvic-floor muscles, giving you power for labor while promoting better balance.

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Leg Circle

From the all-fours position, lie on your right side, legs straight and slightly in front of your hips. Place a pillow lengthwise under the side of your belly and put your right elbow, forearm and palm on the floor. Place your left hand on the pillow in front of you, lift the right side of your torso away from the floor and draw your abs in. Tighten your pelvic-floor muscles, squeeze your buttocks, keep your hips aligned and still and gently flex your feet and lift your left leg to hip height (see previous slide for photo). While breathing normally, "draw" 8 small circles in a clockwise direction, then 8 small circles in the opposite direction without moving your hips. Repeat sequence for 1 minute, then switch sides. Strengthens thighs, hips, buttocks and pelvic-floor muscles, giving you power for labor while promoting better balance.

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Mermaid

Sit on the floor with a large, firm pillow underneath your right buttock. Bend your knees, point them to the left and rest your legs on the floor, heels close to your left hip. Place your left hand on your left shin and your right hand on the floor near your right hip. Sit up straight and draw your abs in (see previous slide for photo). Inhale, and as you exhale, lean your torso to the left and reach your right arm up and over to the left as you look down toward your left hand, keeping your neck in line with your spine. Hold for 1 minute, breathing normally, then change legs and switch sides. Promotes torso and hip flexibility, relieving low-back discomfort.

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Mermaid

Sit on the floor with a large, firm pillow underneath your right buttock. Bend your knees, point them to the left and rest your legs on the floor, heels close to your left hip. Place your left hand on your left shin and your right hand on the floor near your right hip. Sit up straight and draw your abs in. Inhale, and as you exhale, lean your torso to the left and reach your right arm up and over to the left as you look down toward your left hand, keeping your neck in line with your spine (see next slide for photo). Hold for 1 minute, breathing normally, then change legs and switch sides. Promotes torso and hip flexibility, relieving low-back discomfort.

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