6 Pilates Moves to Get Your Body in Shape for Labor

Are your core muscles ready to deliver? Mom-to-be (and prenatal/postnatal Pilates expert) Andrea Speir of L.A's Speir Pilates shares 6 essential prenatal exercises to build your stamina for delivery.

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Move 1: Squat

Andrea Speir

Move 1: Squat

Reps: 10x/3 sets

Action: Begin standing with your feet wider than your hips.
Bend your knees, lowering your body to squat position.
Stand back upright.

Focus: As you lower, gently relax your belly and as you stand back up, engage the pelvic floor by imagining an elevator lifting up and toward your navel.

Why: Squatting helps open the pelvic region by up to half an inch. Practicing this movement throughout pregnancy will keep these muscles strong and capable during labor.

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Move 2: Sword

Andrea Speir

Move 2: Sword

Reps: 8x/3 sets

Action: Holding a theraband or stretching band in one hand, step ⅓ of it under your opposite foot.
Reach down toward your foot as you bend your knee.
Straighten your leg as you extend your arm up and over the opposite shoulder.

Focus: Draw your shoulder blades back and together as you're extending your arm out, thinking about almost wrinkling your shirt between your shoulder blades.

Why: When we get nervous or tense, energy rises and bunches in the shoulders and neck. During labor, having strong postural muscles will help you keep your shoulders and neck relaxed.

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Move 3: Inner Thigh LIfts

Andrea Speir

Move 3: Inner Thigh LIfts

Reps: 10x/1 set

Action: Lie on your side with your head resting in your hand and top knee bent in front of body resting on either a pillow or folded up towel.
Extend your bottom leg out long and lift your leg up toward ceiling.
Lower your leg back down.

Focus: Lengthen from the top of the leg and let your belly relax down toward mat. Note: I am 18 weeks pregnant, if you are further along and your belly is bigger, let your belly rest on the pillow or towel as well.

Why: As the pelvic bones begin to separate throughout the course of the pregnancy to support widening hips and added weight, these muscles get stretched and weak. Therefore strenuous inner thigh work is not encouraged. A light amount, however, will help keep the pelvic floor muscles strong and allow this area of the body to push during labor.

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Move 4: Leg Lifts

Andrea Speir

Move 4: Leg Lifts

Reps: 10x/3 Sets

Action: Still lying on your side, bend your bottom leg in and extend your top leg long with your toes touching the floor.
Lift your leg up toward the ceiling, as high as you comfortably can without moving your hips.
Lower your leg back down.

Focus: Think about reaching your toes away and lengthening from top of the head—elongate and stretch that body.

Why: Strengthening the outer hip, or gluteus medius, during pregnancy is huge because those muscles are going to help support your hips and pelvic region to center your balance as your tummy grows.

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Move 5: Clamshell

Andrea Speir

Move 5: Clamshell

Reps: 10x/3 Sets

Action: Still lying on your side, stack your knees one on top of the other.
Tilt your toes toward the ceiling.
Lift your top knee toward the ceiling.
Lower your top knee back down.

Focus: When the knee reaches toward the ceiling, hold it for a beat to engage and activate your glute (aka booty).

Why: This is one of the best ways to simultaneously strengthen the glute med and outer hip to support the hips, while getting movement and gentle stretching in the hip flexors and pelvic region. It's great for blood flow and circulation as well.

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Move 6: Butterfly Stretch

Andrea Speir

Move 6: Butterfly Stretch

Reps: 3x

Action: Bend your knees in, bringing the soles of your feet together.
Lift your spine up, sitting tall.
Round your body forward over your legs.
Take deep, full breaths and relax.

Focus: Never push or bounce in this stretch. Simply relax.

Why: Continually relaxing the body throughout pregnancy will help the baby inside relax and follow mama’s lead. Gentle stretching and opening the pelvic region and inner thighs will condition the body to be relaxed and open during labor.

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