5 great postpartum Pilates moves
I recently had a conversation with my friend and Pilates instructor, Michelle Mason from Studio S in Cincinnati, about how little GOOD information is out there about exercising while pregnant and exercising postpartum. It's as if experts are arfaid to touch the subject. Michelle and I had a conversation about mistakes we made with exercise during these changing times (yes, even fitness experts aren't immune to injury when their body is rapidly changing!). I, personally, was all too eager to drop the 60 pounds I gained while I was pregnant with my daughter, Lily, which caused my recovery to take a backseat to dropping a few extra pounds. And while 5 months pregnant with my son, I ended up on crutches after an easy 5-mile run on the treadmill. I experienced something called Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (separation of the pelvic bone) and I hobbled around for a week. Now, I was not acting irresponsibly in any way, I just wasn't used to my new body. What felt good in the moment was just not appropriate for my body at that time.
Michelle since has created a class open to ALL women- pregnant, postpartum, and even 3 years postpartum! I jumped into her class recently and got a very good sweat.
The point is, there are a lot of exercises we think may be helping us get back to our stronger selves that may actually be doing as much harm as they are good! Michelle and her client, Megan, a new mom of 5-month old Scarlett, graciously demonstrated some safe moves to get your core strong again. We were also joined by fellow Studio S Pilates instructor, the wonderful Anna Wall. (We have a reformer segment with Anna coming soon!) As always, talk to your physician about starting a fitness routine at ANY stage during a pregnancy. It's also very important that you are in the hands of the right trainer, so do your homework, ladies! Your body will thank you for it!
Generally, avoid a lot of front-loaded exercises, such as planks and push-ups during pregnancy and postpartum. These put a lot of extra pressure on the abdominal wall. Start with 2 to 3 sets of ten reps of each of the exercises below, after getting the OK from your physician.
Lateral Bird Dog - Start on all fours. Extend opposite arm and leg parallel to floor, while keeping a neutral spine and hips and shoulders squared. Pulling in abdominal muscles, move extended limbs out to a 45 degree angle with your exhale. Pause. Inhale as you come back to the starting position. Works - glutes, shoulders, obliques. (A quadriped position like this one places less pressure on the abdominal wall than a traditional plank position.)
Side plank with leg lift - Supported by forearm and bended supporting leg, lift hips to pull body in a straight line. Raise straightened top leg to a 45 degree angle (exhale here). Lower leg and repeat. Works- glutes, obliques (Side planks are safe for pregnancy and post-pregnancy because they take a lot off the pressure off of the abdominal wall that you'll find in traditional planks, and you can make them more challenging as you continue to get stronger.)
Dead bugs - Lying on back, place stability ball between tops of knees and palms of hands of straightened arms.
While engaging your core and keeping a neutral spine, exhale as you extend opposite arm and leg while applying pressure to ball with opposite limbs. Works-transverse abdominis
(this is not recommended for pregnancy -- after the first trimester, exercises lying flat on your back are not recommended.)
Hip thrusts - Support head/neck/shoulders on a bench. With your inhale, bend knees to 90 degree angle and squeeze glutes and exhale as you raise hips to a level reverse table top position- return to start. Works- glutes, hamstrings, transverse abdominus (This is my favorite exercise for pelvic stability!)
Pallof press - wrap a resistance band with handles around a pole. Take a few steps to the side to find correct resistance between you and the band.
Shift hips back slightly and keep knees soft while bracing the abdominals.
Start with handles at breastbone and extend arms straight in front of your body's center with your exhale before pulling the handles back to the starting position on the inhale of your breath, being aware of keeping hips and shoulders square. Works- core, shoulders.
Our community of women will benefit greatly from trainers with experience like Michelle has. If you are interested in her Strong Moms class, visit the Studio S website for more information. If you live outside of the area ask your physician for studio recommendations!
Michelle shared her thoughts on why she started Strong Moms.
I started this class because I learned so much in this process, both from my own experience and the subsequent research I have done as a result. I think there's a lack of knowledge about postpartum fitness, and definitely a gap in the market in terms of the classes offered for postpartum women. As fitness professionals we have a responsibility to help women to heal safely and return to exercise in a sane and helpful way -- we need to stop the message of encouraging women to return to exercises that aren't suited for them for the sake of "getting their pre-baby body back." We need to listen, and to understand that everyone's experience is different, and to provide workouts that are going to help women feel better, not worse.
There's so much we CAN do, and we can still get a great and challenging workout, albeit in a safe way.