Best Pilates exercises to prepare for pregnancy

Prepping your body for the physical toll of pregnancy can help when trying for a baby. Leading pre- and postnatal fitness expert Hollie Grant reveals five Pilates exercises that offer support and help to prepare the body for pregnancy…

Thinking about or trying to start a family? If you’re hoping carry a baby in the near future, it’s a good idea to first prepare your body for the physical toll of pregnancy – these strengthening Pilates exercises could help.

Try out some of the Pilates exercises below, either on their own or as a full sequence, completing as many reps as you comfortably can…

Learn more about how to exercise safely during pregnancy

Best Pilates exercises to prepare for pregnancy

  1. Arm reach
  2. Hip hinges
  3. Hip lift
  4. Quad stretch
  5. Side-kneeling leg lift

Keep reading for full instructions and to learn more about the benefits of each Pilates exercise to prepare the body for pregnancy.

arm reach demonstration Pilates best exercises to prepare body for pregnancy

Arm reach

Focus area: During pregnancy, the growing uterus can pull the pelvis forward at the front and cause us to lean backwards. This is a great exercise for teaching core activation that stabilises the spine and reduces the leaning back effect.

  • Start standing and, as you exhale, reach your arms up overhead. Hold them there for a moment.
  • Stay in neutral (don’t lean back), then inhale and lower the arms back down by your sides. Reach up to repeat the move.
  • By staying in a neutral stance, you will work the front abdominals.

hip hinges demonstration

Hip hinges

Focus area: This exercise activates the hamstrings and glutes, which can become weak from too much sitting down. During pregnancy, it is these muscles that will give the pelvis support as the uterus grows.

  • Find a neutral standing position and bring your hands to prayer position at your chest, with knees soft.
  • When you’re ready, imagine you are bowing – push your bottom back and hinge at the hips until you can go no further.
  • You’ll get to a point where you feel a hamstring and glute stretch, but if you go any further you’d have to bend your knees or round your back. Hold it there. In this position, the knees are soft and feet are in contact with the floor.
  • Exhale to return a natural standing position and then repeat the move.

hip lift exercise demonstration

Hip lift

Focus area: Modern living can leave our hip flexors tight and weak, but for pregnancy, we need them to be strong and flexible so they can support our pelvis. This exercise targets the concentric (shortening) and eccentric (lengthening) phases of muscle activation to improve your hip flexor function.

  • Stand in a natural position with hands on hips, then shift your weight to your right leg.
  • Exhale to lift the left leg up to table top and hold, balancing on the right leg.
  • Inhale as you tap your foot to the floor, exhale to bring your body back up, then repeat. Keep the pelvis fixed and move the leg from the hip socket, so that nothing else moves.
  • Switch sides.

quad stretch Pilates best exercises to prepare body for pregnancy

Quad stretch

Focus area: This is a great exercise for learning how to stabilise the pelvis. Strengthening pelvic stabilisers (the pelvic floor and transverse abdominis) will make a huge difference ahead of pregnancy.

  • Come to a standing kneel and find a neutral position. Engage your core (imagine you are zipping up a pair of jeans, which fires up your transverse).
  • Bring your arms up to shoulder height, relax the shoulders away from your ears. Imagine a line from your head to your knees.
  • As you inhale, start hinging backwards. As you exhale, bring your body back to the start position.
  • You should feel the effort in the core, and keep the abs and glutes engaged.

side kneeling leg lift

Side-kneeling leg lift

Focus area: This exercise works the hip abductors, strengthening the pelvis and its supporting muscles. Lift the upper leg as high as you can with control, so you can be sure you are targeting the correct muscles.

  • Come to a standing kneel and find a neutral position, arms out to the side.
  • Put the left hand on the floor and extend right leg along the mat. Bring hips forward to keep them neutral.
  • Extend your right arm towards the ceiling. Exhale and lift your right slowly leg up towards the ceiling, with toes pointed; inhale to slowly control it back down. Repeat, then switch sides.

Hollie Grant is founder of The Bump Plan TTC (Trying to Conceive), a programme to support those who are thinking about or trying to start a family.

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