First Trimester Pregnancy Pilates

Pregnancy pilates is great exercise for mamas-to-be! Bianca Oppel, owner and instructor at Mint Pilates studio, demonstrates a few easy pilates exercises for mamas looking to stay fit in their first trimester.

1 Side twist prep


Set up:

Prop yourself onto your forearm ensure your elbow is underneath your shoulder. Stack your ankles, hips and knees on top of one another. Your other arm can support you on the mat or could be placed on your hip or reached up to the ceiling.

Exhale and lift your pelvis off the mat to bring your knees, pelvis, chest and head into one diagonal line. Hold your pelvis up for 10,20 or 30 seconds. Breathing naturally and ensuring that your elbow remains under your shoulder and pelvis is square to the front. Repeat up to 3 on each side

Checkpoint: it is normal for beginners to feel the neck fatiguing quite quickly. Modify your neck and head alignment to look directly down to the forearm.

Benefits include: Promotes shoulder, spinal and pelvic stability- Pregnancy hormones cause ligament laxity in your joints making them more vulnerable to injury and pain. These exercises aim to promote intrinsic strength and activate your stabilizing muscles.

2Side Plank (a progression of Side Twist Prep)


Set up:
Start on elbows and knees. Check that you are set up hand to elbow and elbow to hand.

Slide one leg at a time behind you and tuck your toes arriving in an elbow plank. Twist your feet in the direction that you want to face. The top leg is in front of the bottom leg. Reach your top arm out reaching for the ceiling. Hold this for 10,20 or 30 seconds and move over to the other side. Repeat 3 on each side. Add frequent rests in between each repetition where necessary.

Checkpoints: Check the alignment of your lower back when passing through your plank before your side plank. You want to avoid dropping your hips to low. Aim to keep pelvis, chest and head in line.

Benefits include: Promotes shoulder, spinal and pelvic stability. Improved core and upper body strength. Promotes good body awareness making you mindful of your posture.

3Thoracic rotation in side plank
(Progression of the elbow side plank)


Set up:
Set yourself up as you did in the previous exercise arriving in your side plank.

Maintaining the height of your spine- Exhale and reach your top arm underneath your bottom arm and rotate your head, neck and upper back. Inhale to reach your arm back up toward the ceiling and repeat 6 of each side.

Checkpoints: Aim to keep your hips square to the front, maintain good shoulder alignment and spread your feet wider apart for more stability.

Benefits include: Promotes spinal stability and mobility. Improved core and upper body strength. Improved co-ordination of breath and movement. Improved breathing and awareness of breathing, which will help you, maintain the strength of your diaphragm throughout your pregnancy. The breathing techniques can be used during your labor.

4Double knee fold into hip rolls:


Set up:
Lie on your back with a small firm head cushion if necessary and arms alongside your body or for some lower back support place your hands underneath your pelvis creating a triangular shape.

Exhale to fold one leg into 90deg at a time. You either hold this position for a breath and put your feet back down one at a time to repeat several times (5/6) or you can add a hip roll. To hip roll your arms are on the ground a small distance away from your sides and your knees and feet are squeezed together. Rock onto one side of the pelvis aiming to keep your knees together and avoid sheering them. Return to the middle initiating with your centre and repeat on the other side.

Checkpoints: Do single knee folds instead of double knee folds if you are unable to keep your spine aligned. It is important to keep your head, chest and ribcage and pelvis in line with one another and grounded. During your hip rolls avoid rocking over too far from your midline and aim to keep your opposite shoulder grounded.

Benefits include: Lumber and pelvic stability. Hip mobility. Improved lumber rotation and oblique strength

5Single leg reaches:


Set up:
Lie on your back with a small firm head cushion if necessary. Hands are on the right knee with softly bent elbows or for some lower back support place your hands underneath your pelvis creating a triangular shape.

Exhale and stretch your right leg out to 45deg and draw the left knee in towards you. Inhale to return and exhale to repeat on the other side. Aim to do 6-8 repetitions on either side.

Checkpoints: Maintain spinal stability. Avoid lifting your ribs off the mat. Move slowly as you exchange sides.

Benefits include:Promotes spinal stability. Promotes hip and knee mobility-Improved core strength. During pregnancy your pelvic and lumber alignment changes to accommodate your growing baby. It is advisable to keep your hips and core conditioned to manage any lower back discomfort.

6Upper back extension:


Set up:
Lie on your tummy, forehead on a firm head cushion if necessary. Arms bent, elbows inline with your shoulders and hands inline with your elbows. Your legs are slightly wider than hip width and turned out.

Exhale to lift your head, chest and few ribs off the mat in a sequential manner. You should aim to move from the bra-strap area. Repeat 6-8 repetitions.

Check points: Maintain weight on your pubic bone and avoid collapsing in your lower back. Use your mid back muscles to lift your spine and avoid using your arms too much.

Benefits include: Cervical and thoracic spinal extension. Strengthening the muscles responsible for this movement. Promotes hip extension and lumber stability. During pregnancy it is important to maintain your upper body strength to assist with increased weight on your spine and in preparation for baby arriving.

7Side sit ups over a stability ball:


Set up:
Start kneeling next to your stability ball and then lean over the ball so that the ball occupies your entire waist. Bend your underneath arm and extend your top leg keeping your foot grounded for support. Your supporting arm (top arm) is resting on the ball in front of your chest.

Exhale to initiate with your head then chest and mid back and curve your spine to the side remaining square to the front. Inhale to slowly return to your start position and repeat 5-6 repetitions and the repeat of the other side.

Checkpoints: This is a tricky one especially if you are not familiar with the stability ball. Start slowly and aim to get your starting position perfect before aiming for many repetitions.

 Benefits include: Improved core strength to assist with increased weight of baby.Promotes sequential and controlled lateral flexion of the spine.Improved pelvic and lumber stability.

8Bridge with the stability ball


Set up:
Start seated upright on the ball, walk your feet forward until your chest and head arrives on the ball. Hands can be reached out to the mat or placed on your hips or waist. Feet and knees should be hip width or slightly wider and feet directly under the knees.

Inhale to dip the pelvis lower than your chest. Aim to draw the pubic bone towards your belly button also known as “pelvic scooping” and connect the lower abdominals. Exhale to press through your heels and lift your hips back inline with your chest. Repeat 8-10 repetitions. Once completed simply dip your bottom down towards the mat and sit forward carefully.

Checkpoints: Aim to maintain your “pelvic scoop” as you press your pelvis up to the ceiling. Watch out for loosing your balance, if you are feeling unsteady open your legs wider for support.

Benefits include: Promotes hip extension- during pregnancy the ability to extend your hip becomes less and less as your pelvic alignment changes. To keep the lower back comfortable you should promote hip extension throughout your pregnancy. Improved glute, hamstring and quadriceps strength. Increased leg strength is important to cope with increased weight (however big or small).


The wonderful peeps from Maaji sent us some beautiful clothing for our Pilates inspired shoot. Look out for second and third trimester moves coming soon!

The Colombian brand, Maaji, is famous for their swimwear, but recently launched this colourful equestrian inspired range of fitness attire.


This is how Bianca experienced the clothes:

“The clothes were light and flexible. The prints are refreshing and flattering especially when in compromising positions.”


The Maaji Studio Collection starts from R999 for sports bras, R1099 for tank tops, R1199 for yoga pants, R1399 for capri’s and R1699 for body suits.


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