Living Wellness

Second Trimester Pilates

Bianca Oppel at Mint Pilates demonstrates easy second trimester pilates moves to do in the comfort of your own home.

1Deep Yoga Squat:

Set up: Stand upright with your feet slightly wider than hip distance apart and turned out (toes and knees turned outward-movement comes from hip joint). Arms are either reached out in front you or with your palms pressed together in front of your chest.
Action: Breathe in to prepare your body. Breathe out to slowly sit your pelvis backward. Aim to move your hips, knees and then ankles as you sit down into a low squat. When returning upright press through your heels and engage your gluteal muscles (around and under your bum). Repeat 8 or 10 times depending on your fitness levels or fatigue.
Checkpoints: A classical Pilates squat will only encourage 90deg through the knee joints where as this squat takes you beyond that range please check your comfort levels as you sit down into your squat and stop wherever you need to. Aim to keep your heels grounded although if your heels do lift it is okay as long as your knees are comfortable and your movement is controlled.
Benefits: Using a variety of different Squats throughout your pregnancy is a great way to promote leg, hip and back strength. Squats are a great way to condition your pelvic floor muscles which you may or may not know become quite stretched throughout your whole pregnancy and birthing process. Squats are great to use post-preganancy to encourage pelvic-floor “re-hab”.

2 Double knee fold:

Set up: Lie on your back, arms relaxed at your sides, knees are bent and knees and feet are hip width apart and parallel.
Action: Breathe in to prepare the body. Breathe out to fold one leg in toward you at a time arriving with both knees above your hips or slightly deeper in. Hold this position for a few breaths focusing on keeping your ribcage grounded and if necessary the lower back to. When returning the feet back to the mat, move one leg at a time and focus on spinal stability. Repeat this 3 times on each side and then aim to alternate sides without resting one foot down on the mat. Aim for at least 3 times on each side.
Check points: Ensure you maintain good comfort levels. Whenever exercising on your back during pregnancy check for feelings of  breathless. In this case role over to your side and move to the next exercise. Keep your chest grounded throughout your movement and if you struggle to keep your lower back steady aim to “imprint” your lower back into the mat for assistance.
Benefits: Challenges spinal stability and conditions the deeper abdominals and hips. Lying on your back for whatever length of time is a great way to rejuvenate your spine allowing over worked muscles to rest.

3Comfortable seated posture:

Set up: Sitting upright directly on the mat, cushion or chair if you would prefer. Legs are crossed comfortably if possible and arms are relaxed at your sides, on lap or bent with hands pressed together in front of chest.
Action: Become aware of your alignment. Aim to stack your spine from bottom to top. Feel for your sit bones and check that you are sitting on top of them. Lengthen up through the spine but keep your ribcage, chest and shoulders relaxed. Close your eyes and aim to sit upright for 5-10minutes focusing on your increased yet natural breathing rhythm. Aim to breathe in for up 4-5 counts and breathe out for double that time. Direct your breathe into the back, sides and front of your diaphragm whilst keeping your shoulders relaxed.
Checkpoints: Take note of the muscles working to keep you upright. Maintain tension free shoulders, neck, jaw and hips. Place hands on your belly and gently massage to encourage movement of your baby.
Benefits: Challenges postural endurance, good postural awareness and relaxation of the body and mind. (Time to connect with your baby)

4-01 Table Top 2 on your back with a stability ball:

Set up:Lie on your back, knees and feet bent and hip width apart and arms extended above your chest with ball in hands. Double knee fold (see exercise number 2) squeeze your legs together and raise your feet higher than your knees or straighten them if possible. Place your ball against your shin bones and move your hands around to the opposite end of the ball. You are now ready to start…
Action: Breathe in to prepare the body. Breathe out and move your right arm over your head as far as you can maintaining ribs to the ground. Repeat on the other side. Next step is to move your legs one at a time only as far as is comfortable and you can keep your back steadily pressed into the mat. Final phase is to attempt to move opposite arm and leg away from your centre whilst maintaining a good press of the remaining hand and shin into the ball. Repeat the last phase 4,5 or 6 times depending on your level of strength and comfort.
Checkpoints: This is the most challenging exercise in this sequence. Please take care not to aim for big ranges if you are unable to keep your spine grounded through out the exercise. Be sure to take regular breaks when feeling fatigued. Always consider your spine first before moving your arms and legs.
Benefits: Challenges Spinal stability, co-ordination of breath, movement and maintaining good alignment. Increases hip flexor strength and flexibility. Any exercise performed on your back is a great way for your spine to rejuvenate and “re-set”. Ensure you are comfortable on your back and not feeling breathless.

5-01 Assisted Hip Roll:


Set up:Lie on your back, knees and feet bent and hip width apart and arms extended above your chest with ball in hands. Double knee fold (see exercise number 2) Place ball underneath your calves and relax your legs over the ball.

Action: Breath in to prepare the body. Breathe out and 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. Repeat this action 6 or 8 times on either side. Move slowly and enjoy the movement and rest for the legs.

Checkpoints: This exercise is fairly easy just be sure not to roll to far. In Pilates “less is more” and your challenge is to maintain good joint alignment throughout movement. Keep your chest grounded on both sides.

Benefits: Encourages oblique strength and spinal rotation. With the feet being above the heart it offers some circulation benefits whilst allowing some rest for the feet and legs.

6-01Supine Plank with stability ball:

Set up:Lie on your back, knees and feet bent and hip width apart and arms extended above your chest with ball in hands. Double knee fold (see exercise number 2) Place ball underneath your feet and straighten your legs (ball should arrive under your achillies tendon and lower calf area)
Action: Breathe in to prepare the body. Breathe out and sequentially lift your spine off of the mat. Start by rolling the pelvis towards the belly button until your arrive with weight between the shoulder blades. Breathe in to hold this position and when breathing out roll your spine back down in the reversed order. This exercise can be done with legs turned out. Repeat this 6 or 8 times.
Checkpoints: Be careful not to hyperextend your knees. If you feel your knees ache set yourself up with the ball offering more support under the calf or at the back of the knee. Use your arms as much as is necessary especially if you feel you are off balance.
Benefits: This is a great way to condition your back and hip extensors. Even although you won’t feel a stretch in the front of your body you will benefit by opening ip the front line of the body and strengthening the back line. (this balance is necessary to maintain comfort levels throughout your pregnancy)

7-01 Cat Stretch:

 Set up: Prop yourself onto all fours. Hands under shoulders and knees under hips. Pay special attention to the condition of your wrists and if you experience any discomfort please position yourself onto your forearms and knees.
Action: Breathe in to prepare the body. Breathe out to round your spine from the bottom to the top. Start with your pelvis, then “HUG YOUR BABY TO YOUR SPINE”, press ribs and mid back up to the ceiling and then finally lift and tuck your neck and chin inward. It is important to note the demonstration here. Maintain lift and length throughout your posture resisting gravity and not just hunching your upper back and neck up to the ceiling whilst dropping your head to the floor. Aim to open the lower back and promote lift and length through the upper back and neck.
Checkpoints: Maintain lift and length, round lower back as much as possible and avoid dropping your head in height too much.
Benefits: During pregnancy your alignment changes quite significantly and what we aim to achieve through exercises is to promote keep your joints functional, mobile and strong. This exercise is a great way to take pressure off your spinal and pelvic joints, create nice space for your baby, promote upper body strength and stretch the lower back and back of neck.

8-01 Knee stretches:

 Set up: Prop yourself onto all fours. Hands under shoulders, knees under hips and tuck your toes. Position yourself on your forearms if you experience any wrist discomfort. Lastly aim to hover your knees slightly off the mat.
Action:  Breathe in to prepare the body. Breathe out to slowly sit back towards your heels with control. Breathe in to move your chest back over your hands or forearms and repeat this up to 10 times. This exercise is best performed slowly and with control.
Checkpoints: Maintain a slow controlled pace. Press back with arms and press forward with feet and engage your legs.
Benefits: This exercise can be quite cardiovascular so that is a great benefit. This is a great way to promote lower and upper body strength as well as de-compress your spine.

9-01 Rest position:

 Set up: Prop yourself onto all fours. Open your knees wider than hips and put your feet together. Sit back towards your heels and stretch your arms as far forward as possible.
Action: Take a deep breath in. Breathe out pull your shoulders away from your ears. Continue to take deep controlled breaths and relax into the stretch with each breath. Turn your head to one side and encourage a good release and repeat on the other side. Sit in your rest position for 8 tp 10 breaths.
Checkpoints: Avoid sitting back too far if you feel any knee compression and or too much of a stretch in the front your foot. Feel free to bring your arms to your sides touching your feet to relax your shoulders.
Benefits: Encourages good breathing. Offers a good stretch for the lower back.

10-01  Side Plank

Set up: Start on hands and knees.

Action: Slide one leg at a time behind you and tuck your toes arriving in a 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. An easier variation is t0 lower the bottom knee to the mat for support.

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

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