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The Fundamentals - The best core exercises when you are pre & postnatal.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

By - Ali Handley - BodyLove Pilates founder

There is a lot of confusion around what are considered core exercises and when it comes to core work when you are pregnant or postnatal it's hard to know which ones are safe. The BodyLove Pilates Fundamentals are core exercises chosen specifically for pre & postnatal women because they support the anatomical changes that your bodies go through. 

If you practice these exercise below everyday I can guarantee you will feel and look better within two weeks! Check them out!

Fundamentals

WHAT ARE THE FUNDAMENTALS?

  • The Fundamentals are a series of breathing activation exercises that target the deep core postural muscles of the body.
  • These exercises form the foundation of the BodyLove Pilates method and are used and cued throughout both the prenatal and postnatal programs.
  • The BodyLove Pilates Fundamentals instruct you in targeted core work that you can do almost anywhere – just by breathing and connecting.

WHY ARE THESE EXERCISES SO IMPORTANT?

  • The Fundamentals provide essential support to the body - Our bodies goes through extensive changes, particular the abdominal muscles, over the course of our pregnancy. Postnatally we must focus on the recovery of our abdominals muscles and reconnection with our core.
  • The Fundamental exercises are designed specifically to support your body best through this period of change and recovery – stabilizing and supporting your vulnerable pelvis and low back through targeted deep core work.
  • Mastering these exercises will ensure you are working out in a safe way that will assist and support you to feel and look great. Learning to first stabilize the pelvis and spine before movement is a crucial step to ensure you are working in good alignment and using the correct muscles.
  • The Fundamentals teaches you to harness the power of your breath by instructing you to enjoy a deep cleansing inhale and a powerful activating exhale.

TVA STRENGTHENING FUNDAMENTALS

GOAL

  • To strengthen and challenge the TVA
  • Elongate and support the lumbar spine in a neutral position
  • Support the weight of the growing uterus
  • Stabilize the pelvis in a neutral position
  • Repair the Diastasis Recti postnatally.

1. Hug your baby - Belly-button to spine

This is a hugely important first exercise you need to master. It is TVA engagement and isolation from the other abdominal muscles. (Rectus 6 pack muscle and Obliques – we want them to stay QUIET and soft)

  • Inhale (through your nose) – Fill the backs and sides of your lungs up with air
  • Visual cues
  • On the inhale the ribs move out to the side and up.
  • Exhale (Darth Vader) As you exhale draw your belly button toward your spine.
  • Visual cues
  • Imagine the TVA hugging your baby to your spine.
  • Visualize the spanx like effect of the TVA wrapping around your belly from your back around to the midline of the body (your linea alba) – lengthening your spine and stabilizing your pelvis. (the bones in your pelvis are pulled deeper within the joints and toward one another)
  • Imagine a vacuum sucking your belly button to your spine.
  • Visualize at the front of your body - your sternum and pubic bone moving away from each other.

REPEAT – X 15

2. TVA Counting

This exercise challenges your TVA to remain engaged while you breath. It is an ISOMETRIC hold of the muscle. Start by counting to 10 and then slowly build to holding and counting to 25!

  • Inhale (through your nose) – Fill the backs and sides of your lungs up with air.
  • Visual cues
  • Imagine your lungs are like balloons and you need to fill the bottom of the balloon up with air.
  • Exhale (using even Darth Vader breath pattern) Slowly and evenly draw your belly button toward your spine and hold. Out loud count to 10 in a lovely even and steady voice – You must take small sips of air as you count so you are still breathing whilst maintaining TVA engagement.
  • Visual cues
  • Hug your baby all the way to your spine and hold it there.
  • Feel the ribs move out to the side as you take little sips of air Imagine a vacuum sucking your bellybutton to your spine – DO NOT release suction as you count. 
  • Visualize your sternum and pubic bone moving away from each other as you exhale and keep them lengthening away as you count.

REPEAT – 5 x 10 (Building to 2 x 25)

The Sideways Elevator

Your belly button is the elevator and the penthouse is your spine! This is the first challenge for that TVA connection mastered above. It requires a sequentially deepening of the TVA connection.

  • Inhale (through your nose) – Fill the backs and sides of your lungs up with air.
  • Visual cues
  • Imagine your back ribs are smiling up towards the edge of your shoulders.
  • Visualize a valve on the sides of your ribs and send breath in through the valve. When your belly button is all the way out and full of air this is ground floor for the elevator.
  • Exhale (using even Darth Vader breath pattern) – Slowly and evenly draw your belly button sequentially toward your spine. Ground floor your belly button is all the way out. When you finish your breath the elevator is at the penthouse – your spine.
  • Visual cues
  • Imagine the sideways elevator moving through level 1- level 5. Level 5 is when you have hugged your baby all the way to your spine – sequentially feeling the muscle deepen as the sideways elevator climbs. Visualize a bike chain of energy – on the exhale energy moves up the front of the body and down the back. Imagine growing taller with the exhale – lengthening and cinching the waist Feel your shoulders melt down your back

REPEAT – X 15

The Sideways Elevator with floor isolations

This exercise builds on the TVA control exercise but you will you will use a staccato, shortened breath pattern to go between floors, never letting the TVA completely release.

  • Inhale (through your nose) – Fill the backs and sides of your lungs up with air.
  • Visual cues
  • Imagine your back ribs are smiling up towards the edge of your shoulders.
  • Visualize a valve on the sides of your ribs and send breath in through the valve.
  • When your belly button is all the way out and full of air this is ground floor for the elevator.
  • Exhale (using even Darth Vader breath pattern) – Slowly and evenly draw your belly button toward your spine from Level 1 - 5.
  • Inhale – Release the elevator (belly button) from level 5, out to level 4, a little further out to level 3
  • Exhale – Sideways elevator goes back in to level 4
  • Repeat
  • Visual cues
  • Imagine the sideways elevator moving through level 1- level 5. Level 5 is the top of the sideways building – the penthouse!

REPEAT - 3 X 10 ISOLATIONS

PELVIC FLOOR MUSCLE STRENGTHENING FUNDAMENTALS

GOAL

  • To discover, strengthen and challenge the deep core pelvic floor muscles
  • Support the growing uterus prenatally
  • Restore strength and support after childbirth
  • Form a strong foundation for the spine to provide good posture

#The TVA will kick in with the activation of the pelvic floor but you must focus on first feeling the Pelvic floor lift before pulling the belly button to the spine or hugging your baby in.

1. Pick a penny up (kegel type move)

This exercise is to give you an awareness of the exterior action of the pelvic floor muscles and internal sensation of the pelvic floor tunnel.

  • Inhale – (through your nose) – Fill the backs and sides of your lungs up with air. Breathe into your pelvic floor and feel it fully relaxed and “open”
  • Visual cues
  • Imagine you are sitting on penny Imagine the pelvic floor is like a flower and as you inhale the flower blossoms open and out of your vagina.
  • Imagine the inhale breath widening your SITS bones
  • Exhale (using even Darth Vader breath pattern) Contract the pelvic floor muscles and pull them up inside the body. Feel the two sides of your vagina close around the penny, pick it up and pull it inside you.
  • Visual cues
  • Imagine your vagina closing back around the flower and drawing all the petals back up inside the tunnel.
  • Imagine a flowing fountain starting in the place between your vagina and your rectum and flowing up through your body and out the crown of your head

 REPEAT – X 15

2. Pea up a straw

This exercise is a foundation exercise that gives you an awareness of pelvic floor tunnel that goes from the base of your spine all the way up through the body and out the crown of the head.

  • Inhale – (through your nose) – Fill the backs and sides of your lungs up with air. Breathe into your pelvic floor and feel it fully relaxed and “open”
  • Visual cues
  • Imagine a little pea resting in the space between your vagina and your rectum.
  • Breathe around that pea.
  • Exhale (using even Darth Vader breath pattern) Contract the pelvic floor muscles and pull them up inside the body.
  • Visual cues
  • Imagine sucking that little pea all the way up the inside of the body with a straw.

REPEAT – X 15

3. Emergency stop and hold

This exercise builds on the pelvic floor awareness discovered in the exercise above. You will need to find that mind body connection to the pelvic floor muscles and then retain the engagement for a 5-count hold.

  • Inhale – (through your nose) Fill the backs and sides of your lungs up with air. Breathe into your pelvic floor and feel it fully relaxed and “open”
  • Visual cues
  • Imagine the pelvic floor is like a flower and as you inhale the flower blossoms open out of your vagina.
  • Imagine the system of pelvic floor muscles relaxed like a hanging hammock
  • Exhale (using even Darth Vader breath pattern) Contract the pelvic floor muscles and pull them up inside the body and quickly stop, holding the contraction for a 5 count.
  • Visual cues
  • Imagine pulling the penny up inside the pelvic floor tunnel and quickly stopping it and holding onto the contraction.
  • Imagine a car driving at pace up a hill and then coming to a STOP SIGN

REPEAT – X 15

4. PFM Counting

This exercise challenges your PFM to remain engaged while you breathe. It is an ISOMETRIC hold of the muscle. Start by counting to 10 and then slowly build to holding and counting to 25!

  • Inhale (through your nose) – Fill the backs and sides of your lungs up with air.
  • Visual cues
  • Imagine your lungs are like balloons and you need to fill the bottom of the balloon up with air.
  • Exhale (using even Darth Vader breath pattern) Contract the pelvic floor muscles and pull them up inside the body.
  • Out loud count to 10 in a lovely even and steady voice – You must take small sips of air as you count so you are still breathing whilst maintaining PFM engagement.
  • Visual cues
  • Keep the pea up inside the body as you count.
  • Feel the ribs move out to the side as you take little sips of air Imagine a vacuum sucking your bellybutton to your spine – DO NOT release suction as you count. 
  • Visualize your sternum and pubic bone moving away from each other as you exhale and keep them lengthening away as you count.

5. Ping pong ball – diamond hold

This exercise challenges those pelvic floor muscles with something heavy to pull up inside the body.

  • Inhale – (through your nose) Fill the backs and sides of your lungs up with air. Breathe into your pelvic floor and feel it fully relaxed and “open”
  • Visual cues
  • Imagine you are seated on a diamond or Ping-Pong ball - placed in between the vagina and the rectum.
  • Visualize breathing the pelvic floor muscles open and around the object.
  • Exhale (using even Darth Vader breath pattern) Contract the pelvic floor muscles and pull them up inside the body.
  • Visual cues
  • Imagine you have a vacuum inside of you and you are sucking the Ping-Pong balls up inside of you as far as you can.
  • Imagine you gently fold around the diamond and draw the object upside of you.

REPEAT – X 15

6. Pelvic Floor Elevator Ride

This exercise brings awareness to the pelvic floor tunnel and challenges you to be able to control the muscle contraction up through the floor.

  • Inhale – (through your nose) – Fill the backs and sides of your lungs up with air. Breathe into your pelvic floor and feel it fully relaxed and “open”
  • Visual cues
  • Imagine that your pelvic floor is an elevator at the ground floor of a building
  • Exhale (using even Darth Vader breath pattern) Contract the pelvic floor muscles and pull them up inside the body.
  • Visual cues
  • Imagine the elevator moving upward through level 1-5. Level 5 is the penthouse. (start by going to level 1-3 and then fully releasing the elevator down again.
  • As you gain strength challenge yourself to get the elevator all the way up to the penthouse on Level 5!)

REPEAT – X 15

7. Pelvic Floor front and back isolations

This exercise challenges your perception of the front and back of the pelvic floor muscles and your ability to isolate the contraction of the two.

# Front of the Pelvic Floor

  • Inhale – (through your nose) – Fill the backs and sides of your lungs up with air. Breathe into your pelvic floor and feel it fully relaxed and “open”
  • Visual cues
  • Imagine your pelvic floor is like a tissue/Kleenex lying soft and flat. It will cover all corners of the pelvic floor system
  • Exhale (using even Darth Vader breath pattern) Contract the pelvic floor muscles at the front of the system in and up
  • Visual cues
  • Imagine your breath is like the wind, blowing from underneath the tissue curling the front corners of the tissue up and in toward the middle of the tissue.
  • Imagine pulling your vagina in and back toward your butt.

# Back of the Pelvic Floor

  • Inhale – (through your nose) – Fill the backs and sides of your lungs up with air. Breathe into your pelvic floor and feel it fully relaxed and “open”
  • Visual cues
  • Imagine your pelvic floor is like a tissue/Kleenex lying soft and flat. It will cover all corners of the pelvic floor system
  • Exhale (using even Darth Vader breath pattern) Contract the pelvic floor muscles at the back of the system in and up.
  • Visual cues
  • Imagine your breath is like the wind, blowing from underneath the tissue curling the back corners of the tissue up and in toward the middle of the tissue.
  • Imagine pulling your SITS bone together and up.

REPEAT - 3 X 10 X ISOLATIONS

8. Quick Flicks

This exercise is similar to a kegel type move wherein it asks you to engage the PFM but this time using a quick and short activation.

  • Inhale – (through your nose) – Fill the backs and sides of your lungs up with air. Breathe into your pelvic floor and feel it fully relaxed and “open” Visual Cues Imagine the system of pelvic floor muscles relaxed like a hanging hammock Exhale (using even Darth Vader breath pattern) Contract the pelvic floor muscles Visual Cues Imagine “someone or something” has given you a quick flick down where your pelvic floor muscles are and the engagement is your reaction.

REPEAT - 3 X 10 Quick Flicks

9. Slow Squeezes

This exercise is similar to a kegel type move wherein it asks you to engage the PFM but using a slow and controlled activation.

  • Inhale – (through your nose) – Fill the backs and sides of your lungs up with air. Breathe into your pelvic floor and feel it fully relaxed and “open”
  • Visual cues
  • Imagine the system of pelvic floor muscles relaxed like a hanging hammock
  • Exhale (using even Darth Vader breath pattern) Contract the pelvic floor muscles
  • Visual cues
  • Imagine slowly and firmly squeezing a lemon with your PFM.
  • Imagine a feeling of wringing out your muscles.

REPEAT - X 15

10. Pelvic Tilt

This exercise combines the activation and stabilization of the TVA, PFM and some targeted Oblique engagement, with movement.

  • Inhale – (through your nose) – Fill the backs and sides of your lungs up with air. Breathe into your pelvic floor and feel it fully relaxed and “open”
  • Visual cues
  • Imagine the system of pelvic floor muscles relaxed like a hanging hammock On the inhale the ribs move out to the side and up.
  • Exhale (using even Darth Vader breath pattern) Contract the TVA, PFM and internal obliques and from this deep low engagement gently tilt the pelvis back.
  • Visual cues
  • Imagine the abdominal muscles knitting together to hollow out the space between your pubic bone and belly button.
  • If you were to place a marble between the belly button and pubic bone, the marble would roll into the belly button. Inhale again and the marble would roll back to the place between the two.

REPEAT - X 15

11. Head Float

This exercise combines the activation and stabilization of the TVA, PFM and some targeted Oblique and rectus engagement to gently flex the spine.

  • Inhale – (through your nose) – Fill the backs and sides of your lungs up with air. Breathe into your pelvic floor and feel it fully relaxed and “open”.
  • Visual cues
  • Imagine the system of pelvic floor muscles relaxed like a hanging hammock
  • On the inhale the ribs move out to the side and up.
  • Exhale (using even Darth Vader breath pattern) Contract the TVA, PFM and internal obliques and from this deep low engagement gently tilt the pelvis back. Maintain this connection and then float the head up. Leaving the shoulders on the mat. The flexion is very small.
  • Visual cues
  • Imagine the abdominal muscles knitting together to hollow out the space between your pubic bone and belly button.
  • Imagine all the abdominal muscles hugging in toward the midline and connecting.

REPEAT - X 15

Related Tags:
Pilates