Take your bump to the barre!
By Ali Handley
Working out when you’re pregnant doesn’t have to be all breathing and stretching. That is important for sure but it’s also crucial you stay active, maintain your physical stamina and challenge your muscle endurance. Barre and standing exercises are great way to strengthen and tone your lower body as it works hard to support your growing belly and they are accessible and safe throughout your entire pregnancy, all the way to your due date. Standing work challenges your balance, connects the activation of your lower body with the muscles of your deep core, energizes you and is a safe form of cardio. Importantly Barre and standing moves make you use your feet. Exercises that target the muscles of the feet not only help your lymphatic system to reduce swelling but also can prevent your feet from flattening as your pregnancy progresses.
You don’t need to have a ballet barre to do these exercises – find a stable household chair, kitchen bench – I even use my stroller handle as the Barre, just make sure you have the brake on and always a light touch. Here are my top 5 barre and standing moves to do when pregnant.
Standing Footwork – Releve Series – Parallel, First position, Running
This releve series is a great way to warm up the lower body and target the muscles of the feet that support the arch from flattening.
Parallel – feet together, standing tall, soft touch on the barre
First Position – Heels together, toes apart, standing tall, soft touch on the barre
Running – Feet Together, one heel lift, standing tall, soft touch on the barre
- Maintaining the start position - Lift the heels. For Running – lift and lower one heel at a time. Imagine you are wearing a pair of 80’s stirrup pants, as your heels lift they rise up first from the arch of your foot.
- Maintaining the start position and lower the heels back down. Focus on length as you lower the heels.
TIP – Keep hugging your baby to your spine, belly button pulling all the way in, to stay connected to your core and support your belly during the exercise for balance.
REPS – 8 & 8 pulses for each position.
First Position Plies & Pulse backs
These are a real thigh burner and begin to target the muscles of the butt that tone and shape the outer leg.
Squeezing heels together, toes apart, rise up to the ball of your foot, standing tall, soft touch on the barre
- Keep the heels squeezing together and heels lifted as you bend the knees and lower the shape straight down.
- Stay low, with the heels lifted and squeezing together, pulse the legs back and feel the butt muscles turn on.
- Hug your baby to your spine, lift your pelvic floor, squeezing the thighs together as you stand back up to the start position.
TIP – Try and stay super low as you pulse the legs open and as you come up never straighten the legs completely for the extra challenge.
REPS - 12
Plies are a great exercise to do to prepare the body for labor. Focus on stretching the pelvic floor as you go into the plié and while you’re down there, challenge yourself to see how many breaths you can hold the position for.
Step your feet wide apart and externally rotate them from your hips, standing tall, soft touch on the barre
- Inhale – Bend the knees and lower down into the plié. Imagine the pelvic floor stretching as you do. Make sure you knees are tracking over your second toe and that you are sending your sitting bones straight down.
- Exhale – Hug your baby to your spine, lift your pelvic floor, push down through your feet and stand back up to the start position.
REPS – 12
* On your last plié stay low and pulse – up a little, down a little.
REPS - 12
* After the pulses stay as low as you can and lift and lower one heel at a time.
REPS – 6 each heel
* Hold your final plié low and breathe.
REPS – start with 8 breaths and see how long you can go for!
TIP – The final plié hold is a great chance to practice some mind control for childbirth. Focus on your breath in and out and not one the thigh burn!
Wall Push up
Maintaining upper body strength is so important when you’re pregnant. You are going to need it when you’re a new mom. Traditional push-ups require too much abdominal work so do your push-ups on the wall.
Hands on the wall in line with your shoulders, arms stretched out, legs, feet and ankles squeezing together. You should be on the ball of your feet, your body in a long line.
- Inhale – Bend the elbows and take the whole shape in toward the wall
- Exhale – Hug your baby to your spine, keep your shoulders down and you push against the wall back to the start position. On your last push-up hold yourself halfway in toward the wall and begin pulses.
TIP – Try this series but change the muscle focus to your triceps. Instead of the elbows going out to the side as your arms bend, keep the upper arms bones squeezing into your sides and the elbows going straight back.
Fold-over Single Leg Butt
Lets lift that pregnant tuschi! This exercise targets that trouble spot where the back of the leg meets the butt. It’s not only a vanity exercise though – you need a strong tusch to support your pelvis as it changes to house your growing baby.
Hips are square and facing your barre. You are folded over at the hips, the arms are crossed on the barre and your head is down. Make sure there is still just a soft touch on the barre. Soft bend in the standing leg, the moving leg is bent, toes pointed and reaching up to the ceiling.
- Inhale – Maintain the start position
- Exhale – Hug your baby to your spine as you pulse the toes up toward the ceiling
Reps x 20 each leg
TIP – for the extra challenge – rise up onto the ball of the standing leg.
Check out one of BodyLove Pilates Prenatal Barre video workouts!