Belly Up to Barre: 6 Safe (and Effective) Pregnancy Exercises

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Our clients (and instructors) have been bringing their bumps to the barre for years, encouraged by the fact that just about every Physique 57 move has a safe, effective (and no-fuss!) variation suited perfectly for moms-to-be.

Still, we constantly get asked (by both pregnant and non-pregnant clients alike) about the best moves they can master on their own to be their fittest before, during, and after baby. So we tapped two of our (very) pregnant instructors Jessica & Tsarra to show off the best pregnancy exercises! (Please note: it’s important to get clearance to exercise from your doctor before starting a fitness routine.) 

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Upright V:
This is an excellent position to focus on posture and proper body alignment. The upright weight bearing strengthens the pelvic floor to prepare for labor and delivery and all of the fun hip movements stretch the lower back and help maintain core strength.

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Set up: Make a small V with your feet with your heels together and your toes two inches apart. Press up onto the balls of your feet, lifting your heels one inch up, and bend your knees forward over your toes. Your shoulders should be stacked over your hips and your tailbone over your heels. Maintain this tall posture as you move.

Execution: Fun moves are endless in this position! You can shake, circle, and tuck your hips, and move your seat down towards your heels and up, all of which are great for your thighs, hamstrings, posture, and pelvic floor strength. Reps: 90 seconds.

Standing Crane 
This move engages all of the muscle groups surrounding the pelvis, helping a woman create balanced strength in areas that are compromised during pregnancy – hamstrings, glutes, abs, lower back – this can even help reduce that waddling effect later in pregnancy by focusing on stabilizing the outer hips.

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Set up: Position yourself an arms distance away from your barre or sturdy piece of furniture. Soften your knees and slightly incline your chest forward so that you take weight into your hands. Hug around the baby to gently engage your core and lengthen your tailbone down. Bend your working leg, draw your heel to your seat, and flex your foot. Your supporting knee should be soft and your working thigh should be slightly behind your standing leg.

Execution: Take tiny presses back with your working leg to engage your glutes and your hamstring while using your core strength to keep your back completely stable. Reps: 60-90 seconds each side.

Roundback Abs on Wedge
Many women shy away from core work during pregnancy but this is a huge mistake! A woman has to maintain a balance of flexibility to allow her belly to grow but strength to support that growth. She puts herself at risk of lower back pain if her abs get lax. This is a non-invasive exercise, and by keeping the upper body relaxed down on the wedge, the abs and pelvic floor are gently engaged and the lower back is stretched. Plus, a major bonus, it helps reduce swelling in the lower extremities as the legs are elevated above the heart!

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Set up: Lie down on a wedge mat or cushioning that supports your back and keeps your head elevated above your heart. Your feet should be flat on the floor and palms gently pressing down by your sides to activate your lats and provide support. Gently lift one leg up, keeping your knee soft and allowing your leg to slightly turn out to relax your hip.

Execution: Lightly hug your abs as you rock your tailbone under the baby, creating a C curve in your spine. Take 15-20 slow rocks with your hips. Next, while maintaining the curve in your spine, slowly let your leg lower a few inches away from you, and exhale as you hug around the baby and draw the leg back in. Repeat 10 times. Repeat both variations on the second side.

Back Dancing on Wedge
The perfect exercise to stretch the lower back and strengthen the pelvic floor, lower back, glutes, and hamstrings. It’s also one of the best postnatal exercises to realign the lower spine and strengthen the surrounding muscle groups.

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Set up: Lie down on a wedge mat or cushioning that supports your back and keeps your head elevated above your heart. Step your feet shoulder width apart and gently press your palms down by your sides to activate your lats and provide support. Feet may be flat or flexed to more deeply engage your hamstrings.

Execution: Scoop your hips up a few inches off the floor and then lift, circle, or shake your hips. Reps: 2 minutes.

Back Extension on All 4’s
This is an exercise to do every single day! It promotes good posture, core stability, and elongates the lower back; another essential postnatal exercise.
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Set up: Position yourself on all 4’s, with your shoulders over your hands and your hips over your knees. Slightly soften your elbows and hug your abs, gently lifting the baby up and elongating your lower back. Keep your focus 10 inches forward of your hands and your breath calm as you extend your right leg back and your left arm forward.

Execution: Slowly lift opposite arm and leg simultaneously, reaching in opposition while maintaining length and stability through the back. Repeat 10 times each side.

Pigeon Stretch
This comprehensive hip stretch can help alleviate so many of the perinatal physical complaints. The position opens up the hip flexors, outer hips, and lower back. Spending a few minutes in this position 1-2 times per day can help decrease lower back pain and ease symptoms of sciatica.
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Set up: Starting from All 4’s, slide one leg forward, extending the lower leg away from you to create a 90 degree angle. Try to keep your hips square to the front and as you extend the other leg back in a parallel position, with your knee rotated towards the floor. Note: you need to find an angle with the front leg that feels comfortable for your body, which may be less than 90 degrees. You can flex your front foot to keep your joint actively aligned. Also, you may slide a pillow or blanket underneath the hip of your front leg to help you find the correct alignment and more easily release into the position.

Execution: Take full deep breaths and work up to 1 minute per side.

Our prenatal clients love that they are able to bring their bump to the barre throughout their pregnancy since Physique 57’s workouts include variations offered for every trimester (both at our classes and in our bump friend online workouts). Pregnant and interested in working out with us? Check out our blog post on 5 Tips for Bringing Your Bump to the Barre before getting started! 

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