6 Essential Pilates Exercises on All Fours
- Editors of FitBump
- Jun 22 2015
- 0 comments
The all-fours (hands-and-knees) position in Pilates is one of the most beneficial for both moms-to-be and new moms. It works the whole body and is safe to do throughout pregnancy and into the postpartum period. This series of all fours–inspired moves—brought to us by Erika Bloom (pictured here) of Erika Bloom Pilates Plus—can be done anywhere, with no equipment, and is both therapeutic and effective, toning the body from head to toe. Do it all summer long—on the beach, by the pool or even at home in the nursery.
Why Do Them: This move works the deep abdominals—or transverse abdominis—which help support the weight of your growing baby and keep your back healthy during pregnancy. These muscles are also a key player during labor. For new moms, belly breaths will help restore your pre-baby belly. The deep abdominals narrow the waist, flatten the stomach and assist with the healing of diastasis recti (abdominal separation often associated with pregnancy).
How to Do Them: Begin on all fours. Find a long, neutral spine. In neutral you are maintaining the natural, healthy curves of your spine instead of finding a flat back. Sustain the neutral spine and breath in, allowing your belly to expand away from your spine. Exhale and draw the low belly deep into your spine without coming out of neutral. This engagement should feel like you are tightening your lower abdominals around your waist like a corset. Perform 25 of these deep abdominal engagements.
Pilates Tricep Presses
Why Do Them: This move tones your arms and strengthens your core both pre- and post-baby. Working your upper body keeps you strong for toting baby gear—and for toting baby, too!
How to Do Them: Start on all fours with a neutral spine. Feel your shoulder blades widen on the back. Bend your elbows, keeping them narrow and close to your body so they point back toward your knees. Bend them as deeply as you can while maintaining wide shoulder blades and a long, neutral spine. Press the arms straight to return to the starting position. Perform 20 reps.
Why Do It: This move will strengthen and tone your stomach, back, shoulders, glutes and thighs. If you are pregnant and balance is difficult, or you can’t keep your transverse abdominis isolated, leave both arms down and focus on the leg movement.
How to Do It: Come to all fours. Inhale to lengthen your spine. Exhale and deepen your abdominals into a neutral spine. Continue to breathe this way as you extend your left arm forward and your right leg back on an exhale. Inhale and bring them back in. Exhale and reach the right arm forward and the left leg back. Inhale to return to all fours. As you keep moving, alternating sides, keep your collarbones wide, your hips still and your core engaged. Perform 20 reps on each side.
Why Do It: This exercise works your hips, core, shoulders and arms. If you are pregnant and feeling strong and connected to your center, lift the extended leg for an added challenge.
How to Do It: Come to all fours. Rotate your entire body to the right to bring your weight onto your left hand and left shin. Your right arm will lift to reach long overhead by your right ear and your right foot will lift to lengthen the right leg back in line with your body. Press the inner edge of the right foot on the mat with a straight right leg and reach long through your right side from your right foot to your right fingertips. Keep your abdominals pulled into your spine. You should feel like you are between two panes of glass. Come back through the all-fours position to do the other side, lifting the left side of the body to come onto the right hand and right shin. Alternate sides for 10 reps.
Wide-Knee Child’s Pose
Why Do It: Perform this move to lengthen your back, from your lower back to your lats. This pose also stretches the pelvic floor, which is beneficial for birth preparation and for regaining the integrity of the pelvic floor post-baby.
How to Do It: Come to all fours. Widen the knees, bringing the feet together. Press through your arms to lengthen your sitz bones (the bones at the base of your pelvis) back toward your heels, coming only as far as it feels comfortable in your knees, ankles, hips and belly. Breathe low into your back. Hold for several breaths. Release and repeat.
Why Do It: This stretch will ease common pregnancy discomforts in your back and ribs. Stretching the obliques (side abdominals) also helps to prevent diastasis recti (abdominal separation). If you are pregnant, this stretch will work toward correcting imbalances associated with carrying and holding your child. It also aids in the healing of diastasis recti.
How to Do It: Come to all fours, sit back on your heels and shift your hips to the left side to bring your sitz bones (the bones at the base of your pelvis) to the floor. Reach your right arm down to your shins and your left arm overhead by your ear. Side bend to your right, opening up your left side. Inhale into your left ribs as you reach out through your left fingertips and down through your left sitz bones. Repeat on the opposite side.Erika Bloom is the founder and owner of Erika Bloom Pilates Plus, a certified pre- and postnatal Pilates instructor and a trained doula and birth coach.