The Amazing Benefits of Pilates During Pregnancy!

Posted on March 5, 2024

Flex is long known for effective and controlled classes for all stages of the pregnancy journey, our Prenatal Pilates trio classes offer insightful advice, caring assistance, and informed support.

“Pilates is hands-down the most beneficial exercise for expectant women,” says Flex co-founder Heather Thomas. “Pilates for pregnancy focuses on the key areas that need special care, such as upper body strength to prep for holding, feeding and carrying your baby, back and core strength to counterbalance a growing belly, butt and hamstring workouts to support a much heavier body, and stronger calves and Achille’s tendons to keep your balance intact.”

During our Trios, modifications for each trimester are given, enabling participants to achieve the optimum positioning for the safe arrival of their little ones (see information about avoiding Flexion below). Our prenatal Pilates exercises also aim to help expectant mothers to strengthen the lower abdominal region to support the growing baby and thereby alleviate lower back pain.

“It will also help tone the pelvic floor muscles in preparation for delivery (and aid in recovery), improve posture (neck, shoulders, and mid-back) and develop an awareness of deep breathing to assist movement, among many benefits,” says Heather.

She adds there are also common exercises pregnant women should not do, and that’s why working out at Flex ensures you stay safe and informed throughout all trimesters.

Just ask regular Flex pre-natal instructor Juhee Yi, who made the most of classes at the Hong Kong studio during her recent pregnancy.

“Pilates works by focusing on and developing strength of the deeper intrinsic muscles of our core, which we easily lose during pregnancy,” says Juhee. By building your abdominal muscles, you are less likely to experience back pain during pregnancy. In addition, practicing Pilates helps improve your balance, mobility and breathing, which can ease tension throughout the body.

Pilates effectiveness has also been studied at a clinical level, with results released in 2021 on the digital research portfolio, BMC, concluding that “Pilates exercise during pregnancy improved the labor process and increased maternal satisfaction of childbirth process, without causing complications for the mother and baby”.*

At Flex, we have known this for some time, especially since our old enemy, back pain, is a common complaint among pregnant women as they get heavier and their bellies begin to protrude, putting extra strain on their backs.

For long-time pre and post-natal trainer at Flex Hong Kong, Nicole Serje, her message is always about keeping your core muscles strong.

“This means learning how to engage the core, which includes the deep abdominals, pelvic floor, diaphragm and muscles of the back,” Nicole says. “This not only supports the extra weight and protects the back from injury and overstraining, but is also vital for post-natal recovery.”

However, there are core workouts to avoid, such as those involving flexion. Flexion is the rounding of the spine forward when standing or sitting, or rolling upward when lying down, like a sit-up. When doing crunches, abdominal muscles are responsible for this action.

This is why training at Flex is the ideal safe solution when you want to stay active.

Pilates exercises like the Upper Abdominal Curl, Roll Up, and Roll Down, compress the abdomen and shorten the abdominal wall. This is not what you want to do when your belly is growing during pregnancy – it’s counterintuitive to contract that which should be expanding. Try core stability exercises instead.

Furthermore, the connective tissue between the superficial abdominal muscle (rectus abdominis) can become stretched and weakened during pregnancy and this can be exacerbated by sit-ups due to the extra compression on the abdomen.

Here are some general guidelines on working out when pregnant:

  • Do stabilization exercises for the torso and hips
  • Work on building postural strength and endurance
  • Keep your legs, arms and back strong
  • Stretch gently to release your hips and back

Here’s what not to do when pregnant:

  • Don’t do sit-ups or anything that compresses the abdomen
  • Try not to lie on your belly especially during exercise
  • Try not to lie on your back in the third trimester, especially when working out – this compresses the abdominal aorta and blocks blood flow to you and your baby
  • Don’t stretch excessively during the second and third trimesters

Jewellery designer and enthusiastic pre and post-natal HK client, Selena Qiu, told Flex Studio recently that she believes “Pilates is the most efficient exercise that I have ever tried, wherein multiple muscles are being activated at the same time. The most important part is that it is very safe to practice. It was (also) made for recovery!”

Prenatal Pilates Trios are on schedule 4x a week from Wednesdays- Saturdays. View Prenatal Pilates schedule here

*Ghandali, N.Y., Iravani, M., Habibi, A. et al. The effectiveness of a Pilates exercise program during pregnancy on childbirth outcomes: a randomised controlled clinical trial. 

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