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Exercises for Pre/Post-Natal Clients - Part 1: Exercises & Cuing for a Pre-Natal client

Exercises and cuing for pre-natal clients

During a pregnancy, there are some issues that need particular focus in a workout. Based on accepted guidelines for exercise during pregnancy, variations and modifications need to be made to ensure the safety of both the mother and the fetus. One of the main restrictions is that exercises should not be performed in a supine position (lying on the back). The Reformer is an ideal piece of equipment to use during this stage as there are myriad programming options done in a seated, side-lying, quadruped or standing position. The following exercises address some of the major concerns for a pre-natal exerciser:

Exercise: Back Rowing Plow
Focus: Strengthening arms. Holding a baby requires arm strength, endurance and stability through the entire shoulder girdle. Protraction of the scapulae and rounded shoulders can often occur as breast size increases and the belly gets bigger. Scapulae stability and proper mobility is very important to prevent concerns like thoracic outlet syndrome and other neck issues. First look at the neutral joint position of the humerus and scapulae, and asses the function of the scapulae. Often strengthening rhomboids, mid traps, serratus, posterior deltoids, long head of triceps, and latissimus dorsi is required.
Set up: 1/2-1 spring, sitting on the carriage (use a Foam Cushion or Reformer Box to find a vertical sitting position), facing the pulleys, knees bent or straight depending on comfort, arms straight, reaching forward holding loops palms facing in or forward.
Cueing: Inhale: prepare; exhale: keep arms long and press them back, extending the shoulder as far the spine stays neutral, chest stays open and shoulders remain in a good position, keep the wrists straight; inhale: return to start position.
Complete 10-12 repetitions.

Exercise: Knee Stretches Prep
Focus: Strengthening legs. There is a lot of bending over, picking a child up and walking/running with kids especially when they are small. It's important to have strong legs to support the rest of the body. Ensuring the hip extensors (glutes, hamstrings) are strong will also help alleviate some of the muscle imbalances due to postural changes, particularly in the hips and lower back.
Set up: 3/4-1 spring, standing facing the footbar on one side of the Reformer, leg closest to the Reformer on the carriage, foot against the shoulder rest, knee just off the carriage, other foot on the floor, knee slightly bent, thighs should be side-by-side, hips back toward the heels, neutral spine and torso tipped forward, hands on the footbar. Pelvis should be level, if the pelvis is not level, place a Platform Extender under the foot on the floor.
Cueing: Inhale: prepare; exhale: initiate with the glutes and extend the carriage leg, pressing the carriage back, maintaining spine neutral, (focus on pushing heel back toward the shoulder rest), pull up the quads as the knee fully extends; inhale: maintain the glute connection as the knee bends back to the start position. Keep the supporting leg stable with the glutes and quads working isometrically.
Complete 8-10 repetitions.

Exercise: Spine Twist Sitting
Focus: Strengthening abdominals. A strong core is necessary to support the low back, especially as the belly grows. This exercise will focus on both the internal and external obliques. Note that lighter tension should be used.
Set up: 1/4- 1/2 spring, sitting on the Reformer facing one side (use a Foam Cushion or Reformer Box to find a vertical sitting position), legs can be crossed or dangling off the edge of the carriage, both hands holding the front strap, arms rounded in front of the chest, torso rotated toward the pulleys.
Cueing: Inhale: Prepare, exhale: Keeping the hands in line with the sternum, rotate the torso toward the footbar maintaining equal weight through the sit bones; inhale: Return to the start position. Emphasis should be in the contralateral obliques first and arms second.
Complete 5-8 repetitions on each side.