Exercises and stretches with your birthing ball
Supernanny expert trainer Mark Hibbitts gives you the exercises and stretches you need during pregnancy
In my last article I told you about the benefits of using a Swiss ball during your pregnancy. Here are some exercises and stretches to get you started. The instructions for activating your TVA are in the last article. Work up to three sets of each, and finish with the stretches.
The pelvic tilt
This exercise works your core muscles and your abdominals:
• Sit upright on the ball
• Contract your TVA
• Without moving your feet tilt your pelvis forward and upward
• Hold for 5 seconds and return to start position
• Repeat 12-15 times
The Biceps Curl
Don’t worry that your arms will look like a bodybuilders. It won't happen, and you’ll be glad of the extra strength when it’s time to lift baby.
• Sit upright on the ball, contract TVA
• Hold hand weights or dyna-bands at arms length
• Keeping elbows pointing down curl weight to shoulders
• Lower and repeat 12-15 times
The Kneeling Ball Press-Up
This exercise is great for general upper body strength, but will mainly work your chest and triceps, helping to eliminate those ‘bingo wings’!
• Kneel in front of the ball and place hands on ball at arms length, contract TVA
• Keeping your back straight bend elbows until your elbows are at 90 degrees
• Pause, then return to the start position
• Repeat 12-15 times. If the ball rolls away place it against a wall
Balance is very important during pregnancy. This exercise will help you maintain and improve your balance as your body changes shape.
• Sit upright on ball with hands on the ball for stability
• Contract TVA, then keeping good posture raise one foot 8-12 inches off the floor
• Hold the position for a few seconds then return to the start position
• Aim for 10 repetitions. To increase difficulty, fold your arms
The hormone ‘Relaxin’ is produced by your body during pregnancy to soften your connective tissue (tendons and ligaments), which in turn helps the birth process. Because of this it is extremely important that you don’t overstretch as it could lead to permanent damage. Just stretch to ‘biting point’ where you can feel the stretch in the muscle, and leave it at that. On no account should any kind of developmental, pnf, or ballistic stretching be practiced.
Hip Flexor Stretch
Your hip flexor muscles will become very tight during pregnancy as the weight of baby pulls you forward. It’s important to stretch them frequently, but take it gently at first.
• Sit on the ball
• Slide one leg behind ball until straight
• Maintaining your balance lean back slightly until a stretch is felt at the top of your thigh
• Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on other side
• If balance is an issue, hold on to a wall or table
You’ll love this! It will stretch out your tired back muscles and you’ll feel the tension disappear.
• Kneel down on the floor with your arms out in front of you
• Lower your head and push hands into the floor and body upwards, whilst arching your back like a cat
• Hold for 30 seconds.
This is to stretch your pectoral (chest) muscles. If you pronate your arm during the movement (ie: move your thumb down towards the ground), you can also feel the stretch in the biceps.
• Kneel on the floor with the ball at your side
• Bend forward at the waist and roll the ball out to the side until a stretch is felt in your chest
• Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side
Get the most out of your birthing ball! Birthing balls are hugely popular with pregnant women, but many of them just aren’t used to their full potential. Instead of actually exercising with the ball, too many women leave theirs waiting until they go into labour. Now Supernanny’s fitness expert, Mark Hibbitts, explains just how to get the best out of your birthing ball!
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Mark Hibbitts and Newborn Fitness are experts in specially designed exercise programmes and sensible nutritional advice for pregnant women and new mothers.