Pilates for Pregnancy

Brooke Burke uses Pilates to stay healthy during pregnancy.

It's a Hollywood secret weapon. Celebs such as Rachel Weisz, J. Lo, Brooke Burke, and Ellen Pompeo have all used Pilates to stay healthy during their pregnancies and to get back into shape fast after their little ones were born. One of the main reasons is that Pilates is always pulling the abdominals in towards the spine.  Try it.
  • Sit up straight.
  • Drop your shoulders down.  (yes I know you were hunched!)
  • Pretend you're wearing a tiara and balance it regally on your head.
  • Inhale.
  • On the exhale, draw your belly button in away from your pants, like you're trying to pull away from your belt buckle.
Congrats, you're doing Pilates! Since your abs can stretch up to 300% during your pregnancy you can see how this form of exercise is ideal at ditching the Mummy Tummy pronto.  (BTW, I'm totally biased; I own Pilates studios, I did Pilates throughout my pregnancy and after, and I'm an educational affiliate of the American College of Obstetrics & Gynecologists.) Here's why Pilates is particularly good during pregnancy:

Upper Back

As your breasts increase in size (up to 4 pounds during pregnancy!) it’s easy to start rounding your shoulders forward and developing upper back and neck pain.  Pilates movement focuses on posture, strengthening muscles between the shoulder blades, and keeping the shoulders in proper alignment so there is less overall strain.

Lower Back

As the baby grows, your bum will push further and further out causing something called swayback or lordosis by the end of your pregnancy.  This can cause a lot of lower back discomfort.  Pilates is focused on movement of the spine so the exercises maintain suppleness and strength as the pregnancy progresses.  No matter what, you’ll wind up lordotic at the end, but Pilates will help keep back pain to a minimum.  Many of our clients don’t have any back pain at all.


As the baby grows your center of gravity shifts downward which can really throw off your balance!  Pilates exercises focus on balance so that you’ll move more gracefully as your tummy grows.


One of the few areas that usually stay toned throughout your pregnancy is your arms.  Pilates has some great moves to keep your arms tank top worthy throughout your nine months.


Pilates, of course, is all about the “core,” your abdominal muscles being the primary core muscle group.  By working them throughout the pregnancy you’ll be able to support the growing baby better and will “snap back” into shape quicker than with other forms of exercise. Don’t think of your pregnancy exercise routine as a time to reach new fitness goals.  Think of it as a time to focus on health and wellness.  There will be plenty of time to get back into shape once the baby comes.  Remember to always have your doctor’s blessing for exercise during and after pregnancy.

About Lisa Johnson

Lisa Johnson here. I've been a personal trainer since 1997, a Pilates instructor since 1998 and the owner of Modern Pilates since 1999. I'm hoping to give you some good ideas to get or stay in shape with a healthy dose of humor and reality. Thanks for joining me.

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3 Responses to Pilates for Pregnancy

  1. Diane May 11, 2010 at 4:53 am #

    Great article! Do you also work on preparing for birth? A big part of our training was looking at pelvic floor release, breathing techniques and practical things like strengthening the squat position. I’ve never been pregnant, but would definitely be choosing to do Pilates all the way through!

  2. Lisa Johnson May 11, 2010 at 3:34 pm #

    Diane, I am a big fan of kegels and always do kegels as part of the Pilates connection. It’s amazing how well it works! It’s great during pregnancy, post-partum and just for regular ol’ people. A Kegel will suck in your abs right over the pubic bone which will take away the Mommy pooch almost instantly. Its my secret weapon!


  3. CocoPictures February 4, 2011 at 4:49 pm #

    I love many celebrities, but Coco for me is the best.


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