How Pilates Strengthened My Core For Pregnancy

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Hi friends,

When I was 8 years old, I was diagnosed with scoliosis.  My mom has a significant curvature in her spine and my dad has a minor one, so it was no surprise that the genetics didn’t fall far from the tree.  In 8th, 9thand 10thgrade, I had to wear the dreaded plastic backbrace.  I resorted to  buying clothes that were far too big in an attempt to hide it.  I also feared that I would be made fun of for it. 


Why am I sharing these intimate details of my youth? Just to tell you that I spent my whole life avoiding any exercise that could potentially “hurt” my back.  As a result, I ended up with an extremely weak core.  I didn’t understand until much later in life that I actually needed to strengthen the muscles in my core [my back, stomach, pelvic floor, glutes, etc.] to reduce potential back pain.


Fast forward to me being approximately 4 months pregnant with my first baby, in January 2017.  I had recently started to feel some slight nerve pain in my lower back.  Not thinking much of it,  I just assumed that the weight of the belly was causing it and it was normal.  Then one morning, my husband was getting ready to leave the house.  I was sitting on the couch, and when I got up to tell him goodbye, I felt a spasm on the left side of my lower back.  When I tried to get up again, it was SUPER painful.  And this time, the pain shot down from my back and into my leg. It took a few days of Tylenol [OBGYN-approved], severe pain and hobbling with a cane before I was able to walk again.  

After the incident, I promptly called my physical therapist and now pilates instructor [and friend :)], Jessica Wulke, to schedule an appointment.  I knew that I needed to see her so that she could help me resolve this issue.

I met with Jessica and we started up our Physical Therapy [PT] sessions once more. [I had already gone through one round of PT previously but didn’t take it that seriously and gave up on my exercises.  Big Mistake!Starting round 2, I knew that I needed to buckle down and faithfully do my exercises every day to ensure I was able to strengthen my core as much as possible, while being pregnant, to try and avoid another spasm.  Luckily, with Jess’ help, I was able to do just that and made it through the rest of the pregnancy without another episode.


Even before I got pregnant the second time, I knew I had to continue my core strengthening to try and avoid the same back issues I had during the first one.  My husband gifted me with private pilates classes for Hanukkah and that’s how Jess and I started working together weekly.  She crafted a pre-natal program that targets my core by trimester.  If you watched my instastories a few weeks ago, we recorded one of our classes.  

Prior to completing these dynamic moves, I had to learn the basics of activating my core [my deep core muscles – the transverse abdominus and pelvic floor].  It is very important for every mama to learn how to do these as these muscles are paramount for providing stability throughout your pregnancy as ligaments become more lax and therefore less stable.

I asked Jess to detail the exercises that we did so that we can share them with any mama looking to strengthen her core mid-pregnancy.  These are safe to do in the third trimester [as well as first and second.]  

However, please get approval from your doctor before starting any type of exercise regimen.  If you try any of the exercises below and feel any discomfort, please immediately discontinue.


  1. Romanian Dead Lift (RDL), with Arm Reach  

Hold a small exercise ball out in front of you with both hands.  Squeeze the ball with your palms.  Slowly, lift your leg and extend it behind you.  Think of your body as a see-saw, as your leg goes up, your arms reach forward, think biceps by your ears .  This helps to keep your back flat (and maintain a neutral spine).  Then drive through the heel of your standing leg (this helps to engage your glutes) and return to single leg stance on your standing leg.   Do this 8-10 times on each leg. 

  1. Lunge with Bicep Curl

Place a resistance band under the front foot.  Grab each end of the band and place into hands.  Step back into a lunge.  Try and keep your weight in the heel of your front foot and your front knee should be aligned directly over the front ankle.  Your goal is to try to get a 90 degree bend in both knees.  The heel of the back leg can be pulled off the ground. 

At this time, bend your elbows to 90 degrees.  Drive through your front foot heel to a single leg stance and perform a bicep curl.  Repeat by stepping back with the same leg and returning your arms to a 90 degree bend.  Goal is to try and keep the arms from straightening past the 90 degrees.  This increases the time under tension which equals more burn (and bang for your buck! )   Repeat 8-10 times on each leg.

  1. Side Plank with Hip Abduction

*eyes were closed because it was bright*

Getting into this pose can seem a bit tricky when pregnant.  But once you break it down, it’s actually pretty easy.  First, come to a tall kneeling stance on your knees.  Then put your left hand down on the mat while simultaneously extending your right leg out and raising your right hand up in the air.  You want to make sure you maintain a neutral spine so there should be a straight line going from your hand on the ground, hips, and top foot on the ground.  Make sure to keep your hips stacked to ensure the correct activation of your glutes and obliques.  Lift your top leg up (only to the point you can keep your hips stacked and a neutral spine), and then tap back down to the ground.  Do 2-3 sets of 8-10 leg raises on each leg.  

You can see the videos of me and Jess doing exercises one and three on my ‘Preg Pilates’ Instagram Highlight stories.  

To all the mamas or mamas-to-be out there that have a weak core or are experiencing any back pain during pregnancy, I highly recommend trying pregnancy-safe core strengthening exercises. They have made all the difference in the world during my pregnancy.  If you’ve tried any programs that have helped relieve backpain during your pregnancy, we’d love to hear about them! And if you have any questions about the exercises above, or just in general about the pre-natal pilates program, please let us know.


  Jess & Karina

Get the Look: Nursing Sports Bra | Maternity Leggings | Exercise Tank Top | Pilates Ball | Exercise Band

Before starting any new diet program, please check with your doctor and clear any exercise changes with them before beginning. We are not doctors and we do not claim to help cure any condition or disease. 

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