As a practicing chiropractic physician and a member of the American Pregnancy Association, I have seen how chiropractic and exercise has helped women during their pregnancy.
In my chiropractic office the exercise ball is a wonderful tool to stretch and strengthen your lower back. Pregnant women in the third trimester find exercising this way both practical and beneficial. However, you do not need to go to your chiropractor or visit a chiropractic clinic do do these exercises. I do recommend that you see a chiropractor first though if you are having low back or other pregnancy related problems.
Most balls come in 3 sizes; 55cm, 65cm and 75cm. It is helpful to get the right size ball for you so be sure to read the chart that shows height to ball size ratio for the best fit.
Pelvic Isolation with the Exercise Ball
- Rock back-and-forth – Sit on the exercise ball with arms to the sides or on hips. Slowly do a pelvic tilt, pulling stomach muscles in and moving hips slightly toward the front to flatten the small of the back (reduce lordosis). Return to the neutral position on the exercise ball. Arch small of the back slightly and move hips slightly toward the back. Return to neutral position on the exercise ball. When comfortable with these movements on the Swiss ball, do them continuously back and forth for 10 repetitions.
- Rock side-to-side – Sit on the exercise ball with arms to the sides or on hips. Slowly shift weight slightly to the right. Return to the neutral position. Slowly shift weight to the left. Return to neutral position on the exercise ball. When comfortable with these movements, do them continuously side to side for 10 repetitions.
- Circles – A more advanced exercise for the Swiss ball, start in the front/pelvic tilt position and slowly shift weight around in a circular motion, 3 times clockwise and 3 times counterclockwise.
Spine rotation with exercise balls
- Sitting on the exercise ball, raise arms straight to front; without twisting at the spine, move both arms across the body to the right, bending the left elbow and keeping arms at shoulder height; move both arms to the left, bending left right elbow. Repeat 5 times to each side.
- Add head movement to the arm movement by turning the head to the opposite direction from the arm movement, still without twisting at the spine. Repeat 5 times to each side.
- Increase the difficulty by spreading feet slightly and twisting the spine in the direction of the arm movement, straightening the opposite knee and rocking forward slightly on the ball as necessary.
Mobility and stretching with the exercise ball
- Sitting on the exercise ball with arms to sides, slowly walk feet out and lean back slightly, rolling ball to the upper back; raise arms over head and straighten knees to arch over the ball, moving it to the mid-spine and touching the hands to the floor. Hold stretch for 10 seconds before bending knees, bringing arms down and rolling to start position. Repeat 3 times.
- Kneel with hands on the exercise ball; use hands to roll the exercise ball out from body, keeping back flat until hips and knees are at 90 degrees and back, head and arms are straight; roll the exercise ball slightly from side to side, 5 times on each side.
- Kneel with chest resting on the exercise ball; roll forward as far as your stomach will allow comfortably and straighten knees, with ball at chest level, relax around the ball to stretch the upper spine.
Extension exercises with the Swiss ball
- Bridge – Lay flat on the ground with legs straight. Place both legs together on the exercise ball at the calf area with arms at sides and hands flat on the floor; tighten and lift the buttocks up off the floor to straighten the back, keeping abdominal muscles tight and hold for 5 seconds. Return to start position. Repeat 3 to 5 times.
- Bridge with leg – make this exercise more difficult by lifting one leg at a time 1 to 2 inches off the Swiss ball.
- Bridge with arm – even more difficult, lift arms off the floor while bridging over the exercise ball.
Now, do not forget to visit your chiropractor! Chiropractors are trained to care for pregnant women. Together, exercise and chiropractic may help make your pregnancy a little easier.