Hey Mamas, Happy first day of Spring! Here in Northern Virginia we have had a pretty mild winter, but low and behold we have an actual Winter Storm heading our way… It’s the first true “winter ” snow storm for us this season, but how ironic that it’s taking place over the first and second days of Spring. Winter isn’t done with us yet… Go figure!
So here’s another funny story for you: Late into my 4th pregnancy last year, I started getting this nagging lower back, hip and deep leg pain that wouldn’t go away even while resting, and it freaked me out! Of course, reading Dr. Google didn’t help my anxiety, and I immediately suspected that I had deep vein thrombosis in my leg, better known as DVT and that the world was ending… (Does anyone else do this, or is it just me???)
After giving birth, the deep leg pain slowly subsided over a few weeks, but the lower back and hip pain did not. After being checked to make sure I didn’t have DVT, (and of course I didn’t) my midwives referred me for physical therapy for my hip.
It turns out after having so many babies, so close in age, I had some instability in my hips. Imagine my delight when my physical therapist had me doing many of the exercises that I torture my Pilates students with! And as I got stronger, adding in the mini resistance band towards the end of my therapy program made a lot of these moves even more intense.
So here are some of the exercises that I did in therapy and that I also use on my Pilates students regularly. If the mini band is too much, perform the exercise without the band and then as you get stronger add it in.
Note that all of these exercises will be executed with the mini band above the knees, however as you get stronger, feel free (for certain exercises) to take things up a notch by bringing the band lower down your legs, towards your ankles. For example, the squat with hip abduction or squat with hip extension will be more intense with the band down towards your ankles.
Mini Band Leg Workout Exercises
Squatting Side Steps
Jump Squats/Air Squats
Squat With One Leg Hip Extension
Squat With One Leg Hip Abduction
Bent Knee Hip Abductions (Fire Hydrant)
Clams / Bridge With Abduction Pulses Combo
1. Squats – 20 reps
Squatting is one exercise where I like to keep the band above the knees as opposed to lower by the ankles because it forces your knees to stay aligned over your ankles for the entire range of motion of the squat, which makes the movement more challenging.
- Place band above knees.
- Space legs hip distance or slightly wider (you should feel a little bit of tension on the mini band while standing.)
- Keep your back straight, engage your abdominals, and send your weight back towards your heels as you squat down.
- As you stand, push your hips open by squeezing your glutes at the top.
2. Squatting Side Steps – 20 reps
- Keep the band above the knees and space legs hip distance.
- Engage your abdominals and sink down about halfway into a squat.
- Keep your squat position as you step out to the right with the right leg.
- Then, step your left leg to the right so that your legs are once again hip distance.
- Repeat with the left leg stepping out to the left, then the right stepping to the left as well to bring the legs back to a hips distance spacing. That is one full rep.
- Never bring your legs too close together where you lose tension on the mini band.
- Stay in your squat position the entire time!
- Take things up a notch by side hopping to the right and left while keeping the legs spaced hip distance, landing into a half squat each time.
3. Jump Squats or Air Squats (No Jump) – 20 reps
- Keep band above your knees and space your legs hip distance.
- Sink down into your squat, then immediately explode off the floor extending the hips and knees as you jump.
- ***Modify this by not jumping and simply air squatting, or lifting the heels off the floor lightly as you extend up out of the squat.
4. Squat With One Leg Hip Extension – 15 reps each leg
- Space legs hip distance.
- Squat down into your heels, then as you stand transfer your weight into your left leg and begin lifting the right leg back behind you to extend the hip.
- Be sure to keep the abdominals engaged throughout the movement.
- After hip extension, bring the leg back down to the floor, repeating the squat and hip extension on the same side for prescribed number of reps.
- Then, repeat on other side.
5. Squat With One Leg Hip Abduction – 15 reps per leg
- Space legs hip distance.
- Engage your abdominals as you drop into your squat, then stand up.
- As you stand, begin transferring weight to your left leg.
- Abduct or sweep the right leg out to the side, keeping your hips level with each other the entire time.
- Bring the leg back to start position and repeat the squat and hip abduction on the same leg for the prescribed number of reps.
- Then, repeat on other side.
6. Donkey Kicks -15 reps per leg
- Come onto your hands and knees (quadruped position).
- Make sure the band is above your knees.
- Engage your abdominals by scooping your belly towards the ceiling.
- Begin lifting your bent left knee off the floor and pushing your heel towards the ceiling.
- Be sure not to drop into your lower back but rather keep deep engagement through abdominals to keep low back still.
- Return the leg to a hover underneath the hip.
- Repeat for prescribed number of reps, then repeat on other leg.
7. Bent Knee Hip Abductions (Fire Hydrant) – 15 reps per leg
- Staying in quadruped, lift the bent left knee out to the side, abducting at the hip (your knee cap lift out to the side.)
- Return the leg to start underneath the hip. Repeat for 15 reps
8. Bent Knee Small Hip Circles – 8 circles each direction per leg
- Staying in quadruped, keep the left bent knee lifted out to the side and draw small circles in one direction for prescribed number of reps, then reverse your circles.
- Then repeat circles in both directions on other leg.
- ***Take this up a notch by completing the donkey kicks, fire hydrants, and hip circles all on one leg, before completing all the exercises in quadruped on the other leg.***
9. Clams / Bridge With Abduction Pulses Combo
For the next two exercises, you will complete one set of side clams on your right side, roll onto your back and complete one set of bridging with hip abduction pulses, roll onto your left side and complete the other set of clams, roll over to your back once more to complete a second set of bridging with hip abduction pulses. So it will look like this:
-right side clams -15
-bridging with hip abduction pulses – 20
-left side clams – 15
-bridging with hip abduction pulses (2nd set) -20
9a. Clams -15 reps per side-
- Lie on your side with your knees bent.
- Make sure your knees, hips, and shoulders are stacked, and support your head as needed (either propped with your hand or lying down on your bottom arm.)
- Begin swiveling your top leg in your hip socket, causing your top knee to open towards the ceiling.
- Bring the leg back down onto your bottom leg so that your knees touch again.
- Keep your abdominals engaged and your hips stacked through entire movement.
9b. Bridging With Hip Abduction Pulses -2 sets of 20
- After your clam exercise, roll onto your back and press your arms down by your sides.
- Align your legs hip distance with feet on the floor and knees bent.
- Bring your feet towards your glutes until you feel your knees aligned underneath your ankles.
- Beginning with your tailbone, peel up into a bridge until you are balanced between your shoulder blades.
- At the top of your bridge, begin pulsing both legs away from your center (abduction)
I think this leg workout combines nicely with a nice burst of HIIT cardio.
So, what were your nagging pregnancy pains that continued after giving birth?