Review of Jennifer Gianni’s Fusion Pilates Birth Ball for Pregnancy

Jennifer Gianni is a pilates instructor and doula, and she has a number of DVDs out that offer pilates-based exercise programs for women to use while pregnant, after giving birth, and even with a baby in tow! Her most recent offering is a 3 DVD Box Set offering all of these options but using the Swiss ball (or “birth ball,” as it’s sometimes called) to guide the exercises. I received the set as a review copy, and since I’m still waiting for my little one to arrive, have worked with the first video in the series, Fusion Pilates Birth Ball for Pregnancy.

Modifications for different trimesters are often shown and explained

Gianni’s expertise in crafting careful prenatal workouts really shows in this program. The first section, “Fusion Essentials,” is really a long introduction to working out with the ball, doing pregnancy posture checks while sitting and standing, safe abdominal work, and pelvic floor exercises. This isn’t a workout: it’s more like a lecture interspersed with exercises you can do. Some sections, like “ab curl safety,” were not relevant to me yet, but I found the pelvic floor section really interesting. This is the first video I’ve ever seen that has suggested different pelvic floor exercises for different periods of pregnancy. More precisely, Gianni gives you exercises for strengthening and tightening the pelvic floor during the first and second trimesters, but for the end of the third trimester has you segue to practicing the relaxation of the pelvic floor. Kind of makes sense, no? Most of the pregnancy is about keeping the baby in, and the very last bit is about getting it out!
The workout itself is composed of careful, small movements that work a variety of muscles. However, the point is not to feel the burn. I did this workout at 36 weeks and on a day when I really wasn’t feeling very strong, and still didn’t really feel “worked out.” Instead, the program seems to be more about using the ball to complete movements safely and veeeeeery precisely. Most of the workout is performed by a model who is well into her third trimester — and I think this would be the best target audience for the video anyway — but modifications are often shown in an inset window.

I think this program is really ideal for women in their third trimester, or women having pains or other difficulties during pregnancy. Jennifer Gianni is clearly aware of a pregnant woman’s potential limitations, and no exercise feels like it would be unsafe or jarring in the slightest. Some exercises are really delightful variations on moves you might know from other workouts — for example, doing squats with a ball behind you gives you a much more controlled movement that feels secure in late pregnancy.

That said, it’s really best called a “program” and not a “workout,” because if you want to sweat or feel muscular pain the next day, this is not the right video for you. I didn’t feel anything the next day — but I also didn’t feel any pain. It was a good way to get moving on a low-energy day, and to feel that I did something for my body without pushing too hard. It wasn’t a good way to tone my butt, even though there was a cool pilates leg exercise that did use those muscles.

Finally, a few small details about the DVD setup both positive and negative. I really liked that the sections are individually titled and divided, so you can skip easily to the beginning or end of a section. Also, the DVD has an index that has all the sub-chapters in both “Fusion Essentials” and the “Main Workout.” So if you want to work on “Releasing the Pelvic Floor,” you can jump right to that without the pelvic floor intro or strengthening exercises. Great.

My complaints have to do with the setup in my home, and how I do video workouts. Most of the ball exercises required a wall, and most of my walls are covered in bookcases! It was pretty hard to find a spot in my apartment where I could see the screen and have access to enough wall to make the workout work. Also, the exercises often require a bit of setup, but the section begins with ball and sometimes blankets already in place. In practice, this meant I had to get up, pause my computer, set up most of the stuff, rewind to the beginning of the section, then get quickly into position so I could do the exercise. And at 36 weeks, I just don’t move that fast. If I were watching the video on a regular tv and had a remote control, it wouldn’t be so bad, but again, my particular situation, in which a laptop is how I watch DVDs, made the video less convenient to use than it could have been.

Fusion Pilates Birth Ball for Pregnancy is also available from http://www.fusionpilates.com/.

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