Different Methods for Enhancing the Side Leg Exercises in Pilates Matwork

One of the most difficult challenges when doing the Pilates Mat work Side Leg Series exercises is keeping the body completely still while swinging the leg. Many of the Pilates Mat exercises that are done before you get to the Side Leg series (with your abs in and back on the mat) will help you prepare to lie balanced on your side and still be able to hold a solid position and strong core!

The Pilates side leg series exercises have numerous useful benefits, here are just a few:

• Greater Hip Joint Mobility
• Enhanced Core Stability
• Increased Leg Flexibility
• Better Gait Mechanics to Walk & Run
• Heightened Body Awareness
• Improved Hip Strength

Here are 5 things you can practice to help keep your body still and improve the free swing of your leg on all of the hip and leg exercises in this series:

1. Practice the Side Leg Series Exercises with your Back Pressed Against a Wall. Make an effort to keep everything from the top of your head to your waist against the wall while moving your leg for the following exercises: Passé, Side Leg Lift Parallel, Bottom Leg Inner Thigh Lift, Little Circles, Inner Thigh Circles and Kick Front & Back, Lift & Lower

2. Maintain Your Eye Focus Straight Ahead. There's a tendency to want to look at the legs move. Whenever you are look at your legs, it shifts your head, neck, and torso position out of tall posture. Keep looking straight ahead and maintain a tall/long body position. Try to "feel" what's happening in your body, instead of watch your leg move while you’re working.

3. Continue To Keep an Active Pelvic Floor. Particularly the pubic bone to tailbone connection. (Clam) Ideally, your "clam" to stays still while swinging the leg. The entire torso should be aligned along the back edge of the mat ("clam too") this means a slight arch/neutral pelvis position. This will actually make it easier to hold the pelvis still while moving the leg. Especially on Kick Front & Back and Bicycle, be sure that you tailbone is not swinging forward and back with your leg.

4. Use Your Abs More To Support the Side of Your Abdomen that Is Closer to the Ground. When you're lying on your right side, the right side of your abs pulling up and in, from the hip to ribs ought to stay firm to hold the body still.

5. Always Keep Strong Shoulder Depression (Lower Trapezius) Utilizing the Top Arm. When lying on your right side, the left shoulder is on top. Keep the shoulders stacked vertically, and actively pull the left shoulder downward. (Ideally both shoulders pull down.) This helps keep the shoulders still, and still provides a well-balanced anchor so that the hips and legs can lengthen away from the center for a better leg swing.

2 Different methods to condition balance & core control for the Side Leg Series:

1. Complete the Side Leg Series with Both Arms Bent--Hands Behind the Head. Maintain that straight forward gaze, shoulder depression and everything else you’ve practiced in tips 1-5. Be certain that you can see your top elbow from the corner of your eye (always keep the arm & elbow still while performing the leg exercises!) You've just taken the tripod of hand support away, so now it's all core control!

2. Carry out the Side Leg Series Holding the Magic Circle in Both Arms Overhead. Be mindful not to lock the elbows! With this position you HAVE TO hold things together or you are likely to fall over! It's instant feedback if you lose support.


Here are a few ideas to keep you moving using your at-home Pilates mat workouts. Check out these Pilates Mat work Audio CD and MP3 workouts - http://www.centerworks.com/store/category/pilates-cd-and-mp3-workouts/

Author's Bio: 

Aliesa George is the founder of Centerworks® Pilates. She is an author, workshop presenter, and mind-body health expert with more than 25 years of experience designing solutions for health improvement. Aliesa has created a wide variety of products focused on Pilates, Foot Fitness, the Mind-Body Connection, Stress-Management, and Whole-Body Health. She enjoys helping others discover the connection between thought and action to get positive results and achieve goals for a healthy mind, body and spirit!