The side leg lift engages the oblique abdominal muscles and promotes lengthening of all the major muscles. Focus on keeping your hips stacked and stable as you squeeze your glutes and lift your legs. Side leg lifts work the abdominals, especially the obliques, as well as the inner thighs. Lifting the legs together keeps the inner thighs and glutes engaged as the abdominals pulled in and up, developing core strength and balance.
Lay on your side check you can see your toes then bring your head back into alignment
Top arm either bent to support you or on a ball to add to the difficulty
Inhale to prepare
Exhale and raise each leg individually, maintaining that core contraction
As with all exercises, work at the level that works for you and only progress when you feel ready and able to up the challenge and difficulty. Side bend is great for stretching the muscles surrounding the rib cage i.e serratus and intercostal’s as well as strengthening your obliques, improving your balancing and toning your waist line.
How to do it:
Sit sideways with your legs bent to one side, with the top foot placed in front of the bottom foot
Place the supporting hand in line with the seated hip a few inches in front of the shoulder
Press into supporting hand and straighten the legs to lift the pelvis away from the Mat, making a rainbow shape with the body
To slow down the pace of the exercise, inhale in the start position. Exhale as you bring the arm overhead and stretch into the top side of the body. Inhale and stay. Exhale and lower down.
The body should be in a line as if it is between two panes of glass
Repeat 4 times
Leave the shin of your bottom leg on the mat and lift your top arm up and overhead, imagine rocking onto that bottom knee
Keep your supporting arm bent, to decrease the range of movement
The best way to improve your strength and flexibility is to come to a class, check out the timetable and venue list here.
Here is my video of the dead bug exercise using a Pilates fit ball. This pilates exercise is a great way to strengthen your abs and core without putting added strain on your lower back, which can be a concern with other common ab exercises.
As with all exercises, work at the level that works for you and only progress when you feel ready and able to up the challenge and difficulty.
How to do it:
Lie flat on your back with your arms held out in front of you pointing to the ceiling. Then bring your legs up so your knees are bent at 90-degree angles, we call this the table top position. If this is too hard then leave one foot on the floor for stability and build up to both legs off the floor.
Find that neutral spine, so remember there should be a little gap under your lumbar spine (lower back, draw your ribs towards your hips and engage your core by pulling your belly button to your spine.
Place the ball between your knees (if you don’t have a ball don’t worry)
Inhale to prepare and take your arms and legs away from the mid line of your body. Keep your legs bent and toe tap them to the floor.
Inhale as you return to the starting position.
To make this easier reduce the range of movement or try leaving your arms in the air and just move your legs
To make it harder as I do in the video take your legs further away from your body increasing the range of movement
Use opposite arm and leg to bring in muscular coordination
Watch out for:
Keep the pelvis still and in neutral throughout the movement.
Avoid using your neck or tensing your shoulders.
Watch for doming of the abdominals as you lower your leg towards the ground. This is when the abs “pop up” and is a sign that they are weak and can lead to back pain. To prevent doming, reduce your range of movement and only send your leg towards the ground to the point where your abdominals can stay flat. Then bring the leg back.
Over the next few weeks I will share with you some of my favourite Pilates workouts to increase strength, flexibility and balance.
Balance is a fundamental skill everyone should practise. It’s something we take for granted, but as we get older balance and muscle strength can help to stop us from having falls. When you balance on one leg you use your core and small muscles in your feet to keep upright. Find a spot on the wall in front of you which keeps you in alignment. Draw your belly button to your spine and feel the length through your spine, use your toes to grip the ground. In this video I have added in some upper body work with the ball, as you increase the range of movement think about squeezing your core to remain still. Each time you open your arms imagine squashing a walnut between your shoulder blades to activate your upper back muscles. As you improve increase the range of movement and then reps. To make it harder try standing on a block, to make it easier decrease the range of movement and height of the leg. I hope you enjoy this little video. Subscribe to keep updated with more Pilates workouts.
I have been doing Pilates for over 10 years now after getting a kite surfing injury to my lower back, Pilates was my way back to being able to lead a ‘normal’ life. I now use Pilates as an additional workout which strengthens my whole body and supplements the physically demands of my cycling training. On the flip side I work in an office 9 to 5, working at a desk all day this constant leaning over position can cause all sorts of problems including lower back pain. As I am aware that my lower back has been under stress in the past I work hard to maintain good posture, core activation and thought a blog post with some tips may be useful to others.
Eye line – avoid looking down at the ground or your phone when walking. Try and look to the horizon (where possible), chin pointing down and tucked in slightly to keep the neck/upper spine in neutral. This will reduce neck pain – remember, we are carrying our heads which weight about 10 pounds.
Shoulders and shoulder blades –If you draw back and down your scapulae slightly this will ‘lift’ the chest, which is a good position to be in. This will also assist in tightening the stretched muscles. Many people suffer from a rounded kyphotic position so stretch the tight muscles such as the pectorals and anterior deltoids
Back straight – think about standing tall, lengthen the spine and lift up. Imagine you are being pulled to the ceiling like a puppet. Try and avoid sticking your bum out, keep the hip bones level to keep the pelvis in neutral, and tail bone pointing to the floor
Tummy muscles – imagine you have a put a belt on and have done it up one hole tighter than normal. Pulling in the belly button to your spine will exercise the rectus abdominis as well as activate the TVA muscles which will take the pressure off the back. This will seem strange to some people but eventually the abdominals will become stronger and it will become automatic. If you work in an office try sitting on a ball instead of a chair.
Foot strike – lead with the heel and roll through the foot onto the ball of the foot and push off using the toes. Placing the toes/ball of the foot down first can put additional stress on the knees and ankle joints. Walking barefoot is great but not always possible so check that appropriate and fitted shoes are worn so that the feet can move inside the shoe/trainer
Breathing – During Pilates we talk about wide thoracic breathing which helps us focus on the movement and encourages concentration. This also will help relax tense muscles and you will take in more oxygen with longer deeper breathing so have a go whilst your walking around the supermarket or sitting at your desk.
Bag carrying – try and use a rucksack on long walks as this will distribute the weight evenly across the back as opposed to a shoulder bag, if you use a shoulder bag swap shoulders and don’t carry the kitchen sink!
Baby carrying – for younger children you could use a carrier or sling on the front or back this, like the bag allows the weight to be distributed evenly. If you tend to carry baby or toddler on a hip then try and swap regularly.
I hope these tips will help you improve your posture and reduce and niggles. The best way to improve your core is to get to your local Pilates class! Take a look at my Pilates page for Pilates classes in West Sussex and Hampshire.