When it comes to Pilates exercises, side-lying is a bit of a secret weapon. There’s a common misconception that side-lying is all about aesthetics. In reality, side-lying series have incredible benefits for flexibility and strength in the lower body. It works small muscle groups that have a huge effect.
In a side-lying series, you will work on:
- Glute and hamstring extension
- Stability & control
- Range of motion
- Creating flexibility in the hamstring
- Toning the glute
All of these factors will help with injury prevention and more flexible hamstrings, which help the whole body.
💡 Fun fact: Did you know? The side-lying series originated as a modification for footwork for pregnant women who couldn’t lie on their back. However, it quickly developed into its own separate series of exercises as men and women saw the benefits.
Why side-lying is so important – especially for men
We constantly tighten our hamstrings throughout the day, just by working at a desk and commuting to work. But tight hamstrings can have broader impacts on the body, including lower back pain, knee pain, bad posture, and muscle imbalance. Tight hamstrings are more susceptible to injury and reduce blood flow, which decreases muscle performance in the lower limbs. It is critical that we practice hamstring flexibility to support our whole body’s health.
“Side lying is primarily a glute-focused exercise, but it also requires a lot of core work to keep the upper body still and to maintain a neutral spine while independently moving the lower body. It’s easy to forget about the core and upper body when you are feeling the glutes and hamstrings fire on – clients will notice we always cue specific breath patterns during this exercise. This helps you to maintain breath-core-movement coordination that keeps the core active.” – RTR Instructor Sarah G.
While side-lying is sometimes seen as a more effeminate exercise, it’s important for everyone – especially men.
Research shows that on average, men experience higher rates of passive hamstring stiffness and lower hamstring flexibility compared to women. While we’re not sure why that happens, we do know that side-lying exercises have huge benefits to anyone with tight hamstrings.
We have several ways to change the focus of side-lying exercises in class – both for variety’s sake, and to work different muscle groups.
Different spring loads will change what part of the muscles are working. The lighter the spring, the more we work on stability. On the other hand, middle spring loads will work the center glute, while heavier spring loads will activate the hamstring where it meets the glutes.
Because we vary the spring loads, side-lying will offer a challenge no matter your fitness level.
Footbar versus foot-in-strap
Another variation is using a foot-in-strap for side-lying or swapping it for the footbar. Side-lying series with the foot-in-strap is more challenging because you are less stable and use a larger range of motion.
With the footbar, you’ll have a bit more stability and control, and you can handle a bit more weight. It’s a great way to focus on the movement itself, or as a modification for anyone concerned about an injury.
“Motorcycle presses are my favorite side-lying variation. It is a bit harder to find and maintain your form during this variation, especially hip stability. However, once you do, motorcycle presses target the glutes and challenge the rotators, while requiring you to use your core to stabilize your body so the lower body can move independently from the rest of the body. The glutes are always happy the next day!” – RTR Instructor Sarah G.
Always let an instructor know if you have any aches or pains that may affect your experience in class. They can help evaluate your form, provide suggestions, or help you modify exercises to alleviate any pain. That said, if you’re concerned about an injury, always discuss with your doctor before you start a new exercise regimen.
Join us for a class and try out side-lying today
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