Pilates Arc Barrel Exercise: Side Bend with Hip Extension
Posted Feb 16 2011 2:06am
Increase flexibility and mobility for your arms, shoulders, spine, and hips with this effective Pilates Spine Corrector exercise. Discover a great way to use the Pilates Arc Barrel to stretch one whole side of the body. Improve shoulder mechanics, while strengthening hip extensor muscles and stretching tight hip flexors.
This is one of my favorite non-traditional Pilates barrel exercises. I love this exercise for a supported whole body stretch. It helps to benefit improved shoulder mechanics, maintaining/improving core support, increasing lateral flexibility of the spine, and finding the balance between the work needed to strengthen hip extension while stretching the hip flexors and front of the thigh. It feels GREAT!
I like to call this my Pilates Arc Barrel “Rainbow Hip Stretch” aka Side Bend with Hip Extension.
Start sitting on the lip of the barrel facing sideways. Legs are in a Z position.
Side bend over the barrel. The bottom arm rests under your head, top arm begins palm down along the side of the thigh.
The top arm is going to “paint a rainbow” lifting from the hip to the ceiling, to overhead for a side stretch.
At the same time as the arm is moving overhead, the top leg is going to extend out to the back corner to stretch through the waist and the front of the hip.
Then, pull the abdominals in for support, and bring the arm and leg back to the starting position.
Inhale and exhale to extend the arm and leg away from center, lengthening the whole side of the body. Inhale lengthen farther, exhale, pull the stomach in, shoulder down, and lift the arm while bending the leg back to your resting position. Repeat this 5-8 times. Inhale and exhale to “paint a rainbow” with the arm while the leg extends to the back corner. Inhale stretch away farther, exhale and return to center.
Be sure the hips and shoulders stay stacked.
If your neck is stiff and doesn’t lay comfortably on your arm, use a pillow or towel under your head for extra support.
Move the shoulder blade and the arm. When the arm is by your body, palm faces the body. When the arm is lifted to the ceiling, palm faces the front. When the arm is overhead, palm faces the floor. AND… It’s NOT the palm that does the rotating. Rotate the whole arm from where the arm meets the shoulder to change the direction the palm is facing.
Initiate moving the arm in both directions by pulling the shoulder blade down and moving the arm from where it’s attached to the body.
Keep the head relaxed and resting on your arm while painting your rainbow to deepen the stretch through the neck and shoulder.
Squeeze the Glutes to extend the leg to the back corner.
Be sure the top hip doesn’t lean back as the leg extends. If anything it should shift slightly forward the farther back the leg goes.
Be sure the lower abs stay lifted for support as the leg moves out. Avoid a “banana back.”
Keep the pelvis still while the leg returns to the starting position. Avoid pulling the abs in and tucking the hips to move the leg. Your tailbone and pubic bone stay still and just the leg moves.
This is a great exercise to stretch your body sideways and open your hip with gravity helping. If you don’t have an Arc Barrel you can get a similar stretch on a Bosu® (but it’s not quite as effective.) Or if your inspired to buy a Pilates Barrel to have at home, I’ve got barrels and a book filled with lots of easy to do Pilates Arc Barrel exercises that makes a great addition to your at-home exercise program. You’ll find my book “A Barrel of Fun!” and Pilates Arc Barrels in the Pilates Exercise Equipment section of the store at
Thanks for sharing a couple of minutes of your day with me for this Pilates Exercise Tip today! Look forward to seeing you again soon for more thoughts on easy things you can do to stay inspired, have fun with Pilates, and enjoy whole-body health!