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Pilates Fitness Tips for the Pilates Matwork Side Leg Exercises

Posted Aug 13 2010 10:31am

One of the biggest challenges with the Pilates Matwork Side Leg Series exercises  is keeping the body still. All of the Pilates Mat exercises that lead up to this point (with your back on the mat) are to prepare you to lay on your side and still be able to hold things together!

The Pilates side leg series exercises have many great benefits!

  • Increased Hip Strength
  • Improved Hip Joint Mobility
  • Leg Flexibility
  • Improved Core Stability
  • Increased Body Awareness
  • Improved Gait Mechanics

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

1. Practice the Side Leg Series Exercises with Your Back Against a Wall. Strive to keep everything from your head to your hips against the wall while moving your leg for the following exercises: Kick Front & Back, Lift & Lower, Passé, Side Leg Lift Parallel, Little Circles, Bottom Leg Inner Thigh Lift, Inner Thigh Circles.
2. Hold the Side of Your Abdominals that are Closest to the Floor the Strongest. If you are laying on your right side, the right side of your abs from the hip to ribs need to stay firm to hold the body still.
3. Maintain Shoulder Depression with the Top Arm. If you are laying on your right side, the left shoulder is on top. Keep the shoulders stacked vertically, and actively pull the left shoulder down. This will help keep the shoulders still, and provide a stable anchor so the hips and legs can lengthen away from center.
4. Maintain an Active Pelvic Floor. Especially the pubic bone to tailbone connection. (Clam) Be sure that your “clam” stays still while swinging the leg. The whole torso should be lined up along the back edge of the mat (“clam too”) which means a slight arch/neutral pelvis position. This will help to hold the pelvis still while swinging the leg. Especially on Kick Front & Back, be sure that you tailbone is not swinging forward and back with your leg.
5. Keep your Eye Focus Straight Ahead. There’s a tendency to want to watch the legs move. When you’re looking at your legs, it shifts your head, neck, and torso position. Keep looking straight ahead to maintain a tall/long body position, and “feel” what’s happening in your body.

Here are my two favorite ways to challenge balance & core control for the Side Leg Series:

1. Do the Side Leg Series Holding a Magic Circle in Both arms Overhead. Be careful not to lock the elbows! In this position you HAVE TO hold things together or you’ll fall over! It’s instant feedback if you lose support.
2. Do the Side Leg Series with Both Arms Bent–Hands Behind the Head. Maintain that straight ahead gaze, shoulder depression and everything else you practiced in tips 1-5. Be sure you can see your top elbow out of the corner of your eye (and keep the arm & elbow still while doing your leg exercises!) You’ve just taken the tripod of hand support away, so now it’s all core control!

Need some cues and reminders to keep you moving through your at-home Pilates mat workouts?

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