Side Bend Is Trickier Than It Looks

Side bendSide bend is another classic Pilates mat exercise that was part of the original mat work. Because this exercise is all about scapular stability and lateral spinal flexion, it looks really simple. However, if your scapular stabilizers don’t work correctly and if your spine is stiff, it becomes very complicated quickly. For this reason, I particularly encourage you to be mindful of your shoulder blade placement and to warm up your spine before practicing this exercise.

Side Bend

  1. Use traditional Pilates breathing.
  2. Before practicing Side bend, it’s a good idea to warm up with Side bend prep. This encourages your scapular stability and side flexion of the spine.
  3. Align your left hand, left knee, and right foot in a relatively straight line at the front of your mat. Your right arm rests on your right knee, palm up. This is exactly like the set-up for Side bend prep.
  4. Inhale, stabilize your left shoulder blade, press into your right foot, and lift your hips off the floor. Straighten both legs and engage your adductors to bring your left leg firmly against your right. Reach your right arm overhead, and turn the palm to face the ground. Lift your rib cage toward the ceiling, creating side flexion of the spine.
  5. Exhale and return back to your starting position.
  6. With the two breath count, this exercise is short and sweet, so make each rep count.
  7. Complete 3-5 reps, then switch sides.
  8. Follow steps 1-6 for the left side.

Side Bend Video

With all of the movement that happens with each breath, sometimes a video is helpful. So, here is a video for visual learners.

Side bend or Side bend prep–which exercise challenges you most? Let us know in the comments.

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Sarah Stockett is STOTT certified in Matwork, Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, & Barrels, Injuries & Special Populations, and CORE; a Yoga Alliance RYT-200; and has studied Active Isolated Stretching. When she is not trying to discover the best exercises to get rid of pain, she likes watching movies and travelling with her family.

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