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Strengthen Your Core and Shoulder Muscles with Pilates Side Bend

In this post: Pilates Side bend is a classic Mat exercise. It looks simple, but if your scapular stabilizers and spinal muscles are dysfunctional, it’s challenging.

a pin with a picture of how to do pilates side bend

It happens time and time again. You watch the instructor, listening attentively. You think I’ve got this.

And then, you crumple in a heap on your Mat.

No? Just me?

I remember learning how to do Pilates Side bend. Yes, it looks easy. However, if you’re not really focused on what you’re doing, if you’re not engaging the correct muscles, you too could be face-first on your Mat.

The thing is, once you figure out what your body needs to be doing, this exercise is fun–even exhilarating.

Here’s what you need to know to correctly practice Pilates Side bend. Trust me, you’re gonna love this classic Pilates Mat exercise!

If you have hip or back pain that’s preventing you from living the life your dreams, I have great news for you–I created a course to teach you how to permanently ditch your pain. Enrollment for Spinal Rejuvenation is currently closed, but I would love to send you a FREE guide to hip pain relief while you wait for this course to open.

Why You Should Do Pilates Side Bend

Side bend is a great exercise to strengthen your core muscles and scapular stabilizers. That may not sound too impressive or glamorous, but it is.

Your core muscles are responsible for a pain-free spine and hips. The core consists of your:

Plus, when you practice Side bend, you activate muscles around your shoulder girdle to stabilize your scapula (shoulder blade). This is crucial for anyone who spends time hunched over a computer (or their phone).

So, basically, we all need this kind of strength!

How to Do Pilates Side Bend

a picture of Pilates Side bend
  1. Use traditional Pilates breathing.
  2. Before practicing Pilates 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 (inner thighs) 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 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.

For the Visual Learners…

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

Before You Do Pilates Side Bend, Don’t Forget…

Side bend is a hugely beneficial Pilates exercise for anyone wanting to strengthen core and shoulder muscles. And, really, isn’t that all of us?

However, before you hop into a Side bend, make sure to practice some Side bend preps to warm up.

Also, when you do Side bend, make sure to pay attention to what you’re doing. Focus on the muscles you want to use and what your body is supposed to be doing as you move.

All you have to do is follow the steps for how to do Side bend, and you can reap the benefits from this wonderful classic Pilates exercise.

If you have hip or back pain that’s preventing you from living the life your dreams, I have great news for you–I created a course to teach you how to permanently ditch your pain. Enrollment for Spinal Rejuvenation is currently closed, but I would love to send you a FREE guide to hip pain relief while you wait for this course to open.

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

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About Sarah Stockett

Hi! I'm Sarah, and I'm a certified Pilates and yoga instructor with a passion for pain relief. When I'm not working with clients, I'm researching the best ways to get rid of pain. Do you want to learn how to practice yoga and Pilates safely in your own home? Or, do you want to know all my tips and tricks for pain relief? Join my mailing list and receive free goodies to help you.

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