How to Do Pilates Side Kick Kneeling Like a Pro

In this post:  Pilates Side kick kneeling is one of those classic Pilates exercises that looks easier than it is. For that reason, many teachers leave it for the pros. Here’s how to do this exercise like a pro.

a pin that shows the starting position for practicing the Pilates Side kick kneeling classic mat exercise

It’s not surprising that many of the classic Pilates exercises look easier than they actually are. With so many dance-inspired exercises, even the most challenging movements can look fluid and basic.

The unfortunate reality for those of us who aren’t dancers is that the exercise is really hard! Even worse is that we can sometimes injure ourselves while trying these deceptively simple exercises.

I can remember the first time I did Pilates Side kick kneeling. The teacher demonstrated what we would do, and I thought, “Okay, I got it. No problem.


Before I even fully got into position, my rigid spine notified me that I had been fooled.

But, through years of practice, I’ve mastered this classic Pilates mat exercise and figured out what even the newest beginners need to know in order to avoid injury. Here’s what you need to know to practice Pilates Side kick kneeling like a pro.

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Why You Should Do Pilates Side Kick Kneeling

I know what you’re thinking: With all this talk about potential injury, why in the world should I do this exercise?

Great question. I’m glad you asked.

In order for your spine to be healthy and balanced, it needs to move in four directions–forward, backward, rotated to the sides, and bent to the sides.

When we practice Pilates Side kick kneeling, the very first thing we do is bend to the side. This side flexion makes this exercise particularly valuable in the Pilates world because there aren’t a lot of side flexion exercises.

So, this one exercise helps balance and strengthen important abdominal and spinal muscles.

In order to avoid injury, focus on using your muscles correctly to help you avoid sinking toward the ground.

How to Do Pilates Side Kick Kneeling

the starting position for practicing the Pilates Side kick kneeling classic mat exercise
  1. Begin kneeling anywhere on your Mat.
  2. Take a moment and press the floor away with your knees. Feel your spine grow taller.
  3. Broaden your collarbones.
  4. Draw your belly button toward your spine.
  5. Inhale your arms up toward the ceiling.
  6. Lift your rib cage up and over as you bend to the left side. Let your left hand lower so it’s on the floor directly beneath your left shoulder. Allow your right leg to lift to hip height.
  7. Bend your right elbow and place your fingertips behind your right ear.
  8. Hold your abdominals so that your pelvis doesn’t shift as you move your leg.
  9. Use Pilates breathing by inhaling through your nose and exhaling through pursed lips.
  10. Inhale as you kick your right leg straight forward with a pointed foot.
  11. Exhale and reach your right leg behind you.
  12. Stay stable through your left leg as your right leg moves. Don’t let your hips shift.
  13. Complete 3-5 kicks with the right leg.
  14. Bend the right leg, lower it beside the left leg, and return to upright.
  15. Repeat steps 2-14 for the other side, allowing the right leg to be grounded and the left leg to lift.

For the Visual Learners…

Here is a video of how to do Pilates Side kick kneeling for visual learners.

Before You Do Pilates Side Kick Kneeling, Don’t Forget…

This exercise can be very challenging, especially for anyone with a tight back or wrist pain. Take your time and use your mind/body connection to ensure you practice with the correct form.

Remember, if you feel any sort of pain while practicing this exercise, stop what you are doing immediately. You can try to set yourself up in a better position for a second try, but feel free to skip this exercise if you feel like it’s not a good fit for you.

With correct form and some regular practice, you will strengthen important core muscles, improve spinal mobility, and reduce low back pain. In no time at all, you’ll be doing Pilates Side kick kneeling like a pro!

Are you interested in learning the basics of yoga and Pilates from the privacy of your own home? Sign up for my FREE 30-day program, and I’ll teach you how to safely practice many popular yoga poses and Pilates exercises.

I just love how Pilates exercises look so easy right up until you try them. This one is definitely one of those deceiving Pilates exercises. What other Pilates exercises have tricked you? Let us know in the comments below.

About Sarah Stockett

Hi, I'm Sarah! I'm a certified Pilates and yoga instructor with a passion for pain relief. I believe you can use simple exercises to relieve your aches + pains. AND, I believe I can teach you how.