How to Perform the Pilates Standing Side Bend

Pilates Side Stretch
Pilates Side Stretch. Real Pilates

You may know Pilates as a series of moves done on your back or weird stretching moves on medieval looking equipment. However, there is a large repertoire of standing Pilates exercises that require little to no equipment. If you have a moment and want to wake up your waist, fire your abdominals and get a little stretch, try this move. You can perform it simply, without any props, or grab a set of light hand weights to add a little more intensity.

Stand Tall

Begin standing tall in Pilates stance. That means squeezing your gluteals and pressing the heels together. The toes are apart so that the feet shape a letter "V." The back of the legs should wrap together. Think of lightly rotating the backs of the legs so the heels, calves, thighs and gluteal muscles all press together. Pull your abdominals in and up. At the same time lengthen your lower back so that you stretch your torso up straight and tall.

Reach Up

Extend one arm up alongside your head. Let the other arm hang down at your side. Stretch your hand open and long unless you are holding a dumbbell. The action of lifting your arm has an impact on your posture, so re-scan your body from top to bottom and be sure the low back is as long as possible. Crunching in your lumbar spine will cause your abdominals to distend and weaken your belly muscles.

Bend Over

Once you've lifted yourself up as high as possible, go for broke. Inhale to prepare, then reach your arm to the ceiling. Gradually arc up and over exhaling as you reach. The key is to bend up not down. Your entire body should lengthen upward as you bend without compressing or shortening any area of the torso. At the peak of your stretch, take another breath cycle inhaling and exhaling to deepen the stretch.

Start Again

From the deepest point lengthen out even longer and rise up gradually. Return upright to your initial position. Bend one arm down and switch arms to begin on the other side. Complete the first set by performing one rep to each side. Then complete two to three more additional sets for a total of six to eight individual repetitions. This move can be done up to three times a day for maximum effect. Try a morning, noon and night approach and see how the effects pay off in a few days time.

What Pilates Teachers Say

  • Work your Pilates stance. No matter where you are in the movement, work the back side of the body by maintaining your Pilates stance. This stable position actually gives your torso more freedom to stretch further from a strong supportive position.
  • Draw your Abs in and up. In each and every Pilates move, the abdominals work inward and upward. In standing exercises this is even more important. Even while reaching up and over maintain this deep abdominal work.
  • Exhale on the hard part. Follow the Pilates breathing rule. Inhale to prepare for the move then exhale as you execute. Breathe in and out through the nose.
  • Let your bottom arm hang heavy. Even though your upper body is reaching up and away, your lower body and bottom arm can provide a counter weight. Instead of allowing the lower arm to hug the body, let it hang loose. This gives your body something to work against. Opposition is a key element in a good Pilates practice.

Want More?

Pilates is a system, a huge collection of exercises meant to weave together supporting each individual move by way of all the others. The mat, equipment and ancillary moves all work together to develop a strong and symmetrical body. This move is a good intro to how Pilates feels when done right. To dig deeper, get Pilates strong with many other exercises in this library including targeted moves for your back, arms, legs and abs.

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