Control is something we all wish for more of from time to time. Whether it’s core control when counting push-ups, or self-control when counting biscuits, control of both the body and mind can help us to be the best version of ourselves.
So for week four of our six-week Pilates challenge with One Hot Yoga & Pilates Instructor, Tahlia Ware, we focus on the Pilates principle of control. This workout includes a sequence of side-lying exercises, which focus on strengthening the hips and side body while maintaining core control and spinal stability. They’ll help you establish control in your muscles to sculpt and tone your body.
Week 4: Control
“Every movement in Pilates should be performed with complete muscular control. Control not only of the physical body but also control of the mind. Our mind controls our movement and our body awareness allows us to make conscious and deliberate decisions about where we are in space. This requires a great deal of practice but is essential in mastering the art of Pilates and gaining optimal benefits for your effort,” says Tahlia Ware.
1. Side Leg Lift
A great exercise to lengthen the body, creating long lean muscle tone in the legs while challenging the body’s ability to stay still and stable.
- Start lying on your side with both legs slightly forward in front of the hips and squeezing together. The bottom arm reaching long, head resting on the arm and top hand is on hip.
- Inhale – prepare
- Exhale – Keep the legs squeezing together as they reach away from the body to lift just off the mat.
- Inhale – Lower legs back to the mat
- Repeat 10 repetitions on each side
Pro Tip: Keep a slight lift through the bottom side of your waist – imagine you have enough room for a gentle breeze to blow between the mat and your body. Try to maintain this as you lift and lower the legs.
Safety Tip: If you are struggling to balance on the side of your hip, place the top hand on to the mat in front of you. You can gently press the hand into the mat throughout the exercise to assist in keeping the body still and stable.
2. Lateral Flexion
This exercise will strengthen and tone the side waist muscles while providing a coordination challenge between the upper and lower body.
- Start lying on your side with both legs slightly forward in front of the hips and squeezing together. Reach the bottom arm long, pressing the hand firmly into the mat and reach the top arm along the legs.
- Inhale – Prepare
- Exhale – Start to lift the upper body, reaching the top arm along the legs simultaneously lifting the legs just off the mat.
- Inhale – lower back to the starting position
- Repeat 5 repetitions on each side.
Pro Tip: Think length not height! Have the feeling of reaching the body in opposite directions to create space in the lifted position. Try to stay right on the side of the hip and not roll backwards as you lift up.
Safety Tip: The lower body is doing the exact same movement as the previous exercise ‘Side Leg Lift’. If you are struggling to balance on the side of your hip, place the top hand on to the mat in front of you. You can gently press the hand into the mat throughout the exercise to assist in keeping the body still and stable.
3. Side Leg Circle
‘Side Leg Circle’ will strengthen the waist muscles whilst targeting the side ‘butt’ and hip muscles. This exercise also teaches hip dissociation – the ability to move the leg without moving the pelvis.
- Start lying on one side with both hands behind the head. Keep the bottom side ribs lifted just off the mat and the bottom knee bent for support. The top leg is reaching out at hip height with the foot pointed.
- Inhale – Reach the top leg forward and then up for the first half of the ‘circle’
- Exhale – Reach the top leg back and down to complete the circle
- Complete 10 repetitions on each side.
Pro Tip: The circle should be no bigger than a basketball – think of going from hip height, up and around. Remember it is about control, keeping the hip still and stable while we move the leg.
Safety Tip: If you are unable to balance with both hands behind your head, return to the ‘Side Leg Lift’ position and perform the circle action from there.
4. Side Teaser
This full body exercise requires a great amount of abdominal control and has an increased challenge of stabilising against rotation.
- Start facing one side, propped up on the bottom elbow with the top hand resting on the mat in front of the body. Both legs reaching long, slightly forward in front of the body, with the top ankle crossed over the bottom ankle.
- Inhale – Prepare
- Exhale – Press the bottom hand into the mat as you rotate the hips engaging the core to lift the legs towards the ceiling. The top hand reaches towards the feet as the torso rotates towards the legs to find the ‘teaser’ position.
- Inhale – Hold
- Exhale – Slowly return to the starting position.
- Repeat 5 repetitions on each side.
Pro Tip: To increase the challenge of the exercise, as you reach the ‘teaser’ position try also lifting the bottom hand off the mat, reaching it towards the feet. Be sure to have mastered the single arm lift first before trying this variation.
Safely Tip: To decrease the challenge of the exercise, omit the lifting of the legs. Keep both ankles cross on the mat and rotate and lift the torso only.
5. Side Kick Kneeling
Side Kick Kneeling is an advanced exercise aiming to challenge the body’s ability to stabilise everything against the moving leg. This is a great workout for the glutes, perfect for those sexy summer Pilates bums!
- Start facing one side, weight between the hand directly under the shoulder and the knee directly under the hip. The top leg is extended at hip height and the top hand is behind the head. Lift up through the bottom side of the waist and keep the abdominals active throughout the exercise.
- Inhale – Sweep the top leg forward, at hip height with the foot flexed.
- Exhale – Sweep the top leg slightly back behind the body with the foot pointed.
- Repeat 10 repetitions on each side.
Pro Tip: To decrease the challenge of the exercise return to the lying ‘side leg circle’ position and perform the ‘kicking’ action from there.
Safety tip: Try to keep the spine still and be sure not the arch the back, particularly as the leg moves back behind you. Reduce the range of movement through the top leg and focus on control. You may find it useful to place the top hand at the small of the back so you can feel if the spine is moving throughout the exercise.