Side-Lying Leg Lifts

Build strength in your glute, lateral leg, and hip while strengthening your core and other tiny, difficult-to-find muscles!
This Pilates exercise is excellent for all levels of exercisers, from beginner to professional athlete. It is common in many a pilates mat class. It is great for building strength in your glutes, lateral leg, inner thigh, and obliques while also improving hip mobility by teaching isolation between your leg and hip bones. However, many people don’t get the most out of this exercise because it can be very easy to cheat if you don’t know what you are doing. Therefore, be sure to remember these tips as you do this exercise:

  • Keep your hips stacked forward and backward (and top and bottom, see below). Most people let their top hip fall behind their bottom hip, which is just plain cheating. If you aren’t sure whether or not your are doing this, you can use a wall to make sure they stay stacked. Sometimes, it helps to envision that there are a pole drilled through your hips (like Frankenstein’s monster has in his head). You want to keep that pole straight up the the ceiling, like a flag pole.
  • Keep your bottom side lifted off the floor (for most people). If, when standing, you have a bell curve between your hips and shoulders, you will want to keep your bottom side up off the floor far enough that your middle spine does not bend toward the floor. This will keep your spine aligned, keep your top hip stacked on top of your bottom hip (top and bottom), and work your obliques and core.
  • Keep your top hip perfectly stable the whole time! Got everything lined up to start? Great! Now the ONLY thing that moves is your leg! Under no circumstances should anything in your hips or torso move even the tiniest bit.  If you are having trouble doing this, start small. It doesn’t matter how high your leg goes, if you really want to feel the burn, focus on only moving your leg and nothing else.
  • Reach your leg out away from you as it goes up and downYou want to create space between the femoral head (ball at the top of your leg bone) and the socket in your hip. These are separate bones that create a ball-and-socket joint. This ball-and-socket joint allows you to move your leg without moving your hip. Most people unconsciously move their legs by moving their hip bones but this means they only work a few big muscles and compress their ball-and-socket joints, which leads to overuse of big muscles and more wear and tear on their hips. In order to work more muscles evenly, building more equitable strength and helping prevent injury, reach through your heel to feel space in your hip and keep that space/reach throughout the exercise.

Pull up a bit of floor space and try these tips for a better leg lift!

Want to know more tips on how to get the most out of any Pilates exercise? Schedule your free 90 minute consultation.
Addie Kelzer is a certified personal trainer and nutrition consultant. She believes that by making fitness and good food practical, her clients will hold the power to positively change their health and the health of those closest to them.