Try This: Side Lying Legs

Try This: Side Lying Legs


Whether it’s on the mat or in straps on the reformer, I love to teach the Side Lying Legs sequence. These exercises work a variety of muscles; they target the small hip muscles that support and stabilize your hips and pelvis, as well as the hamstrings and back of the legs, your core and your obliques. They also help to tighten your butt and narrow through your hips (Who doesn’t want that!?) Trust me, these exercises are not called “Butt Busters” for nothing.

Pregnancy Alert!! Great news for pregnant women:  Side Lying Legs can be done throughout your entire pregnancy 🙂

Why you need to be doing Side Lying Legs (the technical reasons)

  • Most importantly, these exercises are a great way to develop stability of the torso and pelvis, as well as full articulation at the hip joint
  • They help strengthen the lateral torso, including the internal and external obliques and quadratus lumborum
  • Strengthens the hip external rotators including the gluteus maximus, medias, minimums and piriformis
  • Helps strengthen hip abductors and adductors, flexors and extensors

How to do Side Lying Legs

amy-sidelegOn the Mat
Step 1: Starting Position

Lie on your side with the torso and head lined up along the back edge of the mat. Support the head on the hand with the elbow on the mat in front of chest.  Keep the shoulder and the hip stacked on top of each other and spine straight. The bottom leg turned out with the bottom foot flexed and toes tucked under in a kick stand position. Top hand is placed in front on the mat to help stabilize throughout this leg series.

Step 2: Parallel in Lateral

Inhale – With the foot parallel to the floor, lift the top leg up toward the ceiling, creasing at the hip without dropping through the waistline (Keep lifted in the underside obliques.)

Exhale – Lower the top leg back to the bottom leg. Do 8-10 reps.

Step 3: Turnout in Lateral

Repeat the same step above in a turned out position, with the knee and toe to ceiling (Point the toe.) Do 8-10 reps.

Step 4: Side Leg Kicks

Inhale – With the foot flexed, kick the top leg forward and pulse it two times. Use a sniffing breath for the pulses. Keep the hips and shoulders stacked and the leg straight.

Exhale – Kick the top leg to the back with a pointed foot. Do not allow the torso to move.

Step 5: Side Leg Circles

Inhale – Circle the top leg forward and up to the high point. Do not lift the top hip up or shorten the waist. Keep the shoulders and torso and hip still as the leg moves.

Exhale – Circle the top left from the midpoint back and around to the starting position.

Circle in both directions.

Side Lying Legs Modifications

  • Bend bottom leg in towards chest to help stabilize.
  • Or, for more of a challenge: Bottom leg extends out long.

When using the leg position modifications above, do the same series (Leg lifts parallel and turned out, front kicks and leg circles.)

Side Lying Legs on other equipment

Side Lying Legs on the Reformer


Side Lying Legs on the Chair


Doing this series on the Chair has a few extra areas of engagement, such as scapular stability, deeper obliques and upper mid back. 

Balanced hips are so important to support and stabilize our bodies, and working the hips in relation to the spine during Side Lying Legs will help to improve balance, build hip stability, and support the trunk. The hips are one of our bodies’ most important stabilizers, supporters and power movers, so when strengthened, they will contribute to better overall body health.


Amy Federman is a certified Pilates and TRX instructor at ABC Pilates in Laguna Niguel, California. Amy found her passion for Pilates eight years ago; her desire to teach was ignited by the fantastic results she achieved for herself both physically and mentally.  She is committed to the teachings of Joseph Pilates and the rewards that come with the discipline. As a mom of two, Amy says she appreciates the total body workout that Pilates can provide in just an hour. 
Click here to learn more about Amy and the other ABC Instructors.


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