With the promise of a redefined, sculpted seat and lean hip area, fitness programs like barre and Pilates have topped the list for years for those seeking such results. What is the magic formula? Is it the high repetition load and small intrinsic movements of barre or the “quality and precision of movement over quantity” low repetition strategy of Pilates that claims a longer, leaner and stronger physique?
Ask devotees from both sides and you will hear explanations defending the results oriented reputation of each of these movement disciplines. Having taught both modalities, I can assure you that to gain the most benefit from side lying hip and seat (butt) exercises, there are a few imperative steps that can help participants achieve success. Kinesthetic awareness and proprioception of the side of your body, core stabilization and a sense of opposition and resistance within the leg/hip complex while in motion are critical for success in side lying.
When participants are asked to lie on their sides in any fitness regimen, all awareness of how they are organize their bodies in space seems to go downhill. Why you ask? Perhaps a simple answer is that we spend the majority of our time on our sides during our sleep phase or when we are casually lounging around reading or watching a movie. Secondly, there also tends to be one side of our body that stabilizes with more efficiency while the opposite side may offer better range of motion and movement precision. And lastly, as humans, we are curious creatures, and when asked to lie on our sides and exercise, the head often falls forward in an attempt to visually align the hip and leg rather than use interoception to sense the body’s position without looking.
A well proportioned side lying position that will enhance any hip and seat work mimics the arrangement of the torso in the yoga asana Tadasana or Mountain Pose, but positioned on its side and depending on the exercise, variable leg positions may be required. Simply put, even on your side there is an attempt to elongate that natural curves of the spine ultimately aiming for symmetry on all sides. If your head is positioned on its side (resting on the floor or small block) the nose, sternum and pubic bone should align with the two pelvic bones, which are joint stacked vertically on top of one another – (hip stacked over hip). Often, the underside or side seam of the body in contact with the floor is a real blind spot for people, and they are not able to contract, engage, and/or lengthen the lateral core musculature. This hinders hip, seat and leg work, making it ineffective. As with any exercise, strength must come hand in hand with stability to be the most efficient.
If it is challenging to organize yourself while on your side and stabilize your core muscles, then lifting and lowering your leg up and down for a million repetitions hoping to “feel the burn” that will change the shape of your hips by the end of class may simply be disaster. Momentum may be the “go to” strategy to make it through the exercise, and muscles other than your hip and abdominals may bear the brunt of your efforts (back and neck pain, anyone?).
Check back Friday for Part 2 on what you can do to awaken and stabilize your side body along with a great YTU hip exercise!