Exercise of the Week: Side Bend and Twist

Side Bend and Twist

This intermediate level exercise is a part of the Traditional Matwork repertoire.  Read more about Mobilisation and Strength in our Online Pilates Course: click here.

As you enter the realm of advanced matwork the base of support becomes smaller and in many cases less stable.  The Side Bend is a good example.  The work comes from both the trunk and shoulder strength and stability.

In this exercise, the pivot around which much of this movement occurs is around a single shoulder joint,which by it’s nature is very mobile and unstable.  it is this that makes this spinal exercise so challenging.

As the body arcs at the top position, the pelvis should lift as high as possible toward the ceiling while the free arm swoops overhead accentuating the arc shape.  The head must follow the spine, focussing the gaze on the hand on the floor.  Then, the flexion is taken into the opposite direction, with the pelvis arcing the spine down towards the spine as the free arm comes to rest against the torso.

Between repetitions, don’t allow the legs to rest on the floor, but maintain flow by immediately pushing upwards again,keeping a sense of continuous movement.

Support must come from the oblique abdominal muscles which are the drivers of this wonderful exercise!



Things to think about: Side Bend

  • A wonderful image is that of a dolphin leaping out of the water.
  • Imagine the movement is performed between two panes of glass – don’t touch either, lest they shatter!


Things to think about: Twist

  • Imagine creating a pyramid with the legs forming one side and the trunk the other side.
  • When the arm reaches under the body, the movement is like threading a needle.
  • Think of spiralling energy.
  • Create a well defined line when returning to the diagonal.
  • In this  position, feel the strong energy line running through the body and a second line running through the arms from the floor to the sky.


What’s it good for?

  • To develop oblique abdominal strength and control.
  • To improve trunk flexibility (spinal mobility)
  • To develop shoulder strength and stability


Happy Pilatesing!


Miguel x


  • Sharon Barber
    Posted at 10:53h, 07 August Reply

    One to aspire too for sure. You make it look so effortless.

    • Miguel Bengoa
      Posted at 13:35h, 22 August Reply

      You know, Pilates meets you where you’re at … the effortlessness is just exterior, I was shaking on the inside – but it’s all about control!

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