Pilates Mat Exercise #25: Side Kick Series

Pilates Mat Exercise #25: Sick Kick SeriesThis one has been a long time coming.

Initially not even close to being a beloved exercise of mine, the Side Kick Series can deliver rich rewards with diligent practice. I'm very surprised to admit that I'm now a big fan.

Nope, I'm more of a stalker actually, obsessed with every moment I spend with this challenging series.

I began studying at Vintage Pilates in early 2011, and the Side Kick Series remains as one of the biggest revelations in my Pilates practice. Current students of The Work are all in agreement. Just like all the other exercises that precede it, the Side Kick Series is not really about your leg.

Let me say that again.

The Side Kick Series is not about your leg.

Amazingly simple, isn't it?

Just relax your leg and connect it to the center of your body, your stomach, your powerhouse.

What could be more straightforward?


In my first year of studying the Mat exercises way back in 2000, I had dozens of excuses why I didn't have time to include the Side Kick Series in my homework between classes.

“Side Kick Series takes forever, I don't have time to do them.”

Yeah, right.

Lame-o excuse #57: “I don't have time.”

Clearly I did not understand how the Side Kick Series would benefit me (and my tight hips and thighs and weaker side…duh…). Yet I could respect the candidness of the Teaser: it either happened or it didn't and I used my stomach, so beautifully simple.

Or so I thought…but I digress, again distracted by the bright, shiny object that is the Teaser.

Side Kicks, right…

Side Kicks, however, remained shrouded in mystery, in a dark Pilates haze of one-sided-ness and reminiscent of exercises in other disciplines, yet not quite that either.

Those are the hardest exercises, I find. The ones that are so similar to something else it's misleading as they are often completely different. 

“No ‘Sexy on the Beach!'”

Thank you Romana for frowning upon lounge-y behavior, our heads casually propped up on our arm.

The Side Kick Series is another ‘first' on the Mat – really the first and only time in the Mat series where you will work one side at a time while lying on your side.

Gone is the luxury of lying on your back or your front. And you must multitask! Ach!

So how best to tackle the slippery Side Kick Series?

1. The Order of the Universe

Pilates Mat Exercise #25: Side Kick Series

I find several (if not ALL) of the exercises that precede the Side Kicks to be indispensable. And for me, the most important being the One Leg Circle.

Of course, the One Leg Circle is another exercise that can be at first misleading with that leg circling away up there. But don't be distracted by flashy moving parts. Stay grounded in your center and make this a stomach exercise.


Yes, one side at a time, just like the Side Kick Series – except for the whole ‘lying-on-your-side-thing' you can learn to activate your standing leg. The leg on the Mat must be encouraged to do just as much work if not more than that spectacular circling leg that has so captivated you.

Lately I am also enamored of the Jackknife and the help it provides with connecting the lower body into the center. Perhaps I like the Jackknife as a help since you get to have both sides working together, always a plus.

Let's face it, you're coerced into using your stomach and seat to lift your hips up into the air and control your way down to the mat. Why abandon all that when you lie on your side? It just doesn't make sense 🙂

But give it a try. Find your control and connection in the Jackknife and then see if you can keep all that same stuff when you begin your Side Kicks. I bet it will at least give you a different look at lying on your side.

2. Vertically Speaking

Pilates Mat Exercise #25: Sick Kick SeriesFight off a severe case of ‘sexy on the beach' and take a look at this exercise standing up.

Yes, to perfect your Side Kicks, why not take that ‘standing' leg and literally stand on it?

Without the loungey lying down position, you can feel your stomach reach all the way to your foot standing on the floor.

  • Push into the floor and grow tall first.
  • Lift your belly button in and up as though it lifts all the way to the nape of your neck.
  • Don't get any shorter as you reach one leg forward. Reach fully into both legs.
  • Continue to reach as you move your leg a bit behind you.
  • If your trunk wants to wiggle forward and backward to counter your leg movement, resist!!

Please note: I am using this standing exercise simply as a teaching tool to find connection, not as an alternative or variation of the Side Kicks exercise.

3. Cadillac to the Rescue!

Pilates Mat Exercise #25: Sick Kick SeriesLet this exercise be your reward for wanting to perfect your Side Kick Series in the first place. Leave it to the Cadillac to save your a$$ every time…or at least find it.

Now you'll “stand in the spring” using all the information you gleaned from your previous standing experience.

Springs make life a little bit more lovely, don't they?

What's going on? Now the exercise is even more about my leg!

You've got that spring on but how is this helping?

Remember you've got several choices of springs at your disposal. At the very least you've got “leg” springs and “arm” springs.

Do what you have to do – if you have the heavier leg spring on and you just feel like you are fighting the spring and it's hard to feel work in your center, then by all means change it up and use a lighter spring.

Which spring??!

For now, I am using the lighter “arm” spring so I can especially connect to my center on my weaker more challenged side. I will gain more strength and coordination overall by working in this manner.

At some point it will be time to take what I've learned/strengthened with the lighter spring and challenge it further with the heavier spring. All the while working more efficiently from the muscles of my center.

The spring doesn't matter.

What has that spring done for me lately?

Helped you find your butt and your stomach? Relaxed your thigh, for the love of God?

Then that's the spring to keep. For now. Not forever…but perhaps for a little while.

The yummiest part about using the Side Leg Spring to better your Side Kick Series is the control you need to reach the leg from front to back – not just the arrival at the end points of your pendulum. The continual reach along the entire arc (your journey from where the leg reaches front until it arrives at the back plus your return trip) is what you seek.

Total control of the spring = total control of your muscles.

Control + ology, baby. Let's study up.

See how these 3 tips work for you. Share your success in a comment below.

Now go work out. You know you want to.

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  1. Thanks for the tips, I will bear them in mind when I’m next in the studio. I found Janice Dulak’s insights about hip extension to be very helpful with the side kicks – minus the pelvic tucking. Length, length, and more length through the entire body, especially the legs and finally I could feel my muscles on my weaker side coming to life. Side kicks are one of my favorites, teaser not so much. Funny how we all have our pets.

  2. Yes! “Length, length and more length through the entire body…” What a statement! I discovered some hidden and helpful length in my workout yesterday actually – not to do with the side kicks – but it further reminded me of lifting and lengthening at all times – LOL. I aspire to love the Side Kicks as much as you do 😉


  1. Hear more about how to use your stomach in the Side Kick Series and the One Leg Circles in Andrea’s Pilates Bridge Interview!

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