Revisiting the Basics: Side-to-Side on the Short Box

Side-to-Side on the Short Box

Hey there!

This week's post is a request from a subscriber, Joanne.

Thanks, Joanne, it's high time for another post about one of my not-so-favorites, Side-to-Side on the Short Box.

Side bending, in general, has never been a skill of mine. Over the years I have fought the good fight and have emerged (occasionally) victorious.

For further reading, check out my previous posts on this same subject here and here.

The Makings of a Great Side Bend

Side-to-Side on the Short Box is the very first side bend shape you'll learn.

While not as basic as the Footwork or the Roll Up, Side-to-Side on the Short Box is one of the more manageable side-bending exercises in the Pilates System.

And for those of you who desperately need this skill of side bending, it's one hell of an introduction.

Let's Start Tall

Looking at the order of the Reformer exercises, the Short Box Series gives you one of the best prerequisites for Side-to-Side: The Reach – which is your tallest back shape.

Reach on the Short Box

The tall back shape encourages you to lift and continue to lengthen both sides of the trunk in a straightforward movement pattern. It's this lift you will preserve to take into Side-to-Side.

Consider The Reach to be your basic best friend (BBF) for the kinda-not-basic-depending-on-who-you-are Side-to-Side exercise.

With beginning or first-time students you may wish to delay adding Side-to-Sideย to their program depending on how well they do the Round and Reach exercises.

What's going on back there anyhow?

TBH, it was news to me that anything on the back of me would be useful to do Pilates.

Short Box exercises – decidedly one of the meat-and-potatoes series on the Reformer – can be challenging since you are essentially stranded up there on that box with no feedback and nary a spring in sight.

One of the best places I've found to illuminate the back of me as I side bend is on the Cadillac.

Roll Back One Arm on the Cadillac

The Roll Back done with one arm is a wonderful place to feel your back on the Mat as you make your Side-to-Side shape.

But what exactly am I doing? Where am I going?

If you're like me, maybe Side-to-Side has been mysterious for a while.

I remember so vividly each time I'd visit this exercise in my first year of Pilates group lessons on the Reformer. I'd have a plan in mind, but I soon came to associate this exercise with “Oh this is the one where Lesa comes to fix me.”

Years later I'd finally feel that one side really didn't know how to lift or move at all.

And over the many years that I've been practicing Pilates, I've been taught this exercise MANY different ways.

Ultimately, you're looking to find equal strength, lift and length on both sides of the body without compromising your tall back shape.

I believe the direction to lean forward, or add a twist to the front corner of the box to be just a few ideas to help the truly Side-challenged folk. It can be a good option for a while and with practice, ultimately lead to even better execution of the exercise.

The Pole: Your Apparatus of the Moment

Joe Pilates never leaves us unprepared.

Luckily he suggests using a pole for the Short Box Series.

Look at the pole and see a big truth-teller for Side-to-Side and Twist.

Does one end of the pole point downward when your student bends to the side?

Both sides of the trunk must work to lift up both ends of the pole. Sounds easy I know…

If you bend to the right side, it must continue to hold up the pole as the left side lifts up and over.

Which brings me to my other hot tip for Side-to-Side… Spine Stretch Forward?

Spine Stretch Sideward, Anyone?

Think about the Pilates Mat exercise Spine Stretch Forward.

Spine Stretch Forward on the Mat

This forward-bending exercise requires you to get a big LIFT! of your bottom and back up and over the bony landmark of your ribcage. To get more opening in the middle back just under the ribs, this is the spot you're after as you Spine Stretch.

Meanwhile back in your side-bending exercise, work to lift each side UP and over the rib cage without any shifting or crunching. Give it a try and see what you think.

Side to Side on the Short Box

New this week on my YouTube Channel

Check out today's video for more nerdy discussion on all things Side-to-Side.

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  1. Andrea I just love you and your blog! We already know (or should know) that every Pilates exercise is linked to another but it’s amazing how we may forget and then you go and add something brilliant linking Short Box Side-to-Side to Rolling Back One Arm ont the Cadillac!!! That A-ha moment once again!!!!!! Thank you!

    • Hi Dina ๐Ÿ™‚ thank you so much for reading and for sharing your thoughts here with us. Thank you aas well for the amazing praise for my blog – I love you too!! I feel the same way as you – we all know the exercises are different versions of each other but then that moment of AHA hits you almost with surprise sometimes – I love when that happens ๐Ÿ™‚ Keep up the good work xox

  2. Alessandra Niccolai says

    Spine stretch sideways ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜ love that!! Hmm I must relax and enjoy the exercises I donโ€™t like ๐Ÿค” thatโ€™s something I must try!!
    Great post ๐Ÿ˜˜

    • Yes I know, what a concept – enjoying the exercises that we don’t like but that are so good for us. Thanks so much for reading! xox see you soon!

  3. Excellent post! Side Bend :-0 … โ€œThe Roll Back done with one arm is a wonderful place to feel your back on the Mat as you make your Side-to-Side shape…โ€ Great tip! I will try this! Sometimes when I do Spine Stretch Forward, I use the pole to help me keep my shoulders plugged into my backโ€ฆIโ€™m going to start sneaking in a Side to Side on the Mat to see how that feels! And I def. saw no cheating on your “Spine Stretch Side” ;-0 It’s true, since you had me start exhaling during Side to Side in my lessons, I actually (kinda ๐Ÿ˜‰ look forward to this part of the Short Box (remind me I said that) LOL! Thanks for all the tips A!!!!

    • Corrie – you are so welcome! I have had such a dislike for all these side-bending exercises for so long – now I do look forward to them and I feel like I can help demystify them since it has taken me so long to be able to do them somewhat properly LOL. So my Pilates obsession has moved on from the Roll Up to the Spine Stretch ha ha – well still trying to be round I guess – see you soon my friend! And thank you so much for reading and for sharing your thoughts and experiences here with us.

  4. Thanks for talking about Pilates, I really love to do this while wearing my workout leggings and so really like to get more about this kind of field. Wonderful stuff to read and I am so delighted to find this valuable article that is amazing. Appreciate it!

  5. Sarah sANTORIELLO bIGELOW says

    Andrea, I found your blog by accident and love your workouts! What a surprise it was to hear your voice and see your face after so many years. Hope to join you in an online class sometime soon.
    Your cousin, Sarah

    • OMG Sarah!! Wow so nice to see you here and reconnect after all these years ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you so much for your kind words on my blog and videos. Yes, it would be lovely to see you in class – wow… I can’t stop smiling LOL I hope you and yours are healthy and doing well – stay safe out there! And do Pilates. xox big virtual hugs to you!

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