Using simple, repetitive exercises to create muscle exertion, the practice of Pilates isolates certain muscle groups to produce specific results. The practice can be adapted from a gentle rehabilitation, to a strenuous and challenging exercise session. One hour of Pilates per week has been shown to be equivalent to ten intensive physiotherapy sessions in improving flexibility in students and patients (Segal et al, 2004). The Side Series (1 & 2 as demonstrated in this video and described below) increases strength and joint mobility in the hip, strengthens glutes and thighs, works on leg flexibility, and helps to stabilise the core (one of the most important foundations of the Pilates method).

Side Series 1

Begin lying on side, head rested on outstretched bottom arm. For comfort, you might offer your students a blanket to place between neck and arm to aid maintaining neutral spine.

Shoulders, hips, knees and ankles are aligned and stacked on top of one another - the bottom leg can be bent at 90 degrees to decrease difficulty, or straightened out to increase difficulty and challenge the balance.

Top arm is laying flat down the side of the body, resting on the hip or stabilising the body on the mat in front of the torso.

Marginally externally rotate the top leg on an inhale, and raise the leg to hip height. Foot is plantar flexed (pointed toes). Exhale and lower the leg with control as you dorsiflex (drawing toes to shin) the foot. Maintain a still upper body throughout the motion. Repeat action 6-12 times.

Repeat on the opposite side of the body (or wait until the entire Side Series is complete and then repeat on other side).

Side Series 2

Begin in the same starting position as Side Series 1 (see above). Limbs are stacked, lower leg can be bent or extended out to decrease or increase difficulty accordingly.

Maintaining a still upper body and an engaged core, inhale and slightly externally rotate upper leg before lifting leg to hip height with a plantar flexed foot. Exhale and draw small circles with pointed toes, inhale as you continue the action and then exhale to change directions. Inhale as you complete the action, exhale to lower the leg back down. Repeat on the opposite side of the body, either as its own exercise or as a part of the complete Side Series. 

Kloubec, J. (2011). Pilates: how does it work and who needs it? Muscle, Ligaments and Tendons Journal, 1, 61-66.

Segal, N.A., Hein, J., & Basford, J.R. (2004). The effects of Pilates training on flexibility and body composition: An observational study. Archives of Physical Medical Rehabilitation, 85, 1977-1981.