Side Overs on the Pilates Reformer

Semprose Pilates-Side-Over-2

Has there ever been a time during your Pilates classes that your instructor has asked you to grab the short box, hook your foot under the fluffy strap, and trust that strap with your life as you lean to the side and come back up repeatedly using your obliques? Have you ever wondered during that exercise “am I doing this correctly’,  ‘why am I doing this movement’ or ‘what’s the benefit of this exercise?’ Well, let’s answer that for you!


Side overs on the short box are commonly performed in Reformer Pilates classes at the Semprose Pilates Smeaton Grange and Semprose Pilates Gregory Hills studios.  Side overs can also be performed on the ladder barrel and spine corrector if you are in the private or semi-private Pilates classes. 

Side over Pilates Moves

Side overs are an excellent exercise not only for the obliques, but for building head to toe strength, stability and balance while laterally flexing the spine against gravity. This particular exercise will definitely leave you feeling those obliques working, but by having a clearer understanding of the set up and benefits of this exercise, you’ll know where and what you are meant to be feeling during the movement and what muscles are being targeted.


When you are in your Pilates classes you will notice that the setup of the side overs means all the springs are attached on the reformer bed (for safety), the sitting box is in the short box position, the foot closest to the fluffy strap is flexed and hooked underneath the fluffy strap while we sit sideways on the box. The fluffy strap is designed to take the weight of our body so when the instructor says trust the strap, we promise you can trust it! From the flexed foot, the leg is rotated to a parallel position which will give you the most secure setup to start your side overs. 


It is essential that the pelvis remains square during your side overs. Imagine two lasers beaming from your hip bones pointing straight ahead; while you perform side overs, those lasers need to point straight ahead and not on an angle. By keeping the pelvis square, we can target the obliques and the lateral side of the body, rather than using the incorrect abdominal muscles or posterior muscles in the back. 


Now let’s begin by sitting up tall on the box to lengthen the spine, with the hands behind the neck or arms out to the side or arms pointing to the ceiling over the ears. Breathe in to prepare and as you exhale, lean the torso away from the flexed foot under the fluffy strap. Make sure to draw the abdominal muscles in and up to help support the spine as you flex.  Inhale, then lift the obliques (do not crunch them) to bring you back up to the starting position, making sure to keep the hips square and still.


So what muscles are we targeting? The primary muscles in focus are the obliques (the abdominal muscles running down the sides of your waistline).  Strong obliques are key for enabling rotation through your torso, stabilizing the spine, improving posture and balance and reducing lower back pain – as Joseph Pilates once said, “a man is as young as his spinal column”. Other muscles you may feel include the glutes, hip abductors (outer thighs) and adductors (inner thighs) especially on the leg that’s hooked under the strap, as this leg is working hard to stabilize your body on the box and stop you from falling. As you can see, like many Reformer Pilates exercises, side overs target more than just one area of the body, and are an incredible exercise for core strength, spinal stability, pelvic stability, lengthening the spine and working the body laterally against gravity. What a combo!


Next time you’re attending Reformer Pilates near me, and your instructor says we are going to do side overs, hopefully you now have a better understanding of what muscles you are meant to feel, how to correctly set up and execute the movement and why you’ll feel your obliques for a few days after! We love this move and hope you do too!

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