March MATness Day 25: Kneeling Sidekick

Kneeling Sidekick is viewed as a more advanced option to the Side Kick exercise.  While they are certainly related, I think that focusing on the similarities actually does the practitioner a disservice.  Sure, there is the hip disassociation, the core stability and the length, but what’s different?

Sure, they’ve made the whole exercise harder by increasing instability and balance challenge, adding lateral flexion and increasing the hip abduction required to bring the leg to parallel, but this exercise throws you a bone too!

Photo by William Stitt on Unsplash

You’re up on your knee!  The POWER of the KNEEL!  That bottom leg has so much more leverage to help out now.  The kneeling leg’s glute, hamstring and quad muscles are REALLY strong and well positioned here to be REALLY helpful!

Cue clients to look to the kneeling leg as the answer to many of the new challenges the exercise poses.  A slight pelvic tuck, engagement through the front and back of the kneeling leg, toes firmly planted on the floor and your client will be off to a much more successful start to this challenging movement!

Be sure to follow us on Instagram (@worldisyourstudio) to find yours truly taking on the March MATness challenge day by day.  And sign up for our Cuesletter to get these cues sent directly to your inbox and be the first to hear about them!

Copyright © 2018, Cueing Theory, All rights reserved.

Do the Lawnmower, Add Rotation

Source: Jimmy Fallon & The Tonight Show

Of all the terrible, cheesy dance moves borne of the semi-formed comedic minds of 8th grade boys hoping to get noticed at middle school and church coed mixers, the “lawnmower starter” had to be the worst.  Worse than the “shopping cart,” worse than the “sprinkler,” and debatably worse than the “fishing reel.” What on earth does dredging up these terrible blocked out moments of your youth have to do with fitness you ask?

I’ve always thought that a little brevity goes a long way in fitness.  Get them laughing, get endorphins flowing, get them hooked on a healthy habit – so long as you don’t run out of jokes.  I have one Pilates instructor friend who is particularly skilled in this – this cue’s for her, just don’t take it too far and get your clients performing “the Carlton” while trying to hold Standing Balance!

I digress – back to the “lawnmower starter.”  The simple choreography of this dance effectively adds movement through the transverse plane (rotation) to a variety of exercises.  Let’s first go over what we want the movement to be.  Take the arm to reach down and across the body, past the opposite hip.  The reach can be as far as is available given the position of the rest of the body, but the key is to shorten the diagonal distance between the reaching hand’s bottom rib and the opposite hip.   Then, with purpose, “pull” the hand back to its starting position (near the shoulder of the hand in motion) with the elbow bent out to the side, broad across the collarbones, similar to the way you pulled the starter cord on a lawnmower back in the day (hence, the dance name).  Those are the basics, they will vary slightly depending on the exercise/position you apply them to.

The following are the exercises I have applied this to (this list is by no means exhaustive)  – either from a static position or integrated with leg movement: wide-leg squat, standing lunge, kneeling sidekick position with top leg out straight, modified side plank with bottom knee down (great prep for The Twist).

A note about prenatal clients – many of these are GREAT exercises for prenatal clients given the cross body coordination without being in a supine position.  If the client looks at you like there’s no chance in Hades they will be reaching past their ever-expanding midsection, suggest a less torqued reach for, say, a sword in its scabbard at her waist.  This is also good if you’re more into King Arthur than demo-ing embarrassing dance moves from your childhood.


Copyright© 2018, Cueing Theory, All rights reserved.

Editing Out Flexion and Extension in Lateral Movements

To maximize the awesome lateral flexion benefits we talked about in the last post, it is really key to isolate lateral flexion.  This means that as we go up and over to create our rainbow or our U-shape, our spines should not make any movement into the sagittal plane.  In other words, we need to edit out all of the flexion and extension of our spine in order to create space in our vertebra and give our bodies the greatest possible range in lateral flexion.

Source: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

To do this, I have forever found this cue to be helpful.  It is one of the earliest cues I can remember from my own instructors: window panes.  Imagine you are sandwiched between two window panes.  One pane lining up with the back of your body and one at the front.  You can only move side to side or up and down.  Any forward or backward movement will push you into the panes.  Imagine squishing your face against the front pane if you move into flexion and smacking your head against the back pane if you create extension through the spine.

This cue can also be helpful for lateral movements without lateral flexion: Star, Sidelift, and keeping the torso still during Sidelying and Sidekick Series.

Copyright © 2017, Cueing Theory, All rights reserved.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow is the Perfect Form of Lateral Flexion

Lateral flexion is an important movement class that is not heavily addressed in traditional fitness regimes.  The term describes the way in which our spine moves along the coronal plane.  It engages our Oblique and Lateral Muscular Slings and creates spinal flexibility in a direction that is often overlooked.  In more practical terms, movements that utilize lateral flexion improve core control, cinch our waists and create more stability for our bodies during standing, walking and rotational activities.  In other words, lateral flexion is really important!

Pilates has a lot to offer in this movement category.  In this post we’ll focus on those exercises that put us into deep lateral flexion.  These exercises are Sidebend and Kneeling Sidekick (feel free to add some others in the comments!).  For many, these exercises are incredibly challenging because lateral flexion is not a usual position for their spines.  Familiar images can make the poses more attainable.


For Sidebend, ask your client to imagine the whole length of his/her body is a rainbow (an upside down one at the bottom of the movement!).  This will help create a smooth, long shape that can be maintained throughout the exercise.

Kneeling Sidekick is a little different.  The lateral flexion occurs in the static part of the exercise.  For the setup, have the client imagine the shape of a lower case ‘n.’  This is the shape we are aiming to create underneath our standing arm and knee.

However you decide to plan your class, be sure to include some opportunities for the client to move through lateral flexion and stay tuned for another lateral flexion cue next time!


Copyright © 2017, Cueing Theory, All rights reserved.

Slam that door! – A Cue for Hip Disassociation Exercises

Hip disassociation – it’s a phrase that comes up frequently during side-lying work.  The group of movements that fit into this category isolates leg movement from the hip joint and below.  The goal is to minimize or eliminate movement in the rest of the body (the spine and it’s supports) during this type of exercise.  But that’s really hard!  The benefits are nearly endless, including making massive strides with core control.

Here’s a cue to help out with hip disassociation: imagine that the hip joint is a door hinge and the femur is the door.  Everything from the hip joint up is attached to the hypothetical door frame and is therefor immobile.  And for the movement – cue a swinging door.  The imagery not only helps with hip disassociation, but also aids in keeping the client’s leg alignment fixed at parallel to the floor throughout the exercise as they attempt to remain true to the basic construction of the door and hinge.

Add tempo or intention to these movements by cueing the client to slam the door!


Copyright © 2017, Cueing Theory, All rights reserved.