Pilates Side Kicks for Hip Strength and Flexibility

The side kicks/ front and back kicks are one of the best hip exercises you can do. They are very effective to stabilize your pelvis and shoulder girdle in a side-lying position while strengthening the hip muscles.

Front and back kicks help to improve gait (walking) mobility and stride length!

front and back side kicks imag

This Pilates leg exercise is very effective at stretching and strengthening the muscles at the hip joint complex.


Lie on your side with shoulders and hips aligned. Make sure your legs are long and “piked” slightly ahead of your pelvis for balance. Rest your head on your bottom arm and place your top hand on the mat, in front of your abs.


Raise your top leg to hip level. Keeping your torso still, swing your leg forward and backward.

Inhale and flex your foot as you swing your leg forward; exhale as you point your foot and swing your leg back. Repeat 6-8 times and then switch sides.

Notes: Keep your leg and waist long on your and reaching at hip level on your Pilates exercise mat. Your body stays still and unmoving. Think of a pendulum swinging from a solid, stable middle. The muscles at your waist stay tight.

Modifications: Bend your bottom leg for extra stability if you feel off-balance.

Here's a great video to show you more ways to do Hip Exercises from the Pilates Side Kick Sequence.

Side Kicks: Clam

The clam is a very effective hip exercise especially if you have sciatic pain and weak muscles in the si joint.

Especially for people who tend to sit a lot these muscles in the gluteal area become tight and inflamed causing si joint pain and sciatic nerve pain.

When you strengthen the muscles around a joint it can absorb and relieve the pain and pressure in the joint.

The clam is one of the best Pilates leg exercise to stabilize your pelvic region while strengthening your deep gluteal muscles to reduce sciatic pain and piriformis syndrome.

pilates clam exercise imag

Lie on your side with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Lengthen at your waist and place your top hand with pressure on the back of your hip joint.


Squeeze your heels together and open your knees. If you have enough pressure on your hip, this should feel a bit tight--like trying to open a clam shell.


Keep your hips very still. If you allow any rolling motion at the hips or waist, the exercise will not be effective.

Advanced Level Side Kicks: Heel Click Exercise

The Heel Clicks are a fun but challenging exercise.

This Pilates mat exercise helps to stabilize your pelvis and shoulder girdle in a side-lying position while strengthening your obliques.

This is a more advanced hip joint exercise and you will really feel it in the pelvic floor muscles and those around your waist.

pilates hip joint exercise image


Lie on your side with ribs and hips aligned, feet slightly ahead of your pelvis. Rest your head on your bottom arm and place your top hand in front of your abs for support if needed.


Raise your top leg to hip level with toes pointing up. Keeping your torso still, “close the hatch” by bringing your bottom leg up to meet your top leg. Slowly lower your bottom leg, keeping your top leg still.

Repeat 6-8 times and then switch sides.

Notes: Keep your feet in turnout position so your heels can click together. Keep your top leg and waist long and reaching at hip level.

See this Pilates Leg Exercise and many more core and joint exercises in the newly revised Pilates ebook.

Standing Side Kicks: Hip Abduction Exercise

hip abduction exercise image

This Standing Pilates Leg Exercise not only helps to strengthen the hip and leg muscles, but is also great at improving your bone density and balance.


Standing upright with good posture on one leg. Arms out to your side for balance.


Slide or kick one leg out to your side without bending sideways and then swing it back with the heel just in front of the bottom foot.

Repeat for 6-10 repetitions on each leg or as long as you can stay balanced with good posture on the other leg.

Check out all of the Exercise of the Month Moves!

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