Workout of the Week: The Pilates Challenge

BY Emma-Kate Stampton TIMEMay 5, 2014 PRINT

This kneeling side-kick sequence is for everyone who thinks Pilates is easy. Its simplicity is deceiving, and I guarantee you will be surprised by its intensity. Try it, feel it, and experience the true, full-body challenge that Pilates brings.

Get ready for an intense glute workout. These movements require a huge amount of core control and strength to do well, and they will challenge the stability of your hips and upper body.

Aim to keep your body still as your legs move by activating your deep core muscles. Using your obliques will also be helpful. To help engage your core, imagine your entire midsection is a corset, and when you activate your deep stomach muscles, the corset is being tightened.

The position of your body will focus the workout mainly on your glute medius and minimus, the smaller glute muscles on the side of your buttocks toward the side of the upper thigh. Your shoulder and upper arm will also get a subtle workout as they help hold your body in place.

If these exercises feel too intense, lean further onto your hand when you tip your body to the side during the preparation. This will make the angle between your lifted hip and thigh wider and take the intensity out of the exercise. If your wrist feels painful, try resting between each separate leg movement to take pressure off the joint.

Keep your breath flowing and consistent as you perform each movement. Your breath will help assist your body with control and core connection.

Epoch Times Photo
Preparation for kneeling side-kick exercise sequence. Never underestimate the power of Pilates.(Willis Lim/Willis Lim Photography )


Start in a kneeling position with the back of your fingers resting on your forehead.

Extend your right arm out to the side, and when it is in line with your shoulder, tip over toward the floor until your right hand rests on it.

As your hand touches the floor your, your left leg will naturally extend out to counterbalance. Make sure your left leg is in line with your torso.

Epoch Times Photo
Starting position for the kneeling side-kick exercise sequence. Never underestimate the power of Pilates.(Willis Lim/Willis Lim Photography )

Extend your left hand straight up toward the ceiling, so your arms are in line with each other. This is the starting position for the kneeling side-kick exercise sequence.

Epoch Times Photo
Begin the sequence by lifting your leg so your foot comes to hip level. Never underestimate the power of Pilates.(Willis Lim/Willis Lim Photography )


Start by lifting your left leg up so your foot comes to hip level. Then lower it until your toes just touch the floor.

Repeat the lift-lower movement 10 times.

End with the leg lifted so you’re ready for the next exercise.


Starting in the lifted position, kick your leg forward and then slightly behind your body.

As you kick forward, point your toes. As you kick back, flex your foot. This will help extend the muscles of the front and back of the thigh.

Complete five forward-backward kicks.


Holding the lifted position, draw circles with your leg. The circular movement needs to come from your hip where your thigh connects to your pelvis.

Complete six circles in each direction.

Heel Flicks

Holding the lifted position again, bend at your knee, and in a slow, controlled movement, bring your heel to your buttocks. Think of it like a heel flick toward your buttocks.

Complete 10 heel flicks.


Return to the lifted position (your foot should be at hip height). Then lift a little bit higher with a pulsing motion.

Complete 10 to 20 pulses.


To end the set, bend your left knee, bringing your heel toward your buttocks. Bring your left hand toward your forehead and lean yourself back to the upright kneeling position. Take a breath and get ready to do the opposite side.

Emma-Kate Stampton certifies Pilates instructors and is a certified personal trainer. With 10 years of industry experience, she is passionate about sharing the gift of health and well-being. Emma-Kate is based in Brisbane, Australia.

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