Developed by German-born Joseph Pilates during World War I, Pilates is an exercise system designed to increase your strength, coordination and flexibility as well as relieve stress and promote mental well-being. The hip twist is one of Pilates' original 34 exercises, according to вЂњPilates Practice Companion.вЂќ As an advanced exercise, the hip twist will strengthen your core abdominals and hip flexors.
The hip twist exercise primarily targets your hips flexors, spinal flexors and extensors, and abdominal muscles. Other muscles in your inner thighs and shoulders are strengthened to a lesser extent.
ID the Muscles Worked
When you perform a hip twist, you'll primarily work the spinal flexors and rotators, which include the rectus abdominis, or the front abdominal wall, and the obliques, or the muscles on the sides of your waist. Rotating your hips will activate your hip flexors, such as the iliopsoas. You'll also condition secondary muscles - inner thighs, shoulder muscles, triceps and transversus abdominis, or the deep abdominal muscle that wraps around your rib cage like a girdle. If you keep your feet pointed, you can strengthen the plantar flexion of your ankles and the calves.
Begin by sitting on a mat and extending your legs in front of you. Put your arms behind you, pointing your fingers away from your body. Tilt back on your sit bones and lift your legs so they form a 45-degree angle at your hips. Keeping your back straight, abdominals sucked in and toes pointed, your body should be in the same position as a V-up. Exhale and simultaneously rotate your hips to the right side of your body and circle your legs to the right and down. Inhale and continue to circle your legs and rotate your hips back to center. Repeat the exercise on your left side. Perform five to 10 reps on each side, alternating between your right and left sides.
Understand The Benefits
Envision the hip twist as a V-up with a hip rotation. The exercise enables you to develop deep abdominal strength as well as control of your lower back and hips. By adding a hip rotation to the already difficult task of holding your trunk and legs up in the V position, your ability to balance is being challenged in multiple ways. In addition, you're putting a lot of stress on your hip flexors during the leg lift and the circles to either side of your body. The hip twist requires superb form or you risk putting too much pressure on your lumbar spine.
Modify as Needed
The hip twist may be difficult if your hamstrings are tight or you're unable to keep your body stable in the V-up position. To lower the intensity of the exercise, you can slightly bend your knees. You can also do the hip twist on your elbows, which reduces the size of the lever and the load on your core muscles. Keep the leg circles small to prevent your lower back from arching and your pelvis from tilting back. Also keep your shoulders down and tucked in and your chest up. Gently draw your inner thighs together to activate your hip adductors.
About the Author
Kay Tang is a journalist who has been writing since 1990. She previously covered developments in theater for the "Dramatists Guild Quarterly." Tang graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in economics and political science from Yale University and completed a Master of Professional Studies in interactive telecommunications at New York University.