Side Lying Leg Raises – Functional or not?! 0

Posted on 28, August 2013

in Category Back and Neck Pain, Exercises, Pilates Classes

Side Lying Leg Raises – Functional or not?!

I thought this might be a useful topic to discuss, as often some exercises get over-looked for not being ‘functional’ exercises. For example the side lying clam shells or side leg raises in Pilates. Some people are advised not to bother with these as they ‘are’nt functional’ enough. However, often we are always given these sorts of exercises from our physiotherapists to strengthen our weak gluteus is there something they know that we don’t know or are they now a redundant exercise?

Before I start, I would like to say that I agree that side lying exercises are not functional but I feel that they do have a valuable place in rehabilitation for weak glutes and should not be treated as ineffective or a waste of time. It may be that they are not useful for getting you prepared for your running race or cycle event, however, they are fantastic in rehabbing weak glutes and should be used as part of a comprehensive programme including weight bearing exercises.

Side Lying Leg Raises   Functional or not?!/pilates classes exercises back and neck pain

Research taken by Distefano et al 2009 used an EMG study to determine which exercises produced most activation of Gluteus Medius. EMG (Electromyography) uses electrodes to examine muscle activation. They compared a number of exercises including hip clam, single limb squat, single limb deadlift, lateral band walks, multiplanar lunges and multiplanar hops. They concluded that,

“The best exercise for Gluteus Medius was side-lying abduction”

There is a lot more research based evidence that highlights this similar result. I could be here forever listing the research but to keep this short and to the point.  I just wanted to highlight that side lying exercises are not more effective that single leg squats or walking lunges but to show that they create a good level of glute activation and have a role in rehab. The fact that we don’t do these as part of our day to day routine can potentially help to isolate a muscle to gain good activation, once that starts to happen then performing your more ‘functional’ based exercise can then be incorporated into your rehabilitation programme.  Another small point to make is that often the side lying work can be done without aggravating the symptoms if done correctly and with good technique. For people who suffer from IT Band pain or Patellofemoral pain a range of weight-bearing exercises could make the symptoms worse or not be possible at all. So starting with low load and gravity assisted side lying glute activation could help to reduce these and get the person back up to their chosen sport/exercise or activity.

I would like to end with this;

If functional tasks were so good at glute rehabilitation, we’d all have great glutes just from walking around, climbing stairs and running!