Sleeper, also known as side-lying footwork, is an excellent series to strengthen the hips and can be very helpful for students with knee problems.
This series is all about activating the lateral hip muscles when working in parallel and the external hip rotators when in external rotation. If your student has the hang of the basic variations, try these progressions to amp it up a little bit:
- Straighten your bottom leg and reach it through under the foot bar. Hover it above the carriage as you press out and in. This will activate your adductors.
- Move your top foot further back, so your ankle is in line with your hip. Now your hip will be in neutral when you extend your knee. You might have to let your heel lift as your knee bends or keep it connected with the bar to improve dorsiflexion.
- Move your top foot even further back, so your ankle is behind your hip. Now your hip will move into extension as your knee straightens.
- Vigorously flex your top foot - even to the point of lifting the forefoot off the bar. This will challenge your peroneals (foot flexor muscles).
- In turn out: move your top foot further back, but only as far as you can keep your hips stacked (for dancers).
- Pulses: stay low (with your knee bent) and press out and in only one or two inches. Move with control, not momentum and not too fast.
- Pulsing with the knee almost straight will increase the work in your hip extensors.
- Pulsing with your knee as bent as possible (before bottoming out the carriage) will increase the work for your knee extensors.
- Hip Hike: Straighten both knees. Push away from the bar as much as you can before your heel lifts, (dropping your top hip and hiking your bottom hip). Then move the carriage in without bending your top knee (very small range) to hike your top hip and drop your bottom hip. This variation works on lateral flexion of the lumbar spine and hip joint mobility.
Are you going to practice or teach Sleeper this week? What are your favorite tips for this exercise?
In the Pilates Encyclopedia, check out every detail of Sleeper from head to toe, to help you get the maximum benefit from the exercises.