Standing Side Bend

Standing Side Bend Exercise

One of my favorite stretches is a standing side bend. This simple, full body stretch is common at the beginning of yoga classes and targets the side body, particularly through the torso. Balancing the upper body, with a standing side bend you allow the muscles along your side to lengthen and stretch. Standing side bends help gentle activate the muscles along one side of the body as your feet and lower body remain still.


How to do Standing Side Bend Exercise:

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides.
  2. Raise your right arm straight above your head, keeping your elbow straight.
  3. Inhale and reach your right arm over to the left side, bending your torso to the left.
  4. Keep your left arm at your side or place your left hand on your left hip for support.
  5. Hold the stretch for a few breaths.
  6. Exhale and return to the starting position.
  7. Repeat on the other side by raising your left arm and bending to the right side.

Remember to keep your shoulders relaxed and avoid hunching them up toward your ears. Also, avoid leaning forward or backward as you bend to the side. The movement should be isolated to the side of your torso.

What Muscles do Side Bends Work?

Standing side bends primarily target the muscles of the lateral (side) core and the muscles of the lower back. These include:

  1. External obliques: These are the muscles on the sides of the waist, located beneath the love handles. The external obliques help to rotate and flex the trunk.
  2. Internal obliques: These are deeper muscles located beneath the external obliques, and they also help to rotate and flex the trunk.
  3. Erector spinae: These are the muscles that run parallel to the spine and help to extend the back and maintain upright posture.
  4. Quadratus lumborum: This muscle is located deep in the lower back and helps to stabilize the pelvis and spine.
  5. Latissimus dorsi: These are the large muscles that extend from the back of the shoulders down to the lower back, and they help to adduct, extend, and internally rotate the arm.

By performing standing side bends, you can stretch and strengthen these muscles, which can help to improve your overall core strength and stability, enhance your posture, and reduce your risk of lower back pain and injury.