Side Bends

Many times we think of our core as just the abs and back muscles, but the waist is a beautiful combination of muscles and joints that keeps you sitting and standing tall, and moving gracefully.  

The powerful three

The muscles on the sides of your body aid in posture, standing tall and movement, as well as deep relaxation breaths. Start by identifying the muscles involved in a side bend:

  1. Hold your waist firmly with your hands just above your hips and move slightly from side to side — see if you can feel the muscles under your palms and fingers. That side muscle is called your quadratus lumborum (QL for the cool kids) and helps stabilize your hips when you walk, run and move around. It just so happens to be my favorite muscle in my body since it gets tight from hours on the mountain bike. By releasing this ‘corset style’ muscle, it gives your spine space and length to move gracefully.  
  2. Another important muscle that runs on either side of your waist is the beautiful lattimus dorsi (not referred to as LD) that stems from the back of your shoulder and fans out to the back of your spine.  
  3. The final piece of anatomy to complete this puzzle are the intercostal muscles. Tiny muscles lie between each rib to help you breathe and when our breathing is shallow (which most of us are guilty of), these muscles get shortened and weak.  

Today’s challenge is quick and easy, but it plays a powerful role in your movement and breath. When you move better, you feel better and are not in discomfort. Freeing up the intercostal muscles allows you to take deep breaths, giving you a sense of peace and calm. By refining these muscles and breathing deeply, you look and feel like a warrior princess.

How to do today’s challenge:



Side Bend  

  1. Sit up tall from your bed or chair
  2. Take a deep breath in and bring your arms overhead
  3. Gently grab your right wrist with your left hand and reach to the left
  4. Take three DEEP breaths — slow, deep inhale and slow exhale
  5. Notice that your chest stays open, reaching up toward the sky
  6. Before switching sides, bring your arms down and relax your shoulders

Trainer note:

If you have shoulder injury or impingement and it hurts to bring your arms overhead, bring your arms up halfway and bend your elbows like a robot. Complete the side bend in this position.

Take it deeper.  If you tend to get a tight lower back, this next stretch incorporates more of the hips.  

  1. Take a lunge position with right foot forward
  2. Drop the back (left) knee to the ground
  3. Reach your left arm up toward the sky and stretch to the right
  4. Get a long full stretch on the left side of your body – from your left hip, through the QL, into the ribs and up into your armpit

Keep going! Want to find more side bend stretches? Here are two more variations … go crazy!


Good articles to read more about the importance of the QL

Cynthia Miranda

About Cynthia Miranda

Cynthia Miranda has been in the fitness industry over 20 years including a degree in Sports Medicine, certifications with spinning, yoga, TRX, CrossFit and even Zumba! She has worked and is working with clients with all different levels of health & fitness from cardiac rehab patients to athletes to workaholics. Cynthia is an avid mountain biker and loves to be outside hiking and camping when she can. She is a mother of three girls ranging from 9 to 16.

Take the Team Better challenge:

Did you do your side bends today for three cycles of breath on each side?

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Next drawing takes place Dec 17