10 Pilates Leg Exercises Trainers Recommend

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Originally Published: 
Trainers share their favorite Pilates leg exercises.
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Pilates is a great way to strengthen lower body muscles without adding stiffness, says instructor Ashley Patten. The reason? It focuses on eccentric exercises that stretch and lengthen muscles during each move. Here, instructors share their fave Pilates leg exercises.

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Side-Lying Leg Circles

Lia Bartha likes this move to work the quads and hip flexors.

- Lie on side, rest head on bottom arm, bottom leg slightly bent.

- Extend top leg parallel to floor.

- Swoop top leg forward, circle it back.

Do 10-15 circles in each direction. Switch legs.


Lateral Lunges

Jacquie Smith does this move to the hit inner thighs.

- Stand feet hip-width apart.

- Take a big step out to the right.

- When foot lands, hinge at hips, push butt back.

- Lower into lunge, keep weight in heel.

- Push back to start.

Do two rounds of 10 per leg.


Glute Bridge Leg Lifts

Gia Calhoun likes these for the hamstrings and glutes.

- With knees bent, lift hips.

- Extend right leg high, point toes.

- Lower leg, flex foot, bring leg back up.

- Place right foot down.

- Repeat on left leg, keeping hips lifted.

- 10-15 per leg.

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Side Kicks

Patten says this focuses on inner thighs.

- Lie on side.

- Rest head in hand, place other hand in front for stability.

- Lift top leg to hip height, reach it long.

- Kick forward 2x, then kick back 2x.

- Keep leg raised entire time.

Repeat 8 reps per side.

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Single-Leg Kicks

Calhoun also recommends these for the hamstrings.

- Lie on stomach, legs straight back and together.

- Prop onto forearms, elbows under shoulders.

- Kick one heel into butt 2x, then reach leg straight and place on mat.

- Switch legs.

Repeat 8 reps per leg.

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PliƩ Squat

Kelley Nemiro-Feritta says this leg exercise hits your quads, calves, and inner thighs.

- Stand, feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart, toes out.

- Squat, bend at knees, push hips back, core tight.

- Keep tension in glutes as you stand.

Do 3 sets, 12 reps.

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Plank Leg Pulses

Kate Cherichello says this move strengthens glutes, hips, and outer thighs.

- Get into plank position.

- Engage glutes, lift one leg a few inches off ground.

- Tap foot to ground.

- Switch legs.

Repeat 8x. Add ankle weight for an added challenge.

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Leg Circles

Cherichello also recommends leg circles for the hips and quads.

- Start on back, knees bent, feet down.

- Lift one leg to ceiling.

- Engage core, trace slow circles with leg.

- Keep hips steady.

Do 8x per leg in each direction.


Side-Lying Press & Pulse

Amanda Kraft says this works hamstrings and quads.

- On side, prop up on elbow.

- Bend knees 90 degrees.

- Lift top leg, press it back and straight.

- Knees back together.

- Pulse top leg 10x at last rep.

Do 10x per side.

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Double Leg Stretch

Lesley Logan calls this a full-body move.

- Lie on back, pull knees into chest, heels touching.

- Reach arms straight back by ears as legs stretch to high diagonal.

- Circle arms back in, pull knees to start position.

Repeat 5-10 reps.

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