Pilates Workout: Side Leg Exercises

Having toned, lean legs are less of a dream and more of a reality with regular, effective Pilates exercises. Chelsea Peck, owner of the Pilates O Ka La studio, leads fellow instructor Hillary Brown through a side leg series you can easily do on a mat at home. These controlled movements help to increase your strength and improve your flexibility. Be sure to switch legs and do the exercises on both sides in order to get a complete leg workout.

Side Leg Exercises: 

1. Front/back 

While lying on your side, line up your back with the back edge of your mat. Let your legs position at an angle toward the front corner. Lift your top leg up to hip level and inhale as you move your top leg towards the front and exhale as you move the leg back. Do five to eight of these. Squeeze the glute to the back as you move back and forth.  

2. Lift/lower

Externally rotate your legs and lift your top leg and lower with control while bringing your heels back together. Try to squeeze and let the work be on the lower part of the exercise. Continue to float your leg up and lower as you do five of these. 

3. Small circles 

Keep your legs externally rotated, let your top leg make circles the size of a grapefruit in the air as you squeeze your top glute. After making eight circles, reverse direction for another eight. 

4. Big circles 

Keeping your legs turned out; lift your leg forward up in a big circle. Be sure to keep your pelvis stable and work your glutes while making big circles with your top leg. After making eight circles, reverse direction for another eight. 

5. Figure 4 Stretch 

Flip to lying on your back and put your left leg over your right knee, while in a “table top” position with your knees over your hips. Pull your right leg closer to your body (or alternately, you can put your leg up against the wall) while stretching and taking a few deep breaths.

Don’t forget to repeat this entire series of exercises on the other leg.