How to Do the Double Leg Stretch in Pilates
The Double Leg Stretch is a classic Pilates exercise that builds endurance in the abdominal muscles while developing full-body coordination and control. It is the second move in the "stomach series," usually practiced directly after the Single Leg Stretch. By keeping the trunk completely still and unmoving during the exercise, the Double Leg Stretch tones the abdominal muscles while providing stability and support for the whole back. This exercise also teaches you how to initiate movement from the core (the powerhouse), which develops stamina, agility, and poise.
- Begin lying on the floor with your legs extended straight out in front of you. Press your legs together and point your toes in the Pilates stance. Rest your arms along your sides with your palms facing down. Relax your shoulders away from your ears and let your belly drop toward the floor.
- Inhale as you pull your abs in deeply, sinking your navel in toward your spine. Curl your head forward until your chin touches your chest and simultaneously raise both legs 2-6 inches off the floor. Reach your arms overhead, keeping your biceps in line with your ears.
- On an exhalation, bend your knees and pull both knees in toward your chest. Circle your arms out to the sides and around to your legs. Clasp your lower shins with your hands. Keep your abdominal muscles scooped and your back flat. Hug your legs close to your body.
- Inhale and return to the stretched position by extending your legs and reaching your arms overhead.
- Repeat six times. More advanced students can repeat up to 12 times.
Hot Tip: Lift Your Chest
Keep your upper body lifted when you are in the stretched position and when your knees are hugged in toward your chest. This will help you stabilize your back and spine while utilizing your abdominal muscles. Your head and chest should remain lifted off the floor throughout the exercise.
Modifications & Tips
The Double Leg Stretch will build poise and control while toning your abs and supporting your back. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this move:
- Try to keep your torso perfectly still throughout the exercise.
- Keep your lower back on the mat.
- If your lower back rises off the floor in the stretched position, it means your legs and arms are too low. Raise your arms and legs higher. This will force you to use your abdominal muscles instead of your back. As you gain strength, you can lower your legs and arms.
- Keep pulling your entire body toward the center line of your body throughout the move. Squeeze your legs together and also imagine that your ribs and abdominal muscles are moving in toward the center line.
- Bring your gaze to your belly button.
Double Your Strength
The Double Leg Stretch really works the powerhouse! Your abdominal muscles do a lot of work in this exercise to keep you stabilized and supported. Remember to move with precision and control. It might take some time to feel sturdy during this move, but doing it correctly will quickly build strength and stamina.