How to Do the Double Straight Leg Stretch in Pilates
The Double Straight Leg Stretch is a Pilates mat exercise that builds stamina in the abdominal muscles while strengthening and stretching the legs. Although the name is similar, this exercise is different from the Double Leg Stretch. This move is also sometimes called "Double Straight Leg Raises" or "Double Straight Leg Lowers,” but each refers to the same exercise. The Double Straight Leg Stretch builds coordination and stamina, particularly in the core muscles (the powerhouse). Mobilizing your shoulders and hips, it teaches you how to move outward from the center of your body. This move can be difficult at first, so practice a modified variation (see “Modifications & Tips,” below) until you have built up enough strength and coordination to move with control and fluidity.
- Begin lying on the floor with your legs extended straight out in front of you. 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. Bending your arms at your elbows, place your hands behind your head. Stack one hand on top of the other.
- Curl your head forward until your shoulder blades lift off the floor. Simultaneously, lift both legs straight up to the ceiling. Point your toes and bring your legs and feet into the Pilates stance. Squeeze your inner thighs together.
- Squeeze your buttocks and inhale as you lower your legs until they are about six inches above the floor. Let your tailbone come to the mat. Continue lowering your legs until the point just before your lower back begins to arch off the mat.
- Keep your abdominal muscles scooped, your back flat, and your shoulders lifted throughout the movements.
- Squeeze your legs together and exhale as you raise your legs straight up to the ceiling once more.
- Repeat five times. More advanced students can repeat this exercise up to 10 times. When you are finished, lower your head to the floor, bend your knees, and place the soles of your feet flat on the mat.
Hot Tip: Resist as You Lower
Make sure you move your legs with control and precision! Imagine that your feet are connected to a spring above your head. As you lower your legs, you must resist against the pull of the spring on the way down and as you bring your legs back up.
Modifications & Tips
The Double Straight Leg Stretch is a challenging exercise that builds a strong powerhouse. It also develops grace and poise. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this move:
- Keep your torso perfectly still throughout the exercise.
- Keep your back flat throughout your movements.
- If your neck hurts or feels strained, practice the exercise with your head down.
- Keep your elbows extended away from your head and your shoulders dropped away from your ears.
- Keep your abdominal muscles scooped [link] throughout the exercise.
- Lower your legs only as far as you can without arching your back or causing your abdomen to bulge.
- When your legs are raised, keep them perpendicular to your waistline. Do not let them come any closer to your head.
- If it is difficult to practice this exercise with your legs completely straight, practice it with your legs slightly bent until you have built up enough strength to perform it with straight legs.
- Gaze toward your belly button.
Double Your Stretch
The Double Straight Leg Stretch will create a powerful core while building endurance and full-body coordination. Remember to keep your movements fluid and precise, and always match your movements with your breath. As you gain stamina and control, you will be able to perform this move with grace and ease.