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How to Do the Open Leg Balance in Pilates

The Open Leg Balance is a seated Pilates exercise that strengthens the core muscles (the powerhouse) and stretches the legs. It requires a lot of concentration to attain and maintain the correct position! This exercise lengthens and warms up the spine, strengthens your hip flexors, and calms your mind. It also improves posture, full-body balance, and coordination. Open Leg Balance is the preparatory position for the Open Leg Rocker, but only try the Open Leg Rocker once you feel comfortable and strong in the Open Leg Balance.


  1. Begin seated at the top of your mat. Bend your knees in toward your chest and hold onto your ankles. Extend your elbows and press your heels together.
  2. Pull your navel in toward your spine, strongly engaging your abdominal muscles. Press your weight evenly across both sit bones and sit up as tall as you can.
  3. Spread your knees slightly, and then lift your feet off the mat. Balance between your sit bones and your tailbone.
  4. Extend and straighten your legs up toward the ceiling until your torso and legs form a “V.” Your arms should be straight.
  5. Draw your abdomen in deeply to help stabilize your body from its core. Lift and lengthen your lower abdominal muscles. Keep the front of your torso long and your spine straight. Do not let your lower back sag or your chest collapse. Keep your shoulders relaxed.
  6. Balance and hold for a count of five.
  7. Bring both knees back in toward your chest, then release your feet to the mat.
  8. Repeat three times.

Practice your exercises diligently with the fixed and unalterable determination that you will permit nothing else to sway you from keeping faith with yourself… Decide to remain true to yourself.

Joseph H. Pilates

Modifications & Tips

The Open Leg Balance will challenge your core muscles and stretch your hamstrings when practiced in correct alignment. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this move:

  • It's more important to keep your spine straight and the front of your torso long than it is to straighten your legs completely. If your spine is rounding, bend your legs slightly and hold onto the backs of your thighs.
  • For extra support, set a firm, folded blanket behind your tailbone.
  • You can work your way up to the full position by extending one leg at a time.
  • Keep both legs active throughout the pose. Engage your thigh muscles and draw your kneecaps toward your upper thighs.
  • Keep your gaze soft, but focused throughout the pose.
  • The lower front of the belly should never get hard or bulge forward. Although it will get firm, it should not puff forward or become thick. If it does, make a modification until you have built up enough strength to prevent this from happening.

Balance to Grow Strong

The Open Leg Balance is a challenging exercise that requires dedication and practice. Not only will it use all of your core muscles, but it will also build coordination and grace. Remember to breathe smoothly and evenly throughout the exercise. With a little patience, you'll be able to balance with a straight spine and fully extended legs.

The Open Leg Balance is a seated Pilates move that tones the abdominals and prepares the body for other exercises. Read this guide to learn more all about this move!
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