I started integrating pilates moves into my workout nearly 6 years ago now. It was the kind of exercise I always meant to try and never go around to. One day, at random, I sat down at my computer, found a video and got to work. On my hardwood floor…ouch. 6 years and countless yoga mats later, I’m still doing pilates for my workouts.
Nothing has worked better for me for toning up, slimming down and just all-round feeling good. But weightlifting workouts like pilates also have to be brought into balance by pairing it with some cardio. If you’re interested in getting long lean legs by using pilates, you’re going to want to partner these moves with at least a half-hour run or cycle.
So, whether you’re a beginner to working out, or looking to try something new, these 5 pilates moves will be a great place to start on your fitness journey. For these moves, you won’t need any equipment, just yourself, a yoga mat, or a carpeted floor. I wish you all the best as you work hard to gain those long dancer legs you’ve always wanted.
1. Side-Lying Kicks
The best thing I have found about pilates is that a lot of the workouts are done lying down. My favourite position! For the side-lying kicks you’ll be mostly working your hamstrings and thigh muscles to kick your leg out from your body. There will also be some slight core work as you hold your body up and balanced while you kick, otherwise, you’ll just fall over every time. Keeping a flexed foot can really help you stretch out that hamstring to its fullest potential.
As you can probably tell, you need to be able to engage every single part of your body to really make the most out your pilates moves. So, make sure that from head to toe, you’re getting your workout’s worth!
- Lie on your side, legs slightly bent with your foot grounded in the mat. Support your head with your hand and bent elbow.
- Extend your top leg and flex your foot, bringing it in line with your spine at hip height. Swing your leg forward in front of you before bringing back to your side.
- Repeat for 30 times before switching sides.
2. Inner Thigh Lifts
Once you’ve gotten into the swing of things, you start to obtain a few pilates moves that you repeat on a routine basis usually because of the convenience or effectiveness of the move. A lot of the time, for women, we tend to favour working out our lower bodies. Legs, butts and lower abs. But what about our inner thighs?
These inner thigh lifts are just the ticket for melting off some of the fat that gathers around that difficult to deal with area.
- Lie on our side, extend your legs and support your head with your hand, elbow bent. Bend your top leg and place your foot flat on the ground in front of your bottom leg.
- Flex the foot of your bottom leg and lift from the ground as high as you can and pulse slightly.
- Repeat movement for around 30 pulses before switching sides.
3. Plie Squats
Plie squats remain to be one of the most fun and elegant pilates moves that attack your upper thighs like nothing else you’ve ever experienced. As the name suggests, it’s inspired by a ballet dancer’s plie jump in which the legs are bent out from each other and the feet are flat on the ground. The pilates squat follows basically the same form.
The plie squat isn’t exactly one of the most traditional pilates moves, but a dance integration that was made popular by internet pilates celebrities like Cassey Ho. That being said, it’s still an effective move that works wonders and is great for beginner just starting out on their fitness journey.
- Stand up straight, neck long and shoulders back. Open your legs into a wide stance, until your legs are more than a shoulder’s width apart.
- Squat with your legs turned out so your knees bend outwards. Make sure the bend in your knees don’t go over your toes. Keep your spine as straight as possible and your tail bone pointing towards the ground.
- Repeat this movement for around 20 reps.
If you’re looking to challenge yourself further, try lifting your heels and pulsing on your toes to give your thighs and extra intense workout.
4. High Bicycles
The high bicycle is a real power move in pilates. Your legs, butt, arms and core are all working together as you pump your legs round and round in the air like an upside down, backwards bicycle.
The hardest part of pilates moves that are lifted onto the shoulders is balance. You have to learn how to concentrate on engaging your core in order to keep yourself from falling over. If you slip up the first few times, no worries! I did too. It’ll come to you eventually. Just remember to keep your hips steady as you pedal.
- Start by lying on your back before rolling your hips up until you’re balancing on your shoulders and upper arms. For more support, place your hands on your hips.
- Pedal your legs in a ‘reverse-pedalling’ movement while in the air.
- Continue pedalling for around 20 reps before bringing your body to lie flat on the mat again in a controlled roll.
5. Single Leg Bridge
Bridges are one of the main pilates moves used to work out the buttocks- supported by the largest muscle in the body, the gluteus maximus, more commonly called the glutes. Your glutes play a massive part in both supporting and lifting your butt and working out your legs. Expect to feel a massive burn starting in your butt and going all the way down your legs with this one.
Having one leg lifted in the air as you’re in bridge position gives an added intensity on your buttocks and hamstring as you lift up and down.
- Start by lying flat on your back before bringing your knees up and your feet flat on the ground. This is bridge position.
- Bring one leg up, toes pointed, leg straight, having your weight distributed between your remaining leg and shoulders. For help balancing place your palms flat on the ground. Press your body up, squeezing your buttock as you do before releasing as you lower yourself down.
- repeat 30 times on each side.