Updated: Sep 18, 2022
Pilates can be a great full-body workout. It’s geared to enhance and sculpt almost all body parts as long as you correctly perform the movements using the right technique. One of the main benefits of Pilates is how your entire body gets involved to create one flowing movement.
While you can use Pilates as a full-body workout, you can also use the practice to sculpt and tone certain body parts individually. For example, if you want to focus on those abdominals, we have a roundup of ab-specific exercises here. Pilates also makes it super easy to sculpt your legs, even right from your home or on the go.
So today, I’m sharing 20 at-home Pilates exercises for legs. These moves are fun and a great way to tone, shape, and sculpt your inner thighs, calves, glutes, and more!
At Home Pilates Exercises for Legs
1. 5-10-15 Exercise
For this exercise, you’ll start by lying on the mat with your knees bent hip-width apart. Use your inner thighs, outer hips, and glutes to squeeze your legs together while pulling your stomach into the mat. Hold for 5 seconds.
Then, slowly glide your right leg to straighten it halfway. Hold for 5 seconds. Straighten your right leg the rest of the way and place your right knee directly next to your left ankle. Hold for 5 seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat the sequence, holding for 10 seconds and then 15 seconds each. Switch legs and repeat.
2. Shoulder Bridge
Start with your knees bent and your feet hip-width apart. As you inhale, press your arms firmly into the mat and lift your hips up. Focus on engaging your glutes and hamstrings while lengthening your thighs. Exhale and roll down with control. Repeat this exercise 5 times.
3. Shoulder Bridge with Leg Extension
Assume the same starting position as the previous shoulder bridge exercise – knees bent, feet hip-width apart. Engage your glutes and hamstrings to lift your hips up off the floor. Then, lift your right leg up to 90 degrees. Try to keep your hips square as you do this move! Hold for 5 seconds. Bring the right leg down and then lift the left leg up to 90 degrees and hold for 5 seconds. Roll the hips down. Repeat 3 times on each leg.
Lie on the mat with your arms beside your body. Bend your knees to your chest at a 90-degree angle in Pilates stance. Then, straighten your legs up to the ceiling and bring your chin to your chest. Make sure to keep your back completely flat on the mat.
Raise both arms straight about your thighs. Instead of pumping the arms as you would typically do in the Hundreds exercise, open your legs slightly and do little leg beats. Focus on engaging the outer hips when you open your legs and use the inner thighs to close them.
Continue to beat the legs while you inhale to the count of 5 and exhale to the count of 5. Repeat 10 times.
5. Leg Circles
This exercise is great for strengthening your quads and hamstrings. The rotation also helps keep your hip joint healthy!
Start lying on the mat with your arms pressing firmly into the mat and your legs extended on the floor. Lift your right leg up directly above your hip. Inhale as you circle the extended leg over the midline of your body. Exhale and circle the leg out towards your side, returning to the starting position. Repeat 5 to 8 times, then reverse the direction of the circle and repeat on your left leg.
Lie on your back and pull your knees into your chest with your heels touching. Pull your abdominals in and up as you tuck your chin to your chest and curl up off the floor. Reach your arms straight back by your head and extend your legs away from you. Circle the arms back to your sides, bringing your knees back to the starting position. Move your arm and leg in tandem with each other. Repeat 5-10 times.
This leg stretch will work your abdominals and is a great Pilates exercise to stretch your legs! Starting on the mat, bend both knees into your chest. Hold onto your shins and bring your chin to your chest. Your back should be pressing intentionally into the mat.
Lift your right leg into the air and grab onto your shin with both hands. Your left leg should be extended and raised to a 45-degree angle. While inhaling, pull your right leg towards your chest twice. Then switch legs and pull twice while exhaling. Repeat 10 times.
8. Double Leg Lift
The double leg lift engages the abdominal muscles as well as your hip flexors and glutes. To get the most out of this exercise and keep proper form, be sure to keep your back anchored to the mat.
Lie on your back with your legs stretched up to the ceiling. Placing your hands behind your head, curl slightly with your chin to your chest. As you inhale, slowly lower the legs down without touching the mat. Exhale and lift your legs back up. Repeat 10 times.
9. Side Kick Series – Front/Back
These next several exercises are part of a side kick series. This series provides a full range of movements to strengthen and tone the legs and hips.
For the front/back side kicks, start lying on your right side on the edge of your mat. Your bottom arm should be flat on the mat supporting your head and your top arm extended. Stack your hips and shoulders on top of each other. Your legs should be bent at a 90-degree angle, one on top of the other.
Straighten your top leg, reaching it to the front corner of your mat. Lift the leg to hip height and slightly turned out. Inhale and kick the leg forward as far as it can go without moving your body. Exhale and kick the leg back, keeping the body still. Repeat 8 times.
Start in the same position as the previous exercise.
Reaching your leg to the corner of your mat, point your foot. Inhale as you lift the top leg up. Exhale, flex the foot, and bring the top leg down. Repeat 8 times on each leg.
11. Side Kick Series – Small Circles
Begin in the same side-lying position as the other side kick exercises. Lift your top leg up and straighten it to the corner of your mat. Then, draw small circles going in one direction. Keep your leg turned out and your hips stacked and still. Reverse directions. Repeat 8 times in each direction.
12. Side Kick Series – Medium Circles
Start in the side kick position. For this exercise, you’ll circle your leg as before, making slightly larger circles. Draw medium size circles with your leg turned out in one direction, then reverse and repeat.
Keep your hips still to really get the full benefit of this exercise. Your entire powerhouse is working even harder in this side position to keep your body aligned and supported. Your leg muscles will also be worked and toned.
13. Side Kick Series – Inner Thigh Lifts
Lie on your side and straighten both legs out so your body makes a straight line. Bend your top leg over your bottom leg so that your foot rests in front of your hips. Grab the ankle of your top leg with your top hand. Then, lift your bottom leg up as high as you can while engaging your inner thigh muscles. Hold for 3 seconds, then lower your leg. Repeat 8 tips on each leg.
14. Side Kick Series – Inner Thigh Circles
Similar to the inner thigh lifts, this exercise really targets your inner thigh muscles. Starting in the same position as before, holding the ankle of your top leg, lift your bottom leg up. Draw small circles with your entire leg. Your inner thigh should be driving this move. Make 8 circles, then reverse directions and repeat.
15. Prone Leg Lifts
Start this exercise lying on your stomach. Stack your palms on top of each other and rest your forehead on your hands. Pull your stomach in and up to engage the core. Lift your right leg up a few inches off of the mat while squeezing your glutes and hamstrings. Lower your right leg, then lift your left leg.
Repeat 4 times on each side, making sure both hips are pressing into the mat evenly as you lift your leg. This exercise targets the back of the legs (the glutes and hamstrings).
16. Hamstring Curl
Lie on your stomach with your palms stacked and your forehead on your hands. Engaging your core, lift both legs up off of the mat. Bend your knees in a hamstring curl, trying to bring your feet towards your glutes without lifting your hips. Straighten your legs back down to the mat and repeat 8 times.
17. Thigh Stretch
This exercise stretches your quads and strengthens your hamstrings and glutes. It also gets your core muscles involved to provide balance throughout the movement.
Begin kneeling on the floor with your knees in line with your hips. Lift your arms to shoulder height, straight in front of you. As you inhale, hinge backward about 45 degrees, keeping that straight line from head to hip to knees. Return to the starting position as you exhale and repeat 5 times.
18. Wall Squat
The wall squat works nearly all of your leg muscles as well as your abdominals.
Start with your back against the wall. Your legs should be about a foot length away from the wall and shoulder-width apart, with your knees over your ankles. Pressing your upper body into the wall, slide down the wall until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Hold for 30 seconds and slide back up the wall, driving up from your heels. Repeat 5 times.
Pro tip: To work on your stability, place a Pilates ball between your back and the wall and enjoy the challenge!
Plié squats are also called sumo squats. The form of the plié really works your inner thighs. For an extra challenge, come up onto your toes and get your calf muscles involved as well!
Start with your feet slightly wider than your shoulders and your toes turned out to a position that works for you. Bend your knees wide and lower your body down into the squat. Make sure to keep your center engaged and your torso straight and lifting upward. Firmly push your feet into the floor while squeezing your inner thighs and glutes, then come up. Repeat 10 times.
20. Leg Lift on All Fours
Leg lifts are the perfect move to complete your leg workout.
For this exercise, you’ll start in the all-fours position. Kneel on your hands and knees on the mat, with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips. Be sure to keep your back straight, not arching or curving, and your weight balanced evenly across all four points of contact with the mat.
Extend your right leg behind you. Inhale and lift your right leg as high as you can. You can hold at the apex for 5 counts or slowly pulse the lifted leg. Return to the all-fours position and repeat 4 times on each leg.
Pilates workouts can help strengthen and tone all of your leg muscles.
When most people think about leg workouts, squats and lunges come to mind. But in a Pilates workout, you target all of the muscles responsible for strengthening and toning your legs - no harsh or rushed movements required. With a full range of motion, you’ll experience all-over strengthening, as well as improved joint function.
These Pilates leg exercises are easy to add to your fitness routine at home. You can perform the exercises as described, or intensify them with whatever equipment you have available. And if you're looking for more Pilates tips or body-part specific workouts (arms, abs, balance, etc.), head on over to our blog!