How to Do the Corkscrew in Pilates

The Corkscrew is an intermediate Pilates mat exercise that creates balance and strength throughout the whole body. It strengthens the neck and shoulders while massaging the spine and back. Keeping your hips and shoulders stabilized throughout the exercise helps to tone and strengthen the abdominal muscles, particularly the obliques. Toning the obliques creates a slim and defined waistline! The more you can keep your movements precise and fluid, the more benefit you’ll gain from the Corkscrew. Only practice this move once you can do the Roll Over with complete control.


  1. 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.
  2. Press your upper thighs and knees together and raise both legs straight up to the ceiling. Point your toes and turn your legs slightly outward in the Pilates stance.
  3. Sink your navel in toward your spine. Your back should be imprinted, not in neutral spine position.
  4. On an inhalation, circle your legs to the left and then down. Exhale as you bring your legs around to the right and back up to their starting position. Keep your hips and shoulders on the mat as you circle your legs, and keep your legs pressing together throughout the entire movement.
  5. When your legs get back to their starting position, reverse the direction of the circle, inhaling as you drop your legs to the right and down. Then exhale as you bring your legs to the left and up. This is one complete set.
  6. Do up to five complete sets. End by hugging your knees into your chest while lying on your back.

Hot Tip: Start Small

Imagine you are drawing circles on the ceiling with your feet. Begin “drawing” small circles at first, and then gradually increase the size of the circles as you gain strength. There is no need to draw big circles if you can’t do them with complete precision and control!

Modifications & Tips

The Corkscrew can be a great way to build full-body coordination and core strength. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this exercise:

  • Use your abdominal muscles! Do not use momentum to “swing” your legs in a circle. Instead, deeply scoop your abdominal muscles and initiate the movement from the center of your powerhouse. Using your abs will help you maintain control throughout the move.
  • Only practice the Corkscrew when you are able to do the full Roll Over [link].
  • Keep your shoulders stabilized and pressing firmly into the mat throughout the move.
  • Press your arms and hands into the mat for extra support.
  • Circle your legs in one continuous motion. Keep your movements controlled and rhythmic.
  • Keep your glutes and legs fully engaged through the entire movement.
  • Continue pressing your legs together throughout the entire exercise.
  • Synchronize your breath with your movement.
  • Move slowly and with precision.
  • Only lower your legs as far as you can without arching your low back off the mat.
  • Advanced students can let their hips roll all the way off the mat in this exercise. Do not attempt to do this variation if you cannot yet do the Corkscrew with your hips on the mat.

Circle from Your Core

Practicing the Corkscrew will create graceful coordination throughout your entire body. Be sure to keep your movements fluid and dynamic; avoid any choppy or jarring motions. Adding this move to your regular practice will create suppleness, poise, and a defined waistline!

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