How to Do the Single Leg Kick in Pilates

The Single Leg Kick is a Pilates mat exercise that strengthens the entire back of the body, including the buttocks, hamstrings, and spine. As it tones and shapes the backs of the thighs and the glutes, it also lengthens and stretches the fronts of the legs and the hip flexors. Resting your upper body’s weight on your forearms also helps to strengthen the biceps and triceps, toning your upper arms. This move requires coordination and control to be executed with grace and ease.


  1. Begin by lying face-down on your mat with your legs extended behind you. Press your legs together and rest the tops of your feet on the mat. Do not tuck your toes.
  2. Prop your upper body up by bending your elbows and resting on your forearms. Your elbows should be directly beneath your shoulders, positioned slightly wider than your shoulders. Make fists with both hands and place them in line with your elbows, pointing toward the top of your mat. Make sure your chest is lifted off the mat. Do not let your head sink into your neck or slouch your shoulders.
  3. Pull your navel in toward your spine and lift the front of your pelvis slightly off the mat. Engage your pelvic floor.
  4. On an inhalation, lengthen your spine a bit more and point your toes to prepare for the exercise.
  5. On an exhalation, kick your left heel in toward the center of your left buttock with two short pulses. Keep both upper thighs and knees pressed together.
  6. Lower your left leg, keeping it fully extended, and return it to the mat. Simultaneously kick your right foot in toward your right buttock with two short pulses.
  7. Repeat up to five times. To release, exhale and slowly lower your chest and forehead to the mat. Then press your hips back to sit on your heels, but continue resting your forehead on the mat.

Hot Tip: Legs Only

Keep your torso perfectly still and unmoving throughout the exercise. Stay propped up on your elbows and keep your abdomen lifted, but do not let your torso shift during the kicks. Work toward only moving your lower legs when you kick.

Modifications & Tips

The Single Leg Kick will strengthen your arms and tone your hamstrings and glutes. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this exercise:

  • Anchor down through your arms to keep your upper body lifted and your chest open.
  • Keep your upper thighs and knees pressing together firmly throughout the exercise.
  • Engage your pelvic floor.
  • Keep your neck long and the crown of your head lifting toward the ceiling the entire time.
  • Stop if your lower back hurts.
  • Coordinate your breath with your movement.
  • Take it slowly and only practice this exercise when you are sufficiently warmed up. A few good warm-ups include the Saw, the Spine Twist, and the Swan.

Kick to Tone Up

The Single Leg Kick can challenge your coordination and control. It will also tone the entire back of your body. Remember to synchronize your breath with your movements and keep your motions precise and controlled. As you develop a strong backside, you will gain strength and stability!

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