A Prescription for Shorts-Ready Legs

Though we don’t officially ring in summer until next week here in Virginia, the weather has absolutely been telling us otherwise.  We have already topped 90 degrees a few times in the last several weeks, and as I’ve been telling all of my classes, you still have a good three months of shorts and tank tops ahead of you.

That said, now is a great time to present you with the Pilates Side-Lying Leg series – at least the version of it that I typically use in my Pilates classes (there is a much more evil leg series I save for special occasions – though my Piloxing classes tend to get a little piece of it each week). So grab a mat and get ready to get your legs in enviable shape while it’s still shorts, skirts and sundresses season, because here they are!


Side-Lying Leg Series (8 Each Unless Noted Otherwise/Complete Full Rotation, then Repeat Other Side)

Setup: Feet to the front corner of the mat, back lined up with the back of the mat, hips stacked. Head can be rested down on the bicep, held up with the hand, or you can be propped up on the forearm – with the last option, be sure to maintain an open space between the ribs and the mat (otherwise you lose the tension – and work – in your abs), and keep the shoulder pressed down (a shrugged shoulder puts a lot of pressure on the shoulder joint).

Note: Exercises flow one right into the next – no breaks between. Complete one side in its entirety before moving onto the next leg.

Double Kick Forward/Single Kick Back  

Top leg kicks forward twice, and presses back once.


With top leg extended to the back, bend the leg, kicking the heel toward the glute. Pull the bent leg forward and through, extending completely, and return to start as if you were pedaling a bicycle.

Reverse Bicycle

With top leg extended to the front, bend the leg, push the heel toward the back and extend. Sweep the leg back to the front.

Small Circles – 8 Forward/8 Backward

With several inches between the feet, draw 8 circles forward with the top foot, then draw 8 circles backward with the top foot.

Lift Bottom Leg to Top Leg

Top leg is extended straight, parallel to bottom leg, several inches above the ground. Without moving the top leg, bring the bottom leg up to meet it.

Passé Leg to Knee/Drag Down Straight

Legs start extended, one of top of the other. The top leg bends, with the toes drawing in toward the knee. Extend the toes to the sky, leg straight, then slowly drag the leg back down to the ground.

Hint: Use the natural resistance of your body against gravity – think of dragging your leg down through mud or wet cement.

Straight Leg Raise/Passé Leg to Knee

Legs start extended, one on top of the other. Slowly lift the top leg as high as you can comfortably lift, then bend the leg with toes at the knee and slide back out to start.

Hint: Use the natural resistance of your body against gravity – think of a string tied around your toes, dragging you to the ceiling as you fight against it.

Bottom Leg Lift

Top leg bent, with the foot flat on the floor in front of the bottom thing. Flex the bottom foot and flex up to the sky, leading with the instep.

Don’t get frustrated if you find youself needing to take a break at any time throughout these exercises … they’re HARD! I wish that I could tell you that they eventually get easy – but in all honesty, I’ve been doing Pilates pretty regularly since the fall of 2003, and to this day, my hip starts burning right about the time we make it to the small leg circles. But, as always, a little discomfort is worth it when you see the changes in your body! Enjoy!