Learn Pilates Double Leg Stretch

An Intermediate Pilates Exercise

In Double leg stretch we take a direct route between two opposite positions, but much is revealed in moving between these two extremes. If your trunk is unstable, if your abs get weak, or your breath isn't working for you, your form will show it -- big time.

Double leg stretch is a great ab workout. It literally radiates from the core powerhouse, demanding both strength and endurance from the abdominals. You can modify by leaving your head down and/or working with your legs high.

Chest lift and single leg stretch and double leg stretch prep are good building blocks for this exercise.

Exhale: Curl Up

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Lie on your back with your shins in table top position, parallel to the floor.


Exhale: Pull your abdominal muscles in to curve your upper body up off the floor. Deepen the abs, bringing your forehead toward your knees.
Grasp your shins or ankles.

Your lower back is on the floor, not in neutral spine.

Inhale: Reach Long

pilates photo
Lara Kolesar,(c)2007, Marguerite Ogle
Inhale: Your shoulders stay away from your ears, and your abs stay pulled in, as you simultaneously reach your arms and legs in opposite directions. Extend as far as possible while keeping your abs pulled in and the lower back on the mat.

Your upper body stays lifted as you reach -- do not let the extension of the arms drop the level of the chest.

You might need to adjust the height of your arms and legs as you reach. The lower they are, the more difficult it is to keep your lower back on the mat.

Exhale: Pull In to Center

pilates photo
Lara Kolesar,(c)2007, Marguerite Ogle
Exhale: As you sweep your arms out to the sides and reach around to grasp your shins, your abs deepening and pulling the legs in to center.

Do not drop your upper body curve. Your chest and head remain lifted for the duration of the exercise.

Repeat the extension 6 - 10 times

Tip: Keep to the Center Line

pilates photo
Lara Kolesar, (c)2007, Marguerite Ogle

Double leg stretch is great for working from the core as you use your abs to extend from, and return to, center. But there is another way to work with center that is highlighted by this exercise, and that is to work along the center line. In this, and many other Pilates exercises, it is helpful to focus on staying very narrow. Keep your legs tightly together as they extend, think of the abs and ribs moving toward the center line, and use the image of the sit bones coming together. All of these will help you track the center line as you move.

If the full double leg stretch feels a little too hard, build abdominal strength with double leg stretch prep

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