What is Pilates Stance?

The Pilates stance.
The Pilates stance.. Daniel Sambraus/Getty Images

Question: What is Pilates Stance?

Pilates stance is a position of the legs used in many Pilates exercises. In Pilates stance, the legs are together, straight, and rotated outward from the top of the thigh. This brings the heels together with the toes pointing slightly out (Pilates V), following the line of the knee. This leg position is similar to, but not as extreme as, ballet's first position. The feet may be flexed or softly pointed.

The stance is used in set up and preparation for exercises and as a neutral position.

How To Achieve the Pilates Stance

Pilates stance is a powerful position. To achieve it, you must activate the gluteal muscles of the buttocks as well and the deep six hip muscles, draw the pelvic floor up, pull the abdominals in and up, and hug the inner thighs together. It works very well for bringing attention the midline of the body.

Pilates stance will help you feel your connection to your sit bones, and the connection between the sit bones and the heels -- which is a very powerful line of energy. Some people also find that working in this slightly turned out position help relieve over-activity of the hip flexors in some exercises.

Pilates stance is used in sitting, lying, and standing exercises. When one stands in Pilates stance, the body weight falls evenly through the feet. It does not get focused in the heels.

Other points of good posture are in place as well. If one is seen from the side, a straight line could be drawn up from the ankle, to the hip, shoulder, and ear.

Exercises that Use Pilates Stance

Pilates stance appears in both Pilates mat and equipment exercises. Try some of the following exercises using Pilates stance.

You might have been introduced to some of these using a parallel leg position, which is fine, but explore the difference with Pilates stance. You might find more muscle engagement and readiness. As always, be sure to warm up first before exercising.

History and Research of the Pilates Stance

Neutral body alignment is emphasized in all Pilates exercises. The Pilates stance was not one that Joseph Pilates invented, so it should never be made into a possessive by using an apostrophe, Pilates' stance. Several authors say that it came from his observation that when a skeleton hangs suspended from the ground, the natural position is this slight outward rotation of the feet. If the feet were aligned straight, they would be fighting the neutral position of the skeleton. As Pilates developed, many dancers, especially ballet dancers in New York, were pupils of the Pilates Studio and brought with them dance terminology and practices.

The similarity to the first position in ballet would not have gone unnoticed.

The Pilates stance is an exercise-ready position, it's not meant to be a position you use whenever standing throughout the normal day. It's an active preparation position, setting up the body for further exercise motion. Christine E. Di Lorenzo says in an analysis of Pilates for rehabilitation, "In the Pilates stance, body weight is maintained slightly forward on the balls of the feet. With the core already engaged and with alignment optimal, the spine is prepared and protected for performing more skilled tasks."


Christine E. Di Lorenzo, PT, DPT, CPI "Pilates: What is it? Should it be Use in Rehabilitation," Sports Health, 2011 July, 3(4): 352-361.

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