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A Pilates Instructor's Secrets to Long, Lean Legs

author image Andrea Speir
Pilates instructor Andrea Speir is the star of two top-selling DVDs, “Trim, Tighten and Tone” (2014) and “Perfect Pilates Body” (2013). Speir Pilates, her first studio, is located in Santa Monica, CA and fuses classical Pilates with modern cardio and intense circuit training.

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A Pilates Instructor's Secrets to Long, Lean Legs
Dusty Saunders

As someone who is 5'4" (but acts like she is 6'!), you won't be surprised to hear that lengthening and sculpting my legs is a focus in my own daily Pilates workouts. I have a few favorite go-to exercises that have incredible results. So if you want to get those gams summer-ready, then find yourself a mat (or soft surface like carpet or grass) and include this 15-minute workout in your routine at least three times a week.

1. Side Leg Raise
Dusty Saunders


SET-UP: Lie flat on your side with your bottom arm bent and supporting your head. Place your other hand flat in front of your abs. Your hips and shoulders should be lined up at the back edge of your mat, and your feet should point forward toward the front corner of the mat. HOW TO DO IT: Kick your top leg up to the ceiling, raising it as high as you comfortably can. Lower the leg down. Do 20 reps, then switch sides. TIP: Lift your leg to the height that works for YOUR body. This is about strengthening your body, not matching what someone else does.

Related: Get Rid of the Bra Bulge With These 5 Pilates Moves

2. Inner-Thigh Lifts
Dusty Saunders


SET-UP: Lying on your side, bend your top leg over the bottom one, foot flat. Wrap your top arm in and around ankle, opening the knee up. HOW TO DO IT: Lift your bottom leg up as high as possible. Lower the leg back down. Perform 20 reps, then switch sides. TIP: Visualize the inner-thigh muscle doing all the work here. Engage your abs to keep your hips stable and stacked one on top of the other.

Related: A 20-Minute Stress-Busting Pilates Routine

3. Dual Leg Lifts
Dusty Saunders


SET-UP: Lie on your side with your head resting on your bottom arm and your top hand flat in front of your abs. Press your heels tightly together. HOW TO DO IT: Lift both heels together up toward the ceiling. Lower the heels back down. Perform 20 reps. TIP: Pull your inner thighs toward each other. They should be glued together and actively working.

Related: Moves to Shrink Your Belly, Butt and Thighs

4. Grasshopper
Dusty Saunders


SET-UP: Lie flat on your stomach with your elbows bent in and hands stacked palm-over-palm like a pillow under your head. Separate your knees as wide as the mat and bring your toes together. HOW TO DO IT: Lift your thighs off the mat. Extend your legs out toward corners of mat (keeping thighs off the mat, glutes engaged). Bend your knees back in, bringing your toes together. Do 20 reps. TIP: Keep your legs off the mat throughout to work your backside. Make sure your abs are engaged throughout to keep the movement out of your lower back.

5. Swimming
Dusty Saunders


SET-UP: Lie flat on your stomach with your arms extended out in front and legs extended out behind like Superman. HOW TO DO IT: Hover your arms and legs a few inches above the mat while tightening your abdominals. Lift your right arm and left leg higher. Alternate arms and legs up and down for 30 seconds. TIP: Keep the abs tight so the move is supported by your core, not your back. Visualize using your hamstrings and glutes and get those legs high!

6. Bridge
Dusty Saunders


SET-UP: Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the mat. Your arms are long by your sides. HOW TO DO IT: Roll your hips up toward the ceiling, then extend one leg up toward the ceiling, keeping your hips square and even. Lower and lift the hips 20 times, keeping the glutes and backside contracted. Bring your leg down and switch legs for another 20 reps. TIP: Contract those abdominals so you don’t arch your back. Keep your weight in the standing heel.

7. Flying Scissors
Dusty Saunders


SET-UP: Lying on your back, bring your knees in toward your chest and lift your hips up, placing your hands on the small of your back to keep your hips propped up. HOW TO DO IT: Extend both legs up toward the ceiling. Scissor split your legs in the air, alternating legs, slowly and with control. Think about squeezing and activating your glutes. Perform 10 reps. TIP: The more you pull in your abs, the more help you’ll get with the balance required in this position.

What Do YOU Think?
Dusty Saunders


What exercises do you do to work your legs? Have you ever tried Pilates? Any Pilates moves that we missed that you think are great for your legs? Leave a comment below and let us know!

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