A Pilates Instructor's Secrets to Long, Lean Legs

Before your next Pilates workout, adopt this Pilates instructor's secrets to long, lean legs. (Image: 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.

If you want to get those gams in Pilates shape, 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

A side leg raise is a simple Pilates exercise to start with. (Image: Dusty Saunders)
  1. Lie on your side with your bottom arm bent and supporting your head.
  2. 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.
  3. Kick your top leg up to the ceiling, raising it as high as you comfortably can.
  4. Lower the leg down.
  5. Perform 20 reps, then switch sides.


Lift your leg to the height that works for your body. This is about going stronger, leaner legs, not matching what someone else can do.

2. Inner-Thigh Lifts

Pilates inner-thigh lifts work your hip adductors. (Image: Dusty Saunders)
  1. Lying on your side, bend your top leg over the bottom one, foot flat.
  2. Wrap your top arm in and around your ankle, opening up the knee.
  3. Lift your bottom leg up as high as possible, then lower the leg back down.
  4. Perform 20 reps, then switch sides.


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.

3. Dual Leg Lifts

Dual leg lifts in Pilates will work your legs and your core. (Image: Dusty Saunders)
  1. 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.
  2. Lift both heels together up toward the ceiling, then lower the heels back down. Keep your inner thighs glued together and actively working
  3. Perform 20 reps on each side.

4. Grasshopper

Make sure your abs are engaged in the grasshopper Pilates exercise to protect your lower back. (Image: Dusty Saunders)
  1. Lie flat on your stomach with your elbows bent and hands stacked palm-over-palm like a pillow under your forehead.
  2. Separate your knees as wide as the mat and bring your toes together.
  3. Lift your thighs off the mat and extend your legs out toward the corners of the mat. Keep your thighs off the mat and your glutes engaged.
  4. Bend your knees back in, bringing your toes together.
  5. Complete 20 reps.

5. Swimming

The swimming Pilates leg exercise targets hamstrings and glutes. (Image: Dusty Saunders)
  1. Lie flat on your stomach with your arms extended out in front and legs extended out behind like Superman.
  2. Hover your arms and legs a few inches above the mat while tightening your abs.
  3. Lift your right arm and left leg higher.
  4. Alternate arms and legs up and down for 30 seconds.

6. Bridge

The Pilates bridge exercise tones legs and glutes. (Image: Dusty Saunders)
  1. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the mat. Your arms are long by your sides.
  2. Roll your hips up toward the ceiling, then extend one leg up toward the ceiling, keeping your hips square and even.
  3. Lower and lift the hips 20 times, keeping the glutes and backside contracted.
  4. Bring your leg down and switch legs for another 20 reps.


Contract your abs so you don’t arch your back while keeping your weight in your standing heel.

7. Flying Scissors

The flying scissors exercise not only lengthens legs, it also tests your balance. (Image: Dusty Saunders)
  1. 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 prop yourself up.
  2. Extend both legs up toward the ceiling.
  3. Scissor split your legs in the air, alternating legs slowly and with control. Think about squeezing and activating your glutes.
  4. Perform for 10 reps.


The more you engage your abs, the more help you’ll get with the balance required in this position.