Double Leg Kick Pilates Mat Exercise

The Double Leg Kick is a powerful back extension exercise. It targets the back extensors and the hamstrings, but you will find it requires support from the whole body as well.

This is an intermediate level exercise. You may want to work up to double leg kick by practicing single leg kick and some of the other back extension exercises such as swan and swimming.

You only need an exercise mat to perform this exercise. No other equipment is necessary.

Preparation for the Double Leg Kick

Woman demonstrating the double leg kick
Ben Goldstein

Lie face down with your head turned to one side. Keep your legs together.

Clasp your hands together behind your back, placing them as high up on the back as possible. Interlocking the thumbs will help keep your hands together when you move. Let your elbows fall toward the floor.

Inhale: Pull your abs in, lifting your belly away from the mat. As you do so, lengthen your spine, anchor your pubic bone down to the mat, and create as much space as possible along the front of the hips. Extend the feeling of length through your body, lifting your legs slightly off the floor.

Kick Toward Your Sit Bones

Exhale: Keep your legs together, and on a three-part exhale, kick your heels toward your hips in a three-part pulse-kick (each pulse is part of the exhale). To kick, emphasize using your hamstrings to pull your heels as close as you can to your sit bones.

As you kick, your hips stay down. It is tempting to allow the hips to move up away from the mat. Do not let this happen. Also, refrain from allowing the pulse-kick to rock your body forward and back.

If you experience knee pain or difficulty keeping your form (if your hips pop up, for example), try developing the kick with the alternate kick pattern described at the bottom of the page.

Create a Long Arc

Inhale: Keep your hands clasped and extend your arms behind you, lifting your upper body high off the mat. At the same time, stretch your legs out straight, just above the mat.

Protect your lower back by keeping your spine long and pubic bone anchored into the mat. This part of the move is an excellent stretch for the chest and shoulders but move slowly and use control as it can be intense.

Exhale: Return to the starting position with your head turned to the opposite side.

Repeat: Do this exercise twice to each side.

Since double leg stretch is such a powerful extension exercise, it is a good idea to follow up with a counter stretch from a forward flexion exercise like spine stretch or single straight leg stretch.

Alternate Kick Pattern for the Double Leg Kick

Traditionally, the double leg kick is taught as above, where all three pulse-kicks come as close to the buttocks as possible. An alternative is to develop the kick in three levels: low, medium, high. This is a helpful technique for learning to engage the hamstrings to pull the legs in, and for keeping proper alignment throughout the exercise.

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