How to Do the Double Leg Kick in Pilates

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Double Leg Kick in Pilates
 Ben Goldstein

Targets: Back extensors, hamstrings

Equipment Needed: Exercise mat

Level: Intermediate

The double leg kick is a powerful back extension Pilates mat exercise. It targets the back extensors and the hamstrings, but you will find it requires support from the whole body as well. 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.

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.


The double leg kick stretches the chest, abdominals, and hip flexors. It is a countermove to flexion (forward bend) exercises as well as activities in daily life such as sitting and driving. Back extension can help you improve the flexibility of your back and help you maintain good posture.

When you want to tone your butt muscles. the double leg kick works on them from both ends—the back and the hamstrings.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Begin on an exercise mat, laying face down with your head turned to one side. Keep your legs together.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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. Make sure your hips stay down as you kick.

  4. 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.

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

  6. Repeat: Do this exercise twice to each side.

Common Mistakes

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

Modifications and Variations

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. 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.

Safety and Precautions

Double leg kick is not recommended if you have a back or shoulder injury. Be sure to be careful when lifting your chest off the mat. Go slowly, with control, and release if you feel any pain.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

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