How to Do the Pilates Leg Pull Back Exercise

Starting the Pilates leg pull back.
Starting the Pilates leg pull back. Steve Debenport/Getty Images

The Pilates leg pull back exercise builds on the back support exercise. If you are not yet familiar with back support, please review the detailed instructions for that exercise before proceeding with the leg pull back.

Leg pull back is still an intermediate level exercise like the back support exercise. But the leg kick is going to add a stability and flexibility challenge to the strength you built in the back support exercise.

Equipment You Will Need 

Leg Pull Back is a Pilates mat exercise, you need only a mat on a firm surface. You can do this exercise at home, at the gym or at the Pilates studio.

Difficulty: This is an intermediate level exercise, it may not be appropriate for beginners.

Time Required: 2 minutes is the time you will need.

Performing the Pilates Leg Pull Back Exercise

  1. Sit tall with your legs together, extended straight in front of you. Your abdominal muscles pull in and up as your spine lengthens. Relax your shoulders.
  2. Keep your chest open, and your shoulders rotating back and down as you pull the heels of your hands directly back until you can place your hands flat on the floor with fingertips pointing front. You may be leaning back slightly. Now inhale.
  3. Exhale to engage your hamstrings and lift your pelvis to create a long line, ankle to ear. Your abs should be stabilizing your trunk and pelvis. Push down through the backs of your arms to help keep your chest open and get more support from your back. Inhale at the top.
  4. On an exhale, deepen the crease at your hip to lift your right leg toward the ceiling. Hold the rest of your body completely still. Don't let lifting your leg pull your pelvis out of alignment. Your hip doesn't go with the move, nor does your butt drop.
  5. Inhale to return the leg to the floor. Use control — don't just drop your leg — lengthen it as it goes down and keeps the rest of your body stable.
  1. Exhale: lift your left leg. You can take a break before lifting the left leg if you need to. Lower yourself with control and keep your shoulders down. Start over, lifting the left leg.
  2. Inhale to return the left leg to the floor. Exhale to hold
  3. Inhale to fold just at the hip joint, placing your pelvis back on the floor. Keep your shoulders down as you do.
  4. Do 3 sets.


  1. There are more details on the back support part of this exercise in the back support instructions.
  2. The knee folds taught you how to deepen the crease at the hip and isolate the movement of the leg.
  3. Compare this exercise to leg pull front, which is a beginner-level exercise.

Leg pull back focuses on the back muscles and abdominals and strengthens the glutes and hamstrings. You will also need shoulder strength to maintain the position.

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