How to Do Knee Folds Pilates Mat Exercise

Knee folds is a fundamental Pilates exercise. Many other Pilates exercises — and efficient movement patterns in general — build upon the movement principles that knee folds teach. Pelvic stability, moving from the core, maintaining length, and moving without excess tension are some of the basics that we practice by doing knee folds. Learning to allow a deep fold at the hip joint, without disturbing the position of the pelvis, is essential for healthy everyday movement patterns like walking, stair climbing, and bending. Knee folds are often one of the Pilates exercises used to help relieve back pain.

The Knee Folds Pilates Exercise

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Mentally scan your body. As you do so, let go of unnecessary tension and check your alignment.
    1. Alignment Check:
      1. Your neck is long and relaxed
  2. Your shoulders are dropped and your chest is open.
  3. Your arms are by your sides.
  4. Your ribcage is released onto the floor.
  5. Your spine and pelvis are in neutral position — not tucked and not arched.
  6. Your legs are parallel, about hip distance apart.
  7. Your feet are in line with your legs, toes pointing straight forward.
  8. Breathe deeply. Allow the breath to expand the ribs evenly, and to travel down your spine and into your pelvis.
  9. Engage your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. They should feel active, and your belly will pull in and up as you engage. However, this is not an overly strong move and it does not change the position of the pelvis.
  10. On an inhale, feel that you are using your abdominal muscles to lift one leg off the floor. Your thigh muscles will be part of this move, but the abdominals are more important. As you use your abs, keep your torso long. Feel a deepening of the crease at the hip joint. It is important not to let the hip come up with the leg.
  1. Exhale and return your foot to the floor. As you do so, be sure to use abdominal control. Don't let the thigh take over.
  2. Repeat the knee folds 3 times on one side, then switch to the other leg.


  1. Pilates imprinting is an excellent place to start a workout. Moving from imprinting to knee folds is a good progression.
  2. Use knee folds as an opportunity to experiment with how much muscle tension you really need for the moves you make. For example, in this exercise, there is no need for tension in the neck or shoulders.
  3. Many Pilates mat exercises such as single leg stretch, double leg stretch, and the more advanced, bicycle, build on the movement principles taught by knee folds. You might want to try them now.

What You Need

  • A mat or padded surface
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