How to Do a Double-Leg Stretch in Pilates

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Targets: Abdominals

Level: Beginner

Double leg stretch offers a direct route between two opposite positions, and much is revealed in moving between these two extremes. If your trunk is unstable, if your abs get weak, or your breath isn't working for you, your form will show it.


Double leg stretch is a great ab workout. It radiates from the core powerhouse, demanding both strength and endurance from the abdominal muscles. It also helps improve your stability and coordination.


Watch Now: How to Strengthen Your Core with the Double-Leg Stretch

Step-by-Step Instructions

To start, lie on your back with your shins in tabletop position, parallel to the floor, and your palms down. Inhale.

  1. Pull your abdominal muscles in to curve your upper body up off the floor as you exhale. Deepen the abs, bringing your forehead toward your knees. Grasp your shins or ankles. Your pelvis is neutral, with your lower back slightly off the ground.
  2. Reach your arms over your head and keep your legs long as you inhale. Keep your shoulders away from your ears and your abs pulled in as you reach your arms and legs in opposite directions. Extend as far as possible while keeping your abs pulled in and your lower back on the mat. Your upper body should stay lifted as you reach.
  3. Sweep your arms out to the sides as you exhale, reaching around to grasp your shins. Deepen your abs and pull your legs in to center. Do not drop your upper body curve.
  4. Repeat 6 to 10 times.

Common Mistakes

Double leg stretch is great for working from the core as you use your abs to extend from and return to center. Keep your body aligned to maximize the benefit.

Straying from the Center Line

In this and many other Pilates exercises, it is helpful to focus on staying very narrow. Keep your legs tightly together as they extend, think of the abs and ribs moving toward the center line, and use the image of the sit bones coming together.

Dropping the Chest

Do not let the extension of the arms drop the level of the chest. Your chest and head remain lifted for the duration of the exercise.

Arching the Back

You might need to adjust the height of your arms and legs as you reach. The lower they are, the more difficult it is to keep your lower back close to the mat in a neutral pelvis position. Similarly, your upper back and neck should remain stable. Avoid tilting the head back as you raise your arms.

Modifications and Variations

There are several adjustments you can make to double leg stretch to make it work for you. 

Need a Modification?

If the full double leg stretch feels too hard, build abdominal strength with chest lift and single leg stretch.

During double leg stretch, you can also keep your head on the mat instead of lifting it. Another option is to keep the legs vertical instead of lowering them. If it is difficult for you to straighten your legs fully, keep a gentle bend in the knees.

Up for a Challenge?

Start with smaller movements of your arms and legs, and then reach them farther apart as you develop your skills. Next, try advanced Pilates mat exercises, such as scissors and boomerang.

Safety and Precautions

Be cautious if you have had a hip, back, or neck injury. Double leg stretch is not recommended for those who have osteopenia or osteoporosis, or who are in the second or third trimester of pregnancy.

Try It Out

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

By Marguerite Ogle MS, RYT
Marguerite Ogle is a freelance writer and experienced natural wellness and life coach, who has been teaching Pilates for more than 35 years.