How to Do Heel Beats in Pilates

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Also Known As: Prone heel beats

Targets: Gluteus maximus, hamstrings

Level: Beginner

Heel beats strengthen the back from the upper back down through the lower back and the hamstrings. It is also one of the best Pilates butt exercises you can do on the mat. Pilates heel beats are fairly easy. The main thing you have to remember is to keep your abdominal muscles pulled in and to go for length along your back and down the back of your legs so that you protect your lower back. You can do this exercise at home or at a Pilates studio or the gym. In the classical Pilates exercise series, inner thigh lifts and circles come before heel beats, and front and back kick follow it. After a round of heel beats, it is good to push back into a gentle back stretch like Child's Pose.


This is a great exercise for your butt, inner thigh, lower back, and hamstrings. The primary target is the gluteus maximus muscle. This is the muscle that gives the most definition to your butt. The hamstring muscles at the back of the thigh also get involved in this move. You are also using the inner thigh adductor muscles, which don't get much of a workout in daily activity. Firming and toning the inner thigh can give you more confidence when wearing shorts or fitted trousers. By keeping your abdominals engaged throughout the movement you are challenging them. The beats also help you develop coordination.

Step-by-Step Instructions 

Lie on your stomach with your forehead on your hands. Have your legs together, straight behind you.

  1. Lift your abdominal muscles away from the mat. Feel your spine lengthen.
  2. Turn your legs out very slightly at the hip, with heels together.
  3. Lift your legs off the mat. Keep your abs lifted and legs together as you send lengthening energy down the backs of your legs and through your heels.
  4. Beat your heels together and apart quickly as your legs stay lifted. Though the exercise is called heel beats, the emphasis is on working from the inner and back of the upper thigh.
  5. Do 10 beats. Rest and repeat.

Common Mistakes

Avoid these errors so you get the most from this exercise and avoid strain.

Tensed Shoulders

Do not tense and elevate your shoulders. Let your shoulders stay relaxed. This exercise has little to do with them.

Hyperextension of the Lumbar Region

Keep your abs engaged so your spine remains in neutral position and lengthened.

Modifications and Variations

This exercise can be done in different ways to meet your needs and skill level.

Need a Modification?

If you have back or hip pain, you can do heel beats without raising the legs from the mat. Use the same technique of scooping the abs and clenching the buttocks, but just slide the legs together and apart. You can do this slowly and for fewer repetitions.

Up for a Challenge?

You can progress to intermediate-level Pilates exercises such as Pilates swimming and double leg kick.

Safety and Precautions

You should use caution or avoid this exercise if you have a back injury. Stop if you feel any sharp pain. Exercises lying on your stomach should be avoided after the first 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.