Lower-Body Workout on the Pilates Chair

Pilates chair workouts provide the opportunity to strengthen your core from a seated position. Many of the following exercises engage muscles throughout the whole body, but the focus is on the lower body. The photos and basic instructions for this Pilates chair workout were contributed by Pilates instructor Kevin Bowen.

Kevin is the co-founder, past President, and former Executive Director of the Pilates Method Alliance (PMA), and former Director of Education for Peak Pilates, a division of Mad Dogg Athletics. He is a PMA Certified Pilates teacher, who conducts continuing education workshops and Pilates instructor training around the world.

Workout Tips

In this workout, Kevin demonstrates the techniques on the MVe Pilates chair, a modern adaptation of the traditional Pilates chair. However, most of this workout can be performed on any chair, including the Malibu Pilates chair. Since spring tension varies on different Pilates chairs, the settings may vary. Usually, a medium or high setting is recommended.

Pointers

Though this is a lower-body workout, you are working from your core and your whole body is involved. Your abdominal muscles will be engaged, lengthening your spine and lifting your trunk out of your hips so that they can move more freely.

Remember to use the pedal to maximum effect by staying engaged with the spring as you release. Notice how in many exercises Kevin presses his hands into the side of the chair to help widen his shoulders and chest, as well as engage his arms with his core.

As with our other Pilates studio equipment exercise instructions, this lower-body workout with the Pilates chair is meant to support a Pilates practice that is informed by instructions from a qualified Pilates instructor. The instructions here, along with a few guide tips, are brief, meant to remind you of the choreography and form.

Keep in mind that the Pilates chair is a spring-loaded piece of equipment. This lower-body workout progresses into more advanced exercises. If at any time you feel unsteady, skip or modify the exercise.

Kevin says, "For my personal workouts, I tend to do a cross-training regimen that includes working out with free weights and machines in the gym, incorporating the movement principles of Pilates, along with my Pilates routine. Three days per week, I like to utilize the Wunda Chair at the end of my gym routine to address my lower body and balance. Here is my workout."

Seated Double Leg Pumps

lower body chair workout

Kevin Bowen

Sit on center of the Pilates chair, and place both feet on the foot pedal. The first footwork position is Pilates V. The heels are together and the toes slightly apart. Concentrate on your form and alignment.

Pump the pedal up and down 10 times.

Guide tip: Keeping the heels lifted helps engage the hamstrings.

Double Leg Pumps - Parallel

Double-leg pump exercise

Kevin Bowen

Place your heels, feet flexed, on the foot pedal of your Pilates chair. The legs are parallel in this set. Continue to sit upright and pump from your core.

Pump the pedal up and down 10 times.

Guide tip: Keeping the legs parallel will help strengthen the inner thighs. Don't let your feet rock with the movement.

Double Leg Pumps - Wide

Wide-leg double-leg pumps

Kevin Bowen

With heels toward the edges of the Pilates chair foot pedal, the legs and feet are slightly turned out.

Pump the pedal up and down 10 times.

Bonus challenge: Before leaving the footwork, go back to the Pilates V position and do single leg pumping. The other leg is extended straight in front. Complete 5 reps for each leg.

Standing Single Leg Pumps - Front

Single standing leg pump exercise

Kevin Bowen

Stand in front of the Pilates chair facing the pedal. Place the right foot metatarsals (the ball) on the pedal and cross your arms in front of you. For a greater challenge, extend the arms as shown.

Push down on the pedal 10 times and repeat with the other foot.

Single Leg Pumps with Crossover

Single leg pump with crossover exercise

Kevin Bowen

Move to the right side of the Pilates chair and face the side of the chair. Stand on the right foot and cross the left leg over and place your full foot along the pedal. Your standing leg should be in line with the edge of the pedal when it is up.

Maintain your balance and pump the pedal with the crossed-over leg 10 times. Walk around to the other side and repeat with the opposite leg.

Single Leg Pumps - Back Rounded

Leg exercise with rounded back

Kevin Bowen

Move to the back of the Pilates chair and face the front of the chair. Your thighs should skim the edge of the seat.

Place your right leg over the chair and put your heel on the pedal. The foot will stay flexed.

Round your back and pull up through your abdominals and center to support your spine. Place your hands on either side of the seat of the chair.

Push the pedal down 10 times. Repeat with the other foot.

Single Leg Pumps - Side

Single leg pump exercise

Kevin Bowen

Sit on the back of the Pilates chair, and turn so that your right leg is next to the back edge of the chair. Place your right leg over the seat and put the right heel on the pedal. The leg should be slightly turned out.

Fold your arms or extend as shown. Press down 10 times. Repeat on the other side.

Single Leg Pumps - Kneeling Front

Pilates kneeling chair exercise

Kevin Bowen

Kneel on the top of the Pilates chair facing the pedal. Balance on one knee while holding your arms out to the side or bent with your hands placed behind your head.

Place the heel of your foot on the pedal, making sure that your pelvis is aligned facing forward and even. Arms should be folded or extended as shown. Press down 10 times, and repeat on the other side.

Single Leg Pumps - Kneeling Side

Kneeling side single leg pump exercise

Kevin Bowen

Turn your body on the top of the Pilates chair so that you are facing sideways. Kneel on one leg, and place one foot on the foot pedal.

Press down 10 times. Repeat on the other side. Fold or extend arms as shown.

Front Mountain Climb - Round Back

Pilates chair mountain climber

Kevin Bowen

Stand facing the Pilates chair. Place your left foot on the pedal and press the pedal down to the floor. Place your right foot on the seat of the chair with the toes lined up with the far side of the seat.

Round your back and place your hands on either side of the seat. Transfer your weight into the right leg and lift up your entire body in this rounded position so that your left foot and pedal lift off the floor.

Bring your body into an alignment so that the thigh of your right leg is parallel to the floor. Hold this position, and pump the left leg 10 times.

Be sure that your pelvis stays squared and even during the movement.

Lower your left leg back down to the floor, hold the pedal down and change legs so that your right leg is on the pedal. Place your left leg up on the chair and repeat the exercise on the other side.

Bonus challenge: Do the same exercise, except that your body is upright with your hands behind your head. Allow the pedal to lift until the thigh is parallel to the floor. Pump 10 times on each side.

Going Up - Front

Strengthening lower body workout

Kevin Bowen

Stand facing the Pilates chair, place your left foot on the pedal, and press the pedal down to the floor. Place your right foot on the seat of the chair, with the toes lined up with the far side of the seat. Your arms can be crossed or extended as shown.

Begin pressing up allowing your right leg to assist you from the bent leg position. Keep your left leg straight as your entire body moves upward and the pedal comes all the way up to the position with no resistance.

Be sure that your pelvis stays squared and aligned as you move up and down. Do 10 repetitions and repeat on the other side.

Guide tip: This is a lunge type of exercise. The weight should be distributed between the two legs—not all on the front leg. Do not do this exercise unless you are strong and steady.

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