Pilates Stretches to Increase Flexibility

Pilates is known for helping people develop both strength and flexibility. The strength part of the stretch and strength equation is very important—it's what helps maintain physical integrity and alignment as one stretches a muscle, or increases the range of motion in a joint.

The following set of six Pilates stretches includes strengthening exercises that increase the flexibility of the back, front-body, side-body, hamstrings, and hips. As always, be sure to warm up your body before starting an exercise routine.


Wall Roll Down

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Wall roll down is a wonderful, all-over kind of stretch. It begins with a beautiful opening of the chest and extension of the back and proceeds to a deep curve that stretches both the back and the hamstrings.

Modification: Bend your knees slightly and only roll down as far as you are comfortable.


Spine Stretch

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

A great stretch for the back and hamstrings, spine stretch also provides a moment to center yourself before moving on to more challenging exercises.

Perform spine stretch gently at the beginning of a routine, or use it for a more intense stretch later in your workout.

Modification: Those with tight hamstrings may be more comfortable seated on a small lift, like a folded blanket or towel, with a slight bend in the knees.



Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Saw is an interesting exercise. The rotation of the trunk creates an opportunity for a strong oppositional stretch through the back extensors and out the tips of the fingers. Along with that, there is a deep flex at the hip and a good stretch for the hamstrings.

Modification: Sit on a folded towel or blanket if your hamstrings are tight. Alternatively, you can also sit with legs crossed. If you have shoulder issues, follow the same motion with your elbows bent and hands resting on your shoulders.



Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Swan is a back extension exercise, so it provides a great counter stretch for the many forward flexion exercises we do in Pilates. Swan stretches the abdominals and hip flexors, even as it strengthens the abdominals, back, shoulders, inner thighs, and hamstrings.​

Take swan a step further by adding a neck roll. This will allow you to practice the easy freedom of movement one can experience when the head and neck are well-supported by a strong core and stable upper body.

Modification: If you have neck discomfort, keep your gaze forward instead of looking up. If there is tension in your lower back, make the movement smaller.


Mermaid Side Stretch

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Mermaid side stretch lengthens and opens the side body. Keeping the hips grounded as the full reach of the arm carries the torso up and over will connect the stretch all the way through the center of the body.

Modification: Position your back leg farther out to the side. You could also sit with the leg extended in front of you or with both legs folded in front. Only stretch as far as you're able without discomfort.


Hip Stretch

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

This is an easy but very well-targeted hip stretch. It will help you get to that tight place just behind the outside of the hip.

Modification: Try this stretch while seated in a chair if you experience difficulty lying down.

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.