The Pilates Hot Potato for Great Legs

One of the less frequently seen exercises from the classic Pilates Side Kick series is called the Hot Potato. This single exercise incorporates elements of several other side-lying leg exercises. Perform this move either alone or in sequence with several other side kicks to strengthen, shape and sculpt your inner and outer thighs.


Prepare for the Hot Potato

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Lie on your side on a Pilates mat or padded surface. Align your body with one long line from head to tail and then angle your legs forward at a 45-degree angle to the upper body. Prop your head up on your bottom hand and place your free hand in front of you on the mat. The palm is flat and fixed in front of your abdominals. As you set up, be sure your hips and shoulders are stacked, one directly over the other to keep you stable as the move progresses. Raise the top leg just above the bottom leg to prepare. Get ready to move very briskly.


Hot Potato: Step 1

side kick hot potato part 1

The top leg is slightly rotated so that the kneecap faces the ceiling. Carry that top leg forward and lightly tap the mat or floor with your heel 3 times in rapid succession. Keep the rest of your body stock still. The abs are pulled in and up and the chest is lifted.


Hot Potato: Step 2

side kick hot potato part 2

From the third tap to the front, quickly kick the leg up high to the side. This is a kick and not a lift so use strong energy to kick dynamically. Whether you are kicking, lowering, or tapping the leg remains rotated out. Keep the hand on the mat in front of your abdominals firmly pressing down for support.


Hot Potato: Step 3

side kick hot potato part 3

From the peak of your kick, pull the leg down strongly behind your bottom leg and tap 3 times to the mat once more. Avoid any shifting in your upper body. Keep your hips and shoulders stacked even while kicking.

Form is important, but tempo is even more important. So work quickly.


Hot Potato: Next Steps


Continue kicking and tapping alternating front to back until you have completed 6 reps or 3 sets total.

Reduce the Hot Potato taps to just two taps and continue alternating between front and back, kicking higher and tapping faster with each set. Perform 6-8 reps or 3-4 full sets before continuing on.

Finally, reduce the tapping to one tap each at the front and the back picking up speed as you go. Complete 6-8 additional sets at this tempo before repeating the entire sequence with the other leg.

Tips for Success

  • Remind yourself continually to keep your working leg externally rotated or turned out.
  • When kicking the leg aim for just behind your shoulder.  
  • Anchor your bottom leg firmly into the floor to avoid any uncontrolled movement.
  • Use a mirror when possible to monitor your alignment.
  • Breathe! Holding your breath won't help you move any quicker.  It could actually slow you down.


Before you move on to the other side get your gluteal muscles in the game. Flip onto your belly, face down, and place your head on your hands, keeping the elbows wide. Draw your abdominals up and lift your straight legs off of the floor. With the heels touching and toes apart, beat the inner thighs 20 times in a quick clapping rhythm. Pause at the end before lowering the legs to the mat. Roll smoothly onto the other side and perform the entire series with the other leg.

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