Side-Lying Leg Press With Pilates Magic Circle

The side-lying leg press with the Pilates magic circle is a great thigh exercise that focuses the workout on the inner thighs. It also tones the glutes (butt muscles) quite well. Of course, this is Pilates, so we are engaging the whole Pilates powerhouse for length and stability.

Before reading the instructions for this magic circle exercise, notice that in the image above, the instructor, Lisa Hubbard, and class members are doing this exercise with exceptionally good form. Note the long lines of their bodies, how they reach from ​center but don't overextend, and how their shoulders are down. Observe how their rib cages are lifted away from the mat, not sagging. You can almost see the energy extending out of the tops of their heads. Take these tips and find that kind of energy in your own body. It makes the exercise easier.

This exercise builds on skills learned in the side-lying Pilates mat exercises. You may want to try those before adding the magic circle.


Exercise Instructions

The side-lying leg press.
The side-lying leg press. Janina Laszlo / STOCK4B-RF/Getty Images
  1. Lie on your side and place the magic circle just above your ankles. Your shoulders and hips should be in a line and stacked vertically.
  2. Move your legs slightly in front of the line of your body. The legs will remain straight for this exercise.
  3. You can do this exercise with your head down and the bottom arm extended overhead, or you can do it supported on your forearm with your elbow under your shoulder as seen. Be sure to press away from the mat, lifting your ribs so that your spine is in a long line.
  4. You can place your top hand on the mat in front of you for extra stability, or you can extend it shoulder height as in the photo above.
  5. Inhale.
  6. Exhale: Pull up through your midline to press the magic circle down, slowly, with control. Your abs and back are stabilizing you, and your glutes and thighs—especially your inner thighs—are working to control the circle.
  7. Inhale: Slowly, with control, release the circle.
  8. Repeat: 8-10 times. Change sides.

Tips: You can reverse the breathing pattern. You can also try different degrees of rotation in your top leg. Learn about working with exercises for the thighs.


Bonus Inner Thigh Exercise: Side Leg Press with Ring, Legs Up

Women hold Pilates magic circles.
Women hold Pilates magic circles. Seth Joel/Getty Images

This bonus move will work your inner thighs even more and challenge your balance. You may need to put your top hand on the mat in front of your chest for stability.

Bonus Exercise Instructions

  1. Keep lengthening through your midline and lift both legs off the mat. As in the preceding version of the exercise, move slowly with control.
  2. Exhale: Press the sides of the ring toward each other as you keep both legs raised.
  3. Inhale: Release. Legs stay up.
  4. Do 6-8 presses.
  5. Lower the legs and turn to the other side.

Tips: You will draw on skills learned from side leg lifts and inner thigh lifts. Initiate the lift from the lower leg; this will help you keep the Pilates ring in place.

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