How to Do Tabletop Legs in Pilates

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Also Known As: Table top position, table top legs

Targets: Abdominals

Equipment Needed: Mat

Level: Beginner

Tabletop legs is the starting position for various Pilates mat exercises as well as being used as a modification or even as an exercise in its own right. In the tabletop legs position, you are face up with your back on the mat with your knees bent so that your thighs are perpendicular to the floor and the shins are parallel to the floor. The legs should squeeze gently together so that the inner thighs are engaged. It is called tabletop because your lower legs are forming the flat, level top of a table while your thighs are forming the straight, perpendicular legs of a table, connecting you to the ground. You can perform the Pilates hundred either with the legs at a 45-degree angle or the legs in tabletop position. Criss cross starts in neutral spine position and moves to tabletop to perform the exercise. The Pilates crunch, toe taps, and lower back stretch also use tabletop legs.


The tabletop position challenges the transverse abdominus muscle, which is a deep core muscle that is difficult to engage in many typical ab exercises. It builds strength and stability in your abs and back. This position may be used in physical therapy to rehabilitate from injuries.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Start lying on your back on the mat with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Your spine should be neutral and shoulders relaxed. Inhale.
  2. Exhale, deepening your ribs and contracting your abdomen as you raise one leg. Raise it until the thigh is straight up with your knee over your hip and your knee is bent so your shins are at 90 degrees, with your ankle in line with your knee. Follow with lifting your other leg into the same position.
  3. Inale and exhale while holding the position for over 10 seconds.
  4. Exhale and lower your legs one at a time back to the floor.

Common Mistakes

Avoid these errors so you will get the most out of this position.


Be sure that your thighs are as vertical as possible, knees aligned over hips, shins parallel to ground rather than slanted up or down.

Doming the Abdomen

As you bring each leg up, you may pooch out your abdomen if you are not paying attention to it.

Modifications and Variations

Tabletop is used in many ways.

Need a Modification?

You can flex or point your foot at the ankle, as desired. If you are prone to foot cramps, flex the foot and curl your toes towards your head so the sole of the foot is stretched.

If you have difficulty maintaining a neutral spine, make a triangle with your thumb and first fingers and place this under your tailbone.

Up for a Challenge?

For more challenge, you could lie with a foam roller the length of your spine. This would add instability to the tabletop exercise.

Safety and Precautions

This position should be safe for most people, but if you experience any pain you should gently come out of the position. It is normal to feel tension in your abdominals as they are being challenged, but it shouldn't be painful.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

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