The double leg lift is a very effective Pilates mat exercise that targets the abdominal muscles, including the lower and upper abdominals. It is a core strength builder workout that works on your abs muscles (obliques and rectus abdominis) and deep abdominal muscles (transverse abdominals) to your hip flexors.
By targeting your lower body to work with your pelvic floor, the double leg lift can also help develop pelvic stability, which further helps protect and strengthen your lower back. Additionally, this exercise also works on your glutes, inner thighs and the small stabilizing muscles located on the sides and front of your neck, known as neck flexors.
The double leg lift is more challenging than other Pilates workouts, as you need to keep your legs absolutely straight when performing it. Learn how to do this exercise correctly with the below-mentioned steps:
Correct form to do double leg lift in Pilates
You can perform this Pilates exercise on a yoga mat or a flat and comfortable surface:
- Lie straight on your back, and straighten your legs toward the ceiling. Keep your legs out slightly, keeping your heels together and your inner legs in the center line.
- Point your toes, and put your hands behind your head. Lift your chest, and keep your elbows wide.
- Breathe easily, and as you exhale, contract your abdominal muscles down to the ground. Press your lower back as you curl your upper body up off the ground. Maintain this position throughout the exercise.
- Keeping your abdominal muscles pulled in, extend your legs out, and start to lower your legs slowly.
- Always remember that the lower motion should be slow and should take longer than the lifting movement.
- Lower your legs while maintaining the alignment, and hold the position.
- Lift your legs again to the upright position with a controlled effort, and lower them down.
- Be very sure about your position. Keep your chest open, elbows wide and abs pulled in.
- Repeat the exercise ten times.
Watch this video for reference:
To make the exercise easier, consider the following tips:
- If you find it difficult to keep your legs straight, perform the exercise with your knees slightly bent till you develop enough strength.
- If you feel any type of neck discomfort, try to put your head down on the mat. Keep your arms extended along your sides, and put your palms down.
- Make sure to keep your chest open and lifted.
- If you feel pressure on your lower back, place your hands under your butts for support.
Avoid these mistakes to get the most out of this Pilates move and avoid pain and injuries.
Pulling up your neck
It’s a very common tendency to hold yourself by pulling on your neck or head with your hands. To avoid that, use your upper abs to keep your chest lifted, and leave your head relaxed and down.
Bend the lower back
When you lower your legs, do not allow your back to lift off the mat. Go only as low as you can without moving your back while maintaining good alignment. Keep your abs tightened and contracted throughout the exercise.
Benefits of doing Double Leg Lifts in Pilates
The double leg lift in Pilates targets your lower and upper abdominal muscles as well as the hip flexors. This exercise also requires full activation of your gluteal muscles in the buttocks and your quadriceps located at the front of your thighs.
During this exercise, your abs are also pulled in, allowing you to practice breathing deeply into your sides and back. All that results in a strong and strengthened core, which is key to good posture and promotes easy movements throughout the day.
Although it’s safe and effective, a double leg lift should be avoided if you have spondylitis or osteoporosis. Consult your doctor to check if this exercise is safe for you. Also, as with most abs exercises, you should not attempt this Pilates exercise during pregnancy.
If you feel any discomfort such as neck strain or pain in your stomach, check your posture, and try to do this workout with your head on the surface till you build enough strength to keep your body elevated. You can also check with your instructor for any variations or suggestions you can follow.