In Pilates, the single leg kick is a classic go-to exercise that targets the backside of your body. The muscles of your back and lower legs are often neglected, largely because most of us spend the majority of our time in a seated posture. This exercise aims to improve coordination, posture, and strength, especially in your back and leg extensors.
The single leg kick is suitable for beginners; however, it is typically considered more challenging than other beginner-friendly exercises due to the amount of strength needed to execute it properly. The good thing is, this exercise takes very little time to complete and all you'll need is an exercise mat to get started!
One Leg Kick Step-by-Step Execution:
Start in a prone position. The front side of your body should be in contact with the mat, both legs straight out and together.
Prop your body up onto your elbows and forearms, like you would in a plank. Adjust the distance between your arms and your body by sliding your arms forward or backward until your back is comfortably elongated.
As a guide, your elbows should end up underneath your shoulders and your hands should be made into fists. Keep your chest up and don't let your back sag downward into the mat.
Maintain a forward gaze, so that your neck stays straight in extension. This helps to achieve maximal stretch throughout the entire length of your spine.
Gently thrust your hips forward to pull your tailbone down into the mat. This further extends your spine, while also protecting your lower back. At the same time, lift up your lower abdominals off the mat. Draw in your abs to activate your core and to provide you with stability during the exercise.
Upon exhalation, bend your right leg at the knee to a 90-degree angle. Pulse twice more, using two sharp exhales in a controlled manner, and bring your foot toward your buttocks. Your toes should be pointed straight up to the sky as you pulse.
Focus on using your leg extensors to bring your foot inward toward your buttocks, rather than visualizing an outward kicking movement.
Inhale as you switch legs, by bringing the right leg back down straight onto the mat and the left leg up into a 90-degree angle. Use two sharp exhales to pulse the left foot twice toward the buttocks.
Remember to keep your abdominals off the mat for the entire duration of the exercise. Your shoulders should be slightly rolled back to ensure that your chest is broad and upright.
Repeat the exercise by alternating your legs for 6 to 8 repetitions.
For a more beginner-friendly version of the one leg kick, you can try the exercise without lifting the abdominals up off the mat. However, to avoid missing out on the core strengthening benefits, you'll still want to engage your abs using a focused deep breathing technique.
The single leg kick can also be made more difficult, by always keeping both legs slightly lifted off the mat. So instead of bringing your extended leg down onto the mat, you'll let it hover in the air while you continue with the exercise on the other leg.
As you can see, the Pilates single leg kick is an exercise that can be easily incorporated into any routine, from beginner to advanced. As long as you take care to execute the movements with proper technique, you'll be well on your way to achieving stronger back, core, and lower leg muscles, in addition to better breathing technique, posture, and spinal flexibility.
Pilates Deep Breathing Technique:
One of the most important things to remember when practicing Pilates is to pay very close attention to your breathing. Breathing technique is so essential to Pilates that there's even such a thing as Pilates breathing.
Essentially, Pilates breathing is a form of deep breathing, where you learn to breathe using your abdominal's rather than your chest. More often than not, people are accustomed to breathing through their chest. If you've ever watched somebody breathe, you'll notice the rise and fall of their rib cage—that's chest breathing.
Abdominal breathing starts off the same as chest breathing, by inhaling deep through your nose. When you're ready to exhale, purse your lips and slowly blow out a stream of air. You may notice that when you exhale this way, you've engaged your abdominal's. You should feel your core expand and you push air out through your lips. To accomplish optimal deep breathing, you'll want to focus on filling up your entire chest cavity, before releasing your breath. Otherwise, you'll only get as far as partial and shallow breathing.
We hope this article has been helpful for you as you continue to add new movements into your Pilates routines. The Pilates single let kick is one of the most popular Pilates movements. You may may also like some of our other Pilates equipment reviews such as; Supreme Toning Tower, Stamina AeroPilates, and the Best Pilates Reformer.