Get ready to work and tone your inner thighs, glutes and outer hips with the best Pilates leg exercises…

Leg day can get a tad boring if you’re only doing squats and lunges. Why not shake things up a bit by introducing these Pilates leg exercises? Designed to target the muscles in your legs, these Pilates leg exercises only use the weight of your body to tighten and tone rather than build your muscles.

Related: What is Pilates? Benefits & basics for beginners

They work on both the large ‘global’ muscles of the hips and thighs, and the smaller ‘local’ muscles, helping to tighten and pull up in your buttocks and outer hips. The result? Longer, leaner and smoother legs!

Under the technique tips for each of these exercises, you’ll often be asked to ‘lengthen and lift’ the legs instead of ‘lift’. This is important. Take, for example, the side leg lift exercise. Try lying on your side and just lift and lower the leg. Now perform the exercise following the instructions and teaching tips carefully, lengthening your leg from the waist to the toe – just feel the difference it makes!

Related: Pilates breathing technique: how to do lateral breathing

8 best Pilates leg exercises to tone your glutes & thighs

Strengthen and tone your inner thighs, hips and buttocks with our pick of the best Pilates leg exercises…

Remember to warm up before your workout (try our 10 minute warm up routine) and cool down afterwards with some simple stretches.

1. Scooter

15 reps on each side

Benefits: strengthens your hip and buttock on your standing leg, improves your balance and core strength and strengthens and tones your thighs.

fitness woman demonstrating scooter exercise in Pilates fitness instructor demonstrating scooter exercise
  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart and parallel.
  • Bend both knees, keeping your back straight and your abs in.
  • Shift your weight on to your right leg so that your left foot/toe rests very lightly on the floor (A).
  • Inhale to prepare.
  • Exhale, engage your abs and ‘scoot’ your left leg back until it’s straight (B).
  • Inhale to return.
  • Perform 15 reps on each side.

Top tips:

  • Keep your stationary knee completely still with it over and in line with your second toe.
  • Keep your spine in neutral, your shoulders back and down and your tummy drawn in.

Related: How to find and maintain your neutral spine in Pilates

2. Pile squat

15 reps 

Benefits: shapes and lifts your bottom and works your inner thighs.

women demonstrating plie squat woman demonstrating fitness plie Squat woman demonstrating fitness plie squat
  • Stand with your feet wide apart and your toes pointing outwards.
  • Place your hands on your hips and draw your shoulders back and down (A).
  • Inhale and bend your knees out wide over your toes (B).
  • Exhale and squeeze your bottom as you push yourself back upright.
  • Repeat this 15 times.
  • Now hold in the ‘down’ position and lift your heels up and down 10 times (C).
  • For more intensity, hold dumbbells in front of your thighs and lift them straight out to shoulder height with each plié.

Top tips:

  • Squeeze through your pelvic floor, inner thighs and bottom to push your back upright.

To progress:

  • Hold at the bottom position on the last rep then squeeze your bottom to pulse halfway up and down 15 times before the heel lift.

3. Side leg lift

3 sets of 10 reps on each side

Benefits: strengthens and sculpts your outer hips and bottom.

10 minute pilates leg workout 10 minute pilates leg workout best pilates leg exercises10 minute pilates leg workout
  • Lie on your right side with your head on your outstretched arm, your bottom leg bent and top leg out straight and raised slightly (A).
  • Place your top hand on your hip and try to lengthen your waist off the floor (B).
  • Exhale to lift the top leg with your foot parallel to the floor (C).
  • Inhale to lower.
  • Do this 10 times.
  • Repeat the exercise 10 times with your leg turned inwards and your toes pointing towards the floor.
  • Now repeat the exercise a further 10 times with your leg turned out and your toes pointing up towards the ceiling (D).

Top tips:

  • Keep your core gently engaged throughout.
  • To keep your waist off the floor, imagine you’ve got a precious egg underneath your waist you don’t want to crush.
  • Try to lengthen your leg out from your waist as you lift and lower.

4. Side leg circle

10 reps in each direction on both sides

Benefits: strengthens and sculpts your outer hips and bottom.

10 minute pilates leg workout 10 minute pilates leg workout
  • Stay on your right side as in the side leg lift on the previous page.
  • This time instead of lifting your leg, stretch it out long and circle it around 10 times in each direction (B).

Top tips:

  • Keep your waist lengthened off the floor as with the side leg lift and reach out as though you’re trying to trace the inside edge of a barrel placed just out of reach of your foot.

5. Side kick

12 reps on each side

Benefits: strengthens and sculpts your outer hips and bottom.

best pilates leg exercises woman demonstrating Pilates exercise 10 minute pilates leg workout
  • Stay on your right side as in the side leg lift and side leg circle above but lift up on to your elbow while keeping it under your shoulder.
  • Lift your top leg off the floor (A).
  • Inhale to sweep your leg forward with your foot flexed (B).
  • Exhale, engage navel to spine as you point your toe and sweep your leg backwards as if sliding back and forth on a low coffee table (C).
  • Repeat this exercise 12 times.
  • Now repeat the entire side leg series while lying on your left side.

Top tips:

  • Keep reaching your foot away from your body, stretching your leg out long while lengthening the back of your leg from your bottom to your heel as you sweep forwards and the front of your leg from your hip to your toe as you sweep back.
  • Keep your core tightened and keep very still throughout your trunk while working from the hip down.
  • Make sure you keep lifted through your ribs and lengthen your neck but avoid slumping in your upper body.

Looking for more workout inspiration? Learn how to effectively combine these exercises with our 10 minute Pilates leg workout!

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  2. 10 minute Pilates glute workout to tone your bum
  3. What is Pilates? Benefits & basics for beginners