Toned glutes and legs are among the most desired physical features. Furthermore, a stronger lower half facilitates full-body work-outs, leads to increased balance and promotes the appearance of a smaller waist. Since leg kicks deliver these benefits with attainable effort, they are among the most popular exercises Pilates offer.
Pilates leg kicks require a full-body effort that strengthens the core while tightening the leg and glute muscles. Leg kicks are a particularly effective way to naturally firm the buttock muscles while giving them, with frequent repetitions, an extra plump. It is an exercise accessible to both the most experienced Pilate adepts and absolute beginners.
What You Will Gain From Doing Leg Kicks
Leg kicks are especially effective at promoting full-body strength and flexibility while encouraging the growth of specific, trickier muscle areas. The following advantages of leg kicks involve both aesthetic body improvements and increased well-being:
- Development of balance and natural rhythm.
- Strengthening of the buttock (glutes) and hamstring muscles.
- Increased comfort in spinal articulation motion.
- Increased range of spinal articulation mobility.
- Release of tension from the front of the spine.
- Thorough stretching of chest muscles.
- Improved blood flow (leading to muscle growth) in the abdominals.
- Increased endurance
- Improved trunk stabilization
- Strengthening (and eventual growth) of buttocks and hamstrings.
- Higher energy levels
What You Must Consider Prior To a Leg Kick
The most crucial component of a good leg kick is the proper stretching of the spine. This bears mild risk of strain if executed poorly, and will need particular attention on spinal sensation before the position is repeated and held. Spondylolisthesis, spinal stenosis and scoliosis all hinder Pilates students’ abilities to perform this exercise effectively. They may also lead to discomfort, should the exercise be executed without cautious trunk support from an instructor or careful adjustment of the position into minimized spine strain.
How to Perform a Single Leg Kick
Performing a leg kick requires the following:
- Placing your face down on your mat with your legs drawn together at the ankles.
- Stretching your ankles back, so as to ensure the front of your ankles lies flat on the mat.
- Placing your hands on the sides of your face, with your thumbs aligned with your nose.
- Adjusting your elbows into complete parallels with the sides of your body.
- Ensuring you are in line with the edges of your mat.
Once you have completed these preparations, exhale thoroughly. You will then need to inhale and slightly elevate your head from the mat. The latter motion must be kept minimal, as if you were rolling a light stone away with your nose. Contract your back muscles and adjust your spine to prepare it for curving. Tense the muscles between your shoulder blades and push your shoulders back, only slightly lifting the top of your chest from the mat.
You will then need to exhale thoroughly, and use your abdominal muscles to lift up more of your trunk. Once you feel comfortable in this position, place your forearms in front of your face, with your wrists aligned with your forehead. You will need to open up your elbows so that the hands are drawn inward while the forearms are spread, from the wrist down, outward. You will then need to push against the mat with your arms, using your abdominals to hold your weight in this position. This should create a mild feeling of stretching at the top and front of your spine. Should the stretching be too strenuous, slide your arms forward as much as you require to diminish the intensity of the stretch on the front side of your spine. Your neck should remain held long and stretched.
After inhaling and exhaling to ascertain your comfort in this position, adjust the position of your pelvis and lift your right leg off 2 inches from the mat. Inhale and flex your plantar into a long pointe, then draw your right foot towards the center of your right buttock, keeping the hamstring and gluteal muscle as tense as possible.
You will then need to inhale again and curve your foot back, with the ankle joint kept at a 90-degree angle. To perform the kick, imagine you are lifting your leg while drawing it in. Repeat 6 times, exhaling every time as you kick. Breathe in and out as you switch legs and repeat these motions.
Performing the Double Leg Kick
The double leg kick is more challenging than the single leg kick. An Intermediary level of Pilates practice is required to execute this exercise. While it has similar benefits as the single leg kick, it also promotes back muscle strengthening and requires more core strength. It is extremely effective as a means of strengthening the abdominals while improving overall balance.
To perform the Double-leg kick, you will need to begin as with the single-leg kick. Instead of placing your hands on your sides, you will need to clasp them behind your back, as high up as possible. Keeping the fingers intertwined ensures your hands remain drawn together as you move. Let your elbows hang by your sides, towards the floor.
You will then need to inhale, drawing your abdominal muscles inward and tensing them to lift your belly slightly off the mat. Stretch your spine as long as possible as you press your pelvic muscles into the mat. Extend this lengthy curve feeling throughout your body, and lift both your legs slightly off the floor.
Breathing in deeply, keep your legs together and prepare to kick. Exhale, kick each heel towards your heels at the same time and exhale again. Ensure you breathe out with each pulse – as you lift both your legs, perform and release the kick.
Precautions You Must Take
Ensure you remain cautious of the strain on your spine as you perform the aforementioned exercises. Do not hesitate to use your hands to steady yourself in case of balance loss, placing them palm down on the mat as you exhale.
You should also be conscious of the line of your neck, which should remain straight and stretch to avoid discomfort. Should you feel any neck pain, immediately interrupt the exercise and re-adjust your position as per instructions.