Who doesn't want long, lean thighs? Pilates is a great way to tone and lengthen all over, and Pilates thigh lengthening exercises can increase leg strength, encourage you to walk taller, and make sure you look even better in your miniskirt.
Lengthening in Pilates
Like in yoga, the term lengthening in Pilates often refers to stretching the muscles, making them work, feeling as if they are getting longer and extending your body. The work of lengthening is not literal - no exercise can make you taller or your legs longer - but you'll be feeling stronger and longer when you perform these exercises.
Using Pilates to lengthen muscles in this way gives you great flexibility, strength and stamina, and will encourage you to stand up straight, walk tall and sit with better posture. So while you might not actually measure taller after regularly performing these exercises, you may feel like you've grown an inch or two.
Classic Pilates Thigh Lengthening Exercises
There are a couple of Pilates exercises that are well known for working the thighs. These are known as leg kicks and thigh lifts.
To perform the leg kicks:
- Start by lying on one side with the whole body in a straight line.
- Position yourself so that the head is lifted and the lower arm is bent with the elbow on the ground and the hand raised to support the head.
- First lift the top leg off the bottom leg and smoothly open it out to the front, keeping it parallel with the floor. Hold for a breath, then go back to where you started.
- On your next breath, lift the leg up, with the eventual goal being to have the leg straight up in the air, perpendicular to the floor. Lower the leg again. Repeat two to four more times on this side before performing the same exercise with the other leg.
To perform thigh lifts:
- Begin in the same position you were in for the leg kicks.
- Lift the top leg, bend the knee and bring the leg forward, putting the foot on the ground in front of the bottom hip or thigh with the toes pointing forward.
- Wrap the top hand around the leg and grasp the ankle, or place it on the ground.
- Lift the bottom leg a few inches off the floor, hold for a breath and lower.
- Repeat four more times on this side, then switch sides.
Other Thigh Exercises
There are some other Pilates exercises you can do at home to lengthen and strengthen the thighs.
Bridge with leg lift:
- Begin in the yoga posture known as bridge pose.
- Lift and straighten one leg, taking it perpendicular to the floor.
- Lower the leg so that the thighs are close to parallel, then lift back up.
- Repeat several times, then switch legs.
Another good posture for the thighs is leg circles:
- Lying on one side as described above, lift the top leg a few inches above the bottom leg and point the toe.
- Make circles with the leg in one direction about 10 times, then in the other direction.
- Remember to hold your abs in to support your core as you perform this move. Switch sides and repeat the movement.
Another stretch that can be done lying on the side is a leg lift:
- Stretch your bottom arm out along the floor above your head and rest your head on your arm.
- Lift the top leg a few inches.
- Lift the bottom leg so that it touches the top leg.
- Stretch through the feet, then put the legs back down.
- Repeat several times on each side.
It is usually recommended that Pilates thigh lengthening exercises be preformed only by people who have some experience with Pilates or yoga. These exercises are a lot of work, and it's easy to injure yourself while performing them. If you are new to Pilates, talk to a personal trainer or pilates instructor first for guidance.
You might also consider a piece of Pilates exercise equipment to help you do exercises in the proper form, even when you're new to the method.