1. Health
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

How To Do One Leg Circle


Updated June 19, 2014

How To Do One Leg Circle

To modify: Bend the non-working leg, with the foot on the floor.

photo courtesy of Peak Pilates

One leg circle is one of the best pilates exercises for testing your core strength. The abdominal muscles must work hard to keep the shoulders and pelvis stable despite the movement of the leg in the hip socket. One leg circle also tones and stretches the thighs.

This is a focus exercise -- meaning, it's a great opportunity to work the abdominals while keeping the Pilates principles of centering, concentration, control, precision, breath, and flow in mind.

Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: 5 min.

Here's How:

  1. Preparation

    Lie on your back with legs extended on the floor, arms by your sides. Take a moment to feel the weight of your body on the floor.

    Try to balance the weight of the shoulders and the hips on each side.

    You may want to do some sequential breathing to help drop the breath into the body and encourage the weight of the ribs to rest on the floor.

  2. Engage Your Abdominals

    Pull your abdominals in, anchoring the pelvis and shoulders. Extend one leg toward the ceiling.

    If your hamstrings are stretched, go ahead and lengthen the leg all the way up toward the ceiling. Do not lift your hip in the process.

    You may leave the knee slightly bent if your hamstrings are tight. It is more important that your hips stay stable and grounded on the mat than it is for your leg to be straight.

  3. The Leg Circles

    Inhale: Cross the extended leg over toward the opposite hip.

    Exhale: Drop the leg a few inches. Use control as you open the leg out and then sweep it around in a small circle back to center.

    Be sure to keep your shoulders and pelvis level. This is more important than extending the leg fully or making big circles. It is in keeping the pelvis stable that your abdominals get their workout. No Rockin' or Rollin'!

  4. The Breath and Movement Pattern

    Do five circles in each direction with each leg.

    First set of 5:
    Inhale to cross the body and circle down.
    Exhale to open the leg and circle up.

    Second set of 5:
    Exhale to open the leg and circle down.
    Inhale to cross the body and circle and up.


  1. Modify this exercise by keeping the non-working leg bent with the foot flat on the floor. This will provide more stability for the pelvis.

  2. As your core strength increases, you will be able to increase the size of the circle you make with your leg. Start small and work up.

  3. If you have an exercise band you may want to try One Leg Circle with Exercise Band.

What You Need

  • An Exercise Mat
Related Video
How to Mat a Scrapbook Photo
How to Mat and Frame a Picture

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.