6 Best Level 2 Pilates Exercises for Flexibility and Strength

Level 2 Pilates exercises have complex and more weight-bearing moves. (Photo by Miriam Alonso via pexels)
Level 2 Pilates exercises have complex and more weight-bearing moves. (Photo by Miriam Alonso via pexels)

Level 2 Pilates includes more complex exercises, more weight-bearing on arms and legs, and a higher range of motion with balance and flexibility challenges. The exercises performed at the level 2 Pilates session are primarily of intermediate level and focus on core strength and stretching of the front body, sides, hamstrings, and back.

If you don’t have much knowledge of level 2 Pilates training, then you may want to start your journey with some beginner workouts as they include less challenging exercises and are reasonably convenient for beginners. However, if you are an intermediate to advanced level Pilate practitioner, here are some level 2 Pilates exercises for you to practice to improve your strength and flexibility.

The 6 Best Level 2 Pilates Exercises

1) Single straight leg stretch

A single straight leg stretch is an intermediate level 2 Pilates exercise that improves your abdominal endurance and stretches the back of your legs.

How to perform?

  • Lie down flat on a Pilates mat with your legs extended upwards. Keep your heels and legs together in a Pilates stance position, and rotate slightly out from your hips.
  • Straighten your spine, contract your abdominal muscles, and curl your upper body and chin off the mat. Maintain this position throughout the exercise.
  • Hold your left ankle and stretch your right leg out at a 45-degree angle.
  • Gently inhale and pull your left leg towards you.
  • Pulse your leg twice towards you to enhance the stretch.
  • Immediately switch legs, exhale and pull your right leg towards you. Pulse your leg and then again switch.
  • Repeat 8 to 10 times.

2) The hundred

The hundred is a level 2 Pilates exercise mainly used as a warm-up for the abs. You can modify this exercise by keeping your knees bent or legs high with your shins parallel to the mat.

How to perform?

  • Lie down on your back, raise your legs and bend your knee in the tabletop position. Keep your ankles and shins parallel to the floor.
  • Breathe, and as you exhale, bring your head high and chin down using your abs to curl your spine off the mat to the edge of your shoulder blades.
  • Keep your shoulders engaged and slide down. Keep your gaze down on your abs.
  • Simultaneously contract the pull of your abs and stretch your legs and arms. Extend your arms low and straight, just a few inches off the mat, with your fingertips reaching far.
  • Hold the position and take deep breaths. At the same time, move your arms in an up and down position, but be sure to keep your neck and shoulders relaxed.
  • To end the exercise, make sure to keep your spine curved and bring your knees towards your chest. Hold your knees and roll your head and spine down to the mat.
  • Keep breathing deeply.

3) Swan with neck roll

A swan with a neck roll is an effective level 2 Pilates exercise that can be done as a counter stretch for several forward flexion workouts in Pilates.

How to perform?

  • Lie on a Pilates mat with your face down. Make sure your arms are close to your body as you bend your elbows to keep your hands under your shoulders.
  • You may keep your legs together or at a shoulder-width distance.
  • Engage your abs, and lift your belly button off the mat. Your abdominal muscles should be lifted throughout the exercise.
  • Press your hands and forearms into the mat to balance a long upward arc in your upper body.
  • Inhale and stretch your spine. As you exhale, keep your abs lifted and release the arc to lengthen your spine as your torso returns to the floor sequentially, i.e., low-belly, followed by your mid-belly and low ribs.
  • Repeat the move 5 times using a deep flowing breath to support the posture.
  • End it by pushing your body back into the rest position, keeping your knees bent and your body arched over your thighs.

4) Side leg lifts

The side leg lift is a great level 2 Pilates exercise for all fitness levels that targets your legs and core all at once. This exercise can be done anywhere without using any equipment.

How to perform?

  • Lie down on your side and ensure your knees, ankles, shoulders, ears, and hips are aligned.
  • Keep your legs slightly in the front to protect your lower back.
  • Keep your head on your hand.
  • Pull in your abdominal muscles, inhale and allow your body to lengthen as you breathe and move down your spine.
  • On an exhale, engage your abs and lift your legs just a few inches off the mat.
  • Keep your inner legs together, from your heels to your sit bones.
  • Inhale and lower your legs back to the floor, and lengthen your body in a controlled movement.
  • Switch side and repeat.

5) Rolling like a ball

Rolling like a ball is a spine stimulation exercise that works the abs and tunes the breath and inner flow of the movement.

How to perform?

  • Sit straight on a mat and hold your hands just above your ankle.
  • Relax your shoulders, deepen your abs, widen your back and curve your spine.
  • Keep your gaze on your navel and tuck in your chin slightly.
  • Lift your feet off the floor and keep balancing just on your sit bones.
  • As you inhale, pull your lower abs in and up and roll back. Be sure to roll only on your shoulders.
  • On an exhale, stay scooped and keep your spine curved.
  • Use your abdominal muscles to return to the starting position.

6) Mermaid stretch

The mermaid stretch is considered a big stretch in the level 2 Pilates exercise session. This exercise helps open and lengthen the side body.

How to perform?

  • Sit straight on the mat with both legs folded to the right side.
  • Your back foot should be flat on the floor, and your left hand should also be on the floor, providing full support as you sit tall.
  • Extend your right arm straight above your head. Keep your right shoulder down and away from your ears.
  • Bring the inside of your arm close to your ears but don’t lift your shoulders.
  • Keep your right hip on the mat as you lengthen your spine and move up the stretch through the center of your body. Extend your spine far in a way that there is nowhere left to go but to take the stretch over to your side. As you curve on your side, don’t let your ribs move forward.
  • To return, bring your right sit bone down towards the mat, and then use your abdominal muscles to start to bring your torso upward.
  • Now start to reach to your other side. To do this, lengthen your torso further as your right arm arcs overhead and then towards the mat to hold your right shin.
  • Reach your left arm outward without losing the balance of your shoulder.
  • Repeat, switch sides, and then continue.

Perform these level 2 Pilates exercises in a controlled way and gradually work your way up. Don’t rush, and don’t force your body to curve or rotate if it is not ready. Stop immediately if you experience any type of pain in your body.

Edited by Piyush Bisht
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