What Is the Single Leg Circle in Pilates? Tips, Technique, Correct Form, Benefits and Common Mistakes

The Single Leg in Pilates is a core strengthening exercise. (Image by @danielekernpf via Instagram)
The Single Leg in Pilates is a core strengthening exercise. (Image by @danielekernpf via Instagram)

The Single Leg circle in Pilates, also known as the one-legged circle, is a classic and one of the most effective exercises for developing your core strength.

It's a beginner-level exercise that targets your hamstrings and quads and promotes pelvic stability. The goal of this exercise is to freely circle your leg without moving the rest of your body.

How to do Single leg circle in Pilates?

To begin this exercise:

  • Lie on your back on a mat, with your legs on the floor and arms by your sides.
  • Take a moment to relax, and activate your body parts.
  • Make sure your legs are tight and held together, and your arms are perfectly pressed into the mat.
  • Keep your abdominal muscles pulled in and up, and balance the weight of your hips and shoulders on each side.
  • Breathe easily.

Step-by-step instructions:

  • Tighten your core muscles, and pull your abs in while tightening your shoulders and pelvis. Bring one knee towards your chest, and straighten it towards the ceiling.
  • On an inhale, cross the straightened leg over your body so that it reaches your opposite shoulder and over your stretched leg.
  • As you exhale, lower your leg towards the centre in a circling motion. Carry your leg out to the side, and sweep it back towards the centre.
  • Do at least six circles in this position, and reverse. Start the circle on an exhale, and reach your extended leg to the side circling back over your body.
  • Switch legs by climbing your hands up the stretched leg and holding your ankle.
  • Hold this position for a few breaths, and pull your leg closer to you.
  • Repeat the same on the other leg, and end the stretch.

Watch this video for reference:


Tips to Consider

Consider the following tips when doing a Single Leg circle in Pilates:

  • Make sure to keep the non-working leg bent, as that will give more balance to your pelvis.
  • Don’t extend your legs fully towards the ceiling if you have tight hamstrings. Keep your knees slightly bent. Make sure to keep your hips grounded on the floor.
  • Always start slow, and work your way up. Try using an exercise band for this exercise.
  • You can also modify your arm position while doing this exercise, but that will require your abs to be more engaged and tight.
  • Raise your arms off the mat, or just straighten them into the air.

Benefits of Single Leg circle in Pilates

The Single Leg circle in Pilates not only targets and strengthens your core muscles but also helps strengthen the hamstrings and quads. It's considered an isometric core exercise that requires you to use your abdominal muscles to support your raised leg, and keep your pelvis and spine in the correct alignment.

This exercise also fires up your glutes, specifically the hip abductors and promotes healthy hip muscles. It allows you to work your abdominal muscles while keeping the principles of Pilates in mind, such as control, breath, concentration, centering and precision. This Pilates exercise involves strengthening and stretching the primary muscle groups in your body and promotes overall stability and balance.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Though the Single Leg circle in Pilates is a simple exercise, there are certain mistakes that need to be avoided to avoid strain and pain:

Lifting your shoulders

When doing a Single Leg circle in Pilates, make sure to keep your pelvis as well as your shoulders at the same level. This position of your shoulders is more important than making circles and stretching your legs. If you want to ensure that your abs are getting the right work, keep your pelvis stable, and do not move unnecessarily.


The Single Leg circle in Pilates is a productive basic move that helps prepare you for other advanced exercises. Over time, as your core stability enhances, you’ll be able to increase the size of the circle.

This exercise is not recommended for people with back or leg injuries. Also, do not attempt it if you're pregnant. It's best to talk to your physical therapist or doctor about any ongoing health condition and seek guidance on which Pilates exercises would be safe for you.

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Edited by Bhargav
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