Pilates Leg Slides–the Essential Exercise for DIY Hip and Back Pain Therapy

Pilates leg slides challenge you to keep your spine in neutral while sliding your leg along the mat. It sounds easy, but it is not. That’s part of the reason why this is one of the first exercises I teach when I’m teaching someone how to relieve hip and back pain.

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Leg slides are one of my favorite exercises. The challenge is to keep your spine in neutral while sliding your leg along the mat. It sounds easy, but it can be quite challenging.

I remember the first time I learned Pilates leg slides. I saw the demonstration and thought, Piece of cake.

Then, when it was my turn to give it a try, I felt my pelvis shift back and forth as my leg hopped down my mat. Dang it.

I couldn’t even make my leg slide smoothly let alone control whatever the heck my pelvis thought it was supposed to be doing.

And this was at a time when my body felt strong and confident. So, when I started using this exercise to relieve my hip and back pain year later, I was apprehensive.

Could my weak and wobbly body be able to do an exercise that challenged me when I was much stronger?

Luckily, the body adapts quickly. Even if your first attempt at Pilates leg slides is a little less than perfect, your body will learn, strengthen, and adapt quickly.

Here’s everything you need to know about how to correctly do Pilates leg slides so they can become part of your DIY hip and back pain therapy.

But, if you’re looking for a comprehensive guide to do-it-yourself hip and back pain relief that will give you permanent results, check out Spinal Rejuvenation.

Or, if you want a free taste of what you’ll learn in Spinal Rejuvenation, click here to download The Secret to IMMEDIATE + LASTING Pain Relief.

The Nitty Gritty Details of Pilates Leg Slides

The pelvis may want to tilt or rock from side to side as the leg moves. However, it’s the job of the core muscles to keep everything in the torso neutral while the leg moves.

Because of this, leg slides are a core exercise. However, this exercise doesn’t just help you find and correctly work core muscles. For me, it helps me feel a hollowness in my abdominal cavity.

Part of the point of Pilates breathing is that you exhale so fully that you don’t have any extra air trapped in your ribs or gut. Most people can tell when they have exhaled fully in their chest. However, it’s a bit of a trick to know if there’s air in your gut.

As your leg slides straight along the floor, feel how your organs hover near your spine. When you exhale and start to bring your leg back to starting position, feel how your organs somehow sink even closer to your spine.

So, Why Are Pilates Leg Slides Part of DIY Pain Relief?

This exercise is a staple for anyone trying to recover from an umbilical hernia repair or any other abdominal surgery. It’s crucial for anyone trying to relieve hip or back pain themselves.

Why? It’s a little complex, but basically this exercise is essential because it’s the easiest way to check whether your hip and low back stabilizing muscles are working correctly.

Often when we have pain or dysfunction, our stabilizing muscles are AWOL. By doing this exercise, you first check to see if your stabilizers are reporting for duty. Then, you learn how long it takes them to get tired and quit.

With practice, you can strengthen these muscles that are most likely contributing to your hip and/or back pain.

How to Do Pilates Leg Slides

picture of Sarah Stockett doing pilates leg slides
  1. Begin on your back with your knees bent, heels in line with your SITs bones. (Your SITs bones are the bones that press into the ground when you’re sitting.)
  2. Relax your shoulders away from your ears.
  3. Make sure your spine is in neutral. If your abdominals are weak, make a triangle with your hands by connecting your pointer fingers and thumbs. Place this under your sacrum (tailbone) to help keep your pelvis neutral throughout the exercise. Otherwise, let your arms rest by your side.
  4. Take a nice, deep inhale.
  5. Completely exhale. Feel the air leave your abdominal cavity and chest, but don’t let your spine move.
  6. Inhale through your nose and exhale through pursed lips as you use Pilates breathing.
  7. Inhale and slide your right leg away from you, keeping your heel in line with your SITs bone. You should use your whole inhale as your leg slides away. Flex your foot and feel like a rubber band is connected from your heel to your SITs bone. As your leg straightens, the tension in the rubber band increases.
  8. When your leg is perfectly straight, immediately exhale and start to bend your knee. Feel the tension in the imaginary rubber band decrease as you draw your heel toward your SITs bone.
  9. Each time your leg slides, feel your organs settle and your abdominal cavity hollow.
  10. Do 5-10 reps.
  11. Switch legs.

Want to Make Pilates Leg Slides Harder?

You can work the legs individually, completing all the reps on each side before switching. Or, you can do alternating or reciprocal leg movement.

With alternating legs, you would slide the right leg out straight, and bring it back in. Then, you would slide the left leg out straight, and bring it back in. Go back and forth until you complete all the reps you want to do.

Reciprocal leg movement is even harder. To do reciprocal leg movement, you’ll slide your right leg out. Then, as your right leg slides in, your left leg slides out. This requires tons of core strength!

For the Visual Learners…

Below is a video of how to do Pilates leg slides. Sometimes, it’s just easier to do something when someone shows you and talks you through it.

Want to Learn More?

If you’re researching Pilates leg slides today because you have some hip or back pain that you’re trying to get rid of yourself, you’re in luck! I’ve created a course to teach you everything you need to know to permanently ditch hip and back pain. Click here to check out my Spinal Rejuvenation program.

Or, if you want a free taste of what you’ll learn in Spinal Rejuvenation, click here to download The Secret to IMMEDIATE + LASTING Pain Relief.

About Sarah Stockett

Hi, I'm Sarah! I'm a certified Pilates and yoga instructor with a passion for pain relief. I believe you can use simple exercises to relieve your aches + pains. AND, I believe I can teach you how.