How to Get the Most Benefit from Single Leg Extension on the Pilates Arc Barrel

Inside: Single leg extension on the Pilates Arc barrel is a basic exercise that can be an essential therapeutic tool for some people. Here’s how to practice this exercise so you can get the most benefit.

As with so many Pilates exercises, Single leg extension on the Pilates Arc barrel looks really easy. In fact, it looks so simple that you might wonder if you’ll even feel anything when you try it.

Some people won’t really feel a whole lot of work. However, for those who have a hitch in their giddy-up, this exercise is extremely beneficial.

When you practice Single leg extension (either on the Mat or Arc barrel), you get the benefit of strengthening two important posterior chain muscles–the hamstrings and the gluteus maximus. Your hamstrings are on the backs of your thighs, and your gluteus maximus (or glutes) are the cushy muscle on your bottom.

For many people who feel pain (or even awkwardness) in their legs and hips while walking, this exercise is the solution. Single leg extension helps retrain your hamstrings and glutes to fire correctly and work only when they are supposed to.

Reminding these two muscles how to work correctly is often all that is needed to fix whatever is causing your pain when you walk. Keep reading to find out how to practice this therapeutic exercise.

Single leg extension on the Pilates Arc barrel

Single Leg Extension on the Pilates Arc Barrel

  1. Place the Arc barrel so the curve seems like a bump in the road on your mat.
  2. Carefully, lower yourself onto your stomach over the Arc barrel.
    Your hips should be near the apex of the barrel. You will probably feel your knees on one side of the barrel and your forehead on the other side.
  3. I like to stack my hands on top of each other and rest my forehead on top.
  4. If it feels like your pubic bone (the front part of your crotch) is painfully pressing into the barrel, slide a towel or piece of foam under the front of your hips. This should help alleviate any discomfort.
  5. Use Pilates breathing. Inhale through your nose to lift your abdominals away from the barrel and straighten your right leg. Feel your hamstrings (the muscles on the back of your leg) lengthen. Notice how the quadriceps (the muscles on the front of your thigh) tighten to straighten your knee. Keep that muscle working around your knee and send energy through the sole of your foot.
  6. Exhale and use your gluteus maximus to lift your straight right leg off the floor. Make sure that you don’t lift your leg any higher than hip level. You can have either a pointed or flexed foot.
  7. Inhale to lower the tips of your toes to the ground.
  8. Exhale to bend your right knee.
  9. Complete steps 4-7 for the left leg.
  10. One lift from each leg makes one rep. Complete about 10 reps total.

Find the Best Arc Barrel

If you’re in the market for an Arc barrel, I recently compared the top five Arc barrels on the market. Here’s who made my top five list and which barrel I’d buy.

Single Leg Extension on the Pilates Arc Barrel Video

It is crucial when you practice this exercise to follow the directions and activate the right muscles at the right time. First, engage your abdominals to help support your spine throughout the whole exercise. Then, let your leg straighten all the way before you let your glutes lift it.

If your leg lifts higher than your hips, it means your abdominals have quit supporting your spine. Also, you have now moved from a hamstring- and glute-strengthening exercise to a spinal muscle-strengthening exercise. It’s not to say that this is wrong–it’s just not what we’re trying to accomplish right now.

Take your time to make sure you complete all the steps to the best of your ability. Sometimes, after your leg has straightened, it will have a tendency to try to bend again. You want to keep it straight throughout the whole exercise. Try reaching the sole of your foot for the wall behind you.

I hope these suggestions help you get the most benefit from this therapeutic exercise. Many of my clients have found pain relief from practicing this regularly, and I hope you do, too.

Also, I just want to let you know that if you’re interested in learning the basics of Pilates and yoga, I offer a FREE 30-day challenge. Click here to sign up today!

What do you think? Do you feel your glutes and hamstrings work when you practice Single leg extension on the Pilates Arc barrel? Let us know in the comments below.

Here is a video of how to do Single leg extension on the Pilates Arc barrel for all the visual learners out there.

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.