Any time you lift your feet off of the mat in Pilates, the length of your legs and the angle that you choose impacts your entire body. 

The load of your legs goes directly into your abdominals.

Too much of an angle can

  • pull your spine away from the mat
  • impact your pelvic position
  • force your back to take over
  • make your experience doing The Hundred downright miserable

Here is a guide to help you understand how to choose the best leg position for you

1. Feet flat: the best position for an absolute beginner

If you struggle with lifting your head (in the nod & curl) and want a way to simplify things, this is the best option for you.

2. Lazy tabletop: Best position for tight hips

When you lift both feet off the mat, to a true tabletop or beyond, the quads must work and the hips can begin to grip. If you keep your thighs above your hips and let your feet dangle lazily toward the ground, your hip flexors (the superficial ones) turn off. You still get the load from your legs into your abdominals, but without cranking your hips.

3. Tabletop: The perfect middle ground

A true tabletop position with your hips and knees bent at 90 degrees is a great position also for beginners who want a little more load from the legs into the abdominals.

4. Legs extended: An intermediate position

The average person should be able to accomplish The Hundred with legs extended. This is a nice angle that won’t pull on your spine too much. Want an extra bonus? Turn your legs out and your hips will relax more.

5. Straight leg lever: The biggest challenge

Once your legs are straight, begin to lower them downward toward the mat. BUT, only as far as you can maintain a neutral pelvis. You want to keep the work in your abdominals, not in your back. Notice in the picture above, with my head down, this slight shift of my legs already impacts my head position. The longer your legs are, the greater the challenge.

One of the most beautiful things about Pilates is that you can always make things harder. Lowering those straight legs is a definite way to increase the challenge in The Hundred.

In fact, Joseph Pilates originally designed The Hundred starting with the legs long on the mat, then cued his students to lift the feet 2 inches up and away from the mat. That one takes some definite conditioning. Thanks for the inspiration, Joe!

Try this right now: Lie on your back, find neutral pelvis and progress from the feet flat position through to the straight leg lever.

  • See how long and low you can take your legs without impacting your neutral position.
  • Then, see how long you can hold it. It ain’t easy!

In the comments below, let me know which position is ideal for you today. Also, let me know your goal. The straight leg lever with my legs just below halfway down to the mat is a good goal for me, but I want to hear yours.  

Next time you do The Hundred in class, find the optimal position for you. Work to increase the challenge of your legs each time.

If you have any questions about your optimal leg position, please don't hesitate to ask me or your instructor.

Thanks for stopping by. Have a beautiful day!