DIGGING DEEPER- Get to know your Pilates exercises: Leg Circles/ Frog

Leg Circles/ Frog

By Amanda Turner

These are one of the first series of exercises you’ll learn on the Reformer and, surprisingly, the only exercise series that is “replaced” in the Reformer order as you progress. I find, and perhaps you’ll agree, that the most challenging part of this exercise is the set up. Actually getting the feet into the extension straps - it can be a little awkward and even intimidating.  Trust me when I say that you’re not alone if you feel this way!! Let’s dive into these two exercises so you can become more confident and precise. 

Leg Circles

Set up:
After you’ve finished the Hundred, place both handles into one hand and sit up swinging the legs to the same side as your handles. You’ll use your empty hand to remove springs if necessary, only 2 springs for Leg Circles and Frog. 
You’ll then come to standing, walking your handles to the back of the Reformer.  I recommend adding your black straps individually.  
You’ll hold your leather loop in line with the handle, threading the black extension strap through both the leather and handle.  Make sure your black strap isn’t twisted.  Clasp the ends together, securing them and place the black strap on the peg.  Move on to the other strap.  I like to take a second to make sure the leather straps aren’t twisted and that the black extension clasps are each facing away.
Sidenote: Joe was absolutely brilliant!  After the Hundred, one tends to be winded.  The few seconds it takes to set your straps is the perfect amount of time to catch your breath.  Remember, we’ve talked about transitions previously - this is just as much a part of your workout as the actual exercise!
Laying down on the Reformer, head on the headrest, bend both knees into your chest.  Grab one of your black straps off the peg, curl chin to chest and place the black strap on your arch.  Double check that the extension strap clasp is facing outwards.  If it is facing inwards, it runs the risk of bumping into the other strap, leather, or anything else, unclasping, and hitting you in the face.  Yes, I’ve seen it.  Pro Tip: I often have students too intimidated to lift their legs to put their arches in the black straps, so they’ll leave one foot on the footbar and try and put the strap on the other foot.  Think about it, this puts you into a split like position.  If your body is already tight, do you think that this is the most efficient way?  Nope, its not.  Trust me, bend both knees in and curl chin to chest.  And I promise to help you if you need it :)
Ok straps are on, time to move!


Leg Circles are first.  Neck is long, arms are pressing into your mat, straighten your legs up towards the ceiling with your heels together toes apart.  You want the tailbone down to the mat so that your spine is long, this might move your legs slightly further away from you face and that’s ok.  
Pull the abs in, open the legs to shoulder-width, press down just a few inches, squeeze your legs together, deepen your abs, and lift your legs back to their starting position.  Hips stay down, pelvis stays still, this exercise is all about pelvic stability.  You’ll repeat the circle 5x total and then reverse 5x.  Keep in mind that your circles might look like squares initially.  That’s ok, they’ll round out over time as you gain more control.
Next up, Frog.  You’ll see this position often in Pilates and technically you learned it with your first Footwork.  Bend your knees into your chest, knees as wide as the shoulders, heels are together, inner thighs hugging the leather straps (your leather and handles will fall between your legs).  Be mindful to keep your tailbone down as you bend your knees in, it might not be very far when you first start, but again, this will improve with time and consistency.  
Deepen your abs, straighten the legs to about 45*, deepen your abs, and bend the knees back in.  Yes, I know when your not using your abs and your legs are taking over.  It’s ok, keep trying to use them first.  Double check that your neck is relaxed, eyes on the ceiling (we love to watch our legs) and arms are still pressing into the Mat. 
I often get the question, “Why am I doing these? They feel so easy!”  Leg Circles and Frog are teaching you pelvic stability and how to use the Powerhouse (abs, glutes, and inner thighs) to move the legs while having the assistance of the straps and springs.  They’re also great for building flexibility in the low back and hamstrings.  As your teacher, I get a great view point on which side is stronger and which muscles likes to dominate over the others.  It’s also a building block for so many other exercises:
Wanting to Improve your Leg Circles and Frog try these:
~Single Leg Circles
~Footwork on Reformer
~Reformer Mat Leg Circles and Frog
~Leg springs on the Cadillac
Leg Circles and Frog Prepare you for:
~Stomach Massage Series on Reformer
~Long Spinal Massage
~Frog on the Wunda Chair (there are many)