Leg raises are a simple bodyweight exercise that work your core from the hips through the midsection. Though generally viewed as an effective way to produce six-pack abs, leg raises also target the hip flexors, glutes, and pelvic floor. When done correctly, the core does all the work, and the legs are along for the ride. Here’s how to build this pivotal move into your lower-body workout.
Leg Raise Benefits
Targeting the upper and lower abdominal muscles, leg raises improve core strength. Unlike many movements, this exercise requires no equipment other than a yoga mat or a soft surface to lie upon—so there’s no excuse not to do it at home or while traveling. Since leg raises involve hip flexors, hamstrings, and glutes, they’re a tremendous bang for your buck, working three areas back into alignment after all those hours hovering over desks and steering wheels. Leg raises even strengthen the pelvic floor, which is essential for guys looking to maximize erections, prevent urinary issues, and even prevent premature ejaculation.
What Muscles Do Leg Raises Work?
All movement starts from the transverse abdominis, which originates from the lower spine and wraps around and attaches to the ribs, abs, and pelvis. The “TA” is the first muscle that fires during the movement. At least it should be for leg raises to be effective—otherwise, you’re just flailing the legs.
Few movements work the lower and upper abs as much as this simple exercise that requires the glutes to fire and the hip flexors to move correctly. Don’t dismiss leg raises as just ab work. They’re an effective way to build core strength, counteract hours spent sitting, and prevent injuries.
How to Do Leg Raises
- Lie flat on your back on a yoga or exercise mat and extend your legs. Your arms should be along the sides of your body and your hands pressed lightly into the floor. You can also hold onto a fixed object behind you, like a bench.
- Activate your transverse abdominis by pulling your belly button in as if pushing the lower back into the ground. Exhale and slowly lift legs.
- Raise your legs until they’re at 90 degrees from the floor and your lower back begins to come off the ground. At this point, stop, and complete your exhalation.
- As you slowly lower your legs, inhale and maintain contact between your low back and floor.
- At the end of the movement, keep your feet hovering off the floor. The key is to keep your low back on the ground and your core engaged.
How to Add a Leg Raise Into a Workout
Leg raises fit into any workout, home or away, with or without equipment. If you have a stretching routine in the morning or before bed, leg raises help to bring the body back into alignment. If you have a regular abs program, leg raises can go anywhere in the workout.
Some prefer them to come at the end, not because they’re the most challenging move (though they’re not easy), but because they help reset your posture. They also fit into traditional strength workouts. Drop and do some leg raises if you have a minute or two before sets of anything, especially on leg days.
Leg Raise Variations
If you lack core strength, try bringing your legs to a 45-degree angle rather than the full 90 degrees—or start with one set of 10 (or even 5) rather than doing three sets of 10 reps at first. Better to master proper breathing and five correct reps than establish bad habits.
To make leg raises harder, lift your legs one at a time. Harder still: Bring your pelvis off the ground or your legs up to the side to work the obliques and improve hip rotation. Be sure to move from the hips and core.
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