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What are Lying Leg Raises
The lying leg raise is a great core exercise that can strengthen your abdominal muscles and develops six-pack abs. Whether you want to improve your aesthetic appearance, balance, or enhance your overall physical activities, your core plays a key role in executing these tasks. This exercise will require you to lie on your back and lift your legs towards the sky whilst keeping them straight to target the abdominal muscles.
What Muscles do Lying Leg Raises Work
Lying leg raises has compound mechanics which means that many muscle groups are simultaneously working to achieve a single movement. The primary muscles worked are the rectus abdominis, obliques, and hip flexors. The secondary muscles worked are the quadriceps, hamstrings, and erector spinae (lower back muscle).
What Level is the Lying Leg Raises
Lying leg raises are for all fitness levels, from beginners to intermediate, and advanced levels. They are easy to perform if you have basic core strength and decent hamstring flexibility. However, if you find them tough, you can regress to an easier variation such as the lying knee raises. Simply, draw your knees in towards your chest rather than keeping your legs straight because this will reduce the load on your core muscles.
How to do Lying Leg Raises
- Lie On Your Back
Begin by lying on your back on the ground with your legs extended and feet are together. Your arms are by your sides with your palms pressed into the floor. Keep your toes pointed at all times. You can use a yoga mat, a carpet, or any soft floor for support and comfort.
Engage your core and glutes to press your lower back flat into the ground. Your lower back should not be arching. But, if it is, you can place your palms underneath your but or a towel underneath your lower back to prevent arching and lower back pains. This is your starting position.
- Press Your Lower Back Flat Into The Ground
Engage your core and glutes to press your lower back flat into the ground to prevent arching. If you are unable to keep your lower back flat or are experiencing pain there, you can prevent this by placing your palms underneath your butt or placing a towel below your lower back.
- Raise Your Legs Up Towards The Sky
Keeping your legs straight and toes pointed, inhale then exhale as you raise your legs all the way up towards the sky until your butt lifts off the floor. Your legs and torso should be at a 90 degrees angle. Make sure to engage your abs to push your lower back into the ground as there should not be any gap between them. This will help you to target the abdominals while protecting your spine.
- Slowly Lower Your Legs Back Down
Inhale and lower them down until your legs are two to three inches off the ground. You should aim to reach as low as you can without touching the ground. Don’t let gravity control you! The most important thing is your breathing technique: exhale when you raise and inhale when you lower. This will enable you to do more reps with less effort.
Leg Lift Workout
The reps and sets range would vary depending on your fitness level. Combining three to four sets of lying leg raises with 10 to 20 reps each is how to build and sculpt your abs. Better yet, if you combine this with cardio and strength training, you’ll see more gains in your midsection than you could ever imagine. See below for a recommended working reps and sets range:
- Beginner’s level: 8-10 reps x 4 sets
- Intermediate level: 10-20 reps x 4 sets
- Advanced level: 20+ reps x 4 sets
What are the Benefits of Lying Leg Raises
Tone Your Abs
Lying leg raises will not only strengthen your core to help you in functional movements but also tone your core, giving you sculpted-looking abs. Though you must also follow a balanced diet as abs are also made in the kitchen! You can learn more about dieting to achieve your dream body by checking out this Calisthenics Diet Planning Guide.
Having abs can look attractive and is a good indicator that you are doing your body a world of good, your clothes will fit better, and it could improve your overall confidence. According to a 2021 study, physical activity is a proven modality for treating the disease of overweight and obesity. Management of his disease is best through dietary action and exercise.
Improve Balance and Stability
This exercise will develop the strength and control of the muscles around your abdomen and trunk. It is important for your core to be able to support you in movements when you need them. Having a strong car makes your everyday tasks easier, especially when lifting and carrying. A weak core can make you vulnerable to utilizing poor posture and body mechanics, which could lead to a higher risk of injury such as falling.
A 2020 study considers core stability to be a decisive factor in the base of the extremities for supporting loads and for protection of the spinal cord and nerve roots. Moreover, inadequate static core stability may undermine the dynamic stability of the extremities, which could lead to increased strain on the soft tissue and the coming of repetitive strain injuries.
Your posture can suffer if you have a weak core, which could cause strain and stress on your body and inevitably suffer from bad posture. Lying leg raises develop the postural muscles (deep muscles in your abdomen, pelvis, and back), they help you to stand straighter and keep your tunk stabilized during movement. It is crucial to have good postural muscles to help sustain a good posture.
Lying Leg Raises Variations
Hanging Leg Raises
The hanging leg raises is intermediate level because it requires your upper body strength to be in a dead hanging position. Find out how to properly do the dead hang by checking out this dead-hanging tutorial.
- Hang from a pull-up bar using a pronated grip at shoulder-width apart, shoulder-width apart. Keep your body straight, feet together and toes pointed. This is your starting position.
- Exhale as you raise your legs up until they are at a 90 degrees angle with your torso, keeping them straight. Feel the abdominal muscles working as you lift up.
- Inhale as you lower your legs down to the starting position, and focus on core engagement to reduce the swing of your body.
- Repeat this movement between 5-20 reps for 4 sets.
Lying Lateral Leg Raise
The lying lateral leg raise is another great exercise that targets your core, but with more emphasis on the obliques. It is a beginners level exercise and is easy to perform, you should loop a resistance band between your legs, or put on ankle weights to increase resistance. To perform the lying lateral leg raise, you will:
- Begin by lying on your side with your hips stacked on top of each other. Your head is resting on your right hand, and your left hand is placed firmly in front of your stomach for support. Your legs are straight. This is your starting position.
- Exhale as you lift your top leg up at a count of 2 as high as you can whilst it remains steady and facing forward. Hold this position for a second. Keep your core engaged throughout this movement.
- Inhale as you slowly lower your leg back down to the starting position at a count of 2.
- Repeat this movement between 5-20 reps for 4 sets. Make sure to practice on both sides in a single set.
Weighted Lying Leg Raises
Weighted lying leg raises are a progression to the lying leg raises as you will be utilizing weights to increase the resistance on your core, therefore, making them work harder. This variation is an intermediate-level exercise and it has the same movement path and targets the same muscle groups as the lying leg raises. To perform weighted lying leg raises, you will:
- Begin by lying on your back with a dumbbell squeezed in between your feet. Your arms are by your sides with your palms pressed into the ground for support and stability. This is your starting position.
- Exhale as your slowly lift your legs up at a count of 2 until they’re at a 90 degrees angle in relation to your torso. Keep your legs straight and your core tight throughout this movement.
- Inhale as your slowly lower your legs down to the starting position at a count of 2. Ensure that your heels remain 2 inches off the ground.
- Repeat this movement between 5-15 reps for 4 sets. You can increase your weight as you get stronger.
Six-Inch Leg Raises
Six-inch leg raises are for those who are at beginner’s level as it doesn’t require any equipment and is relatively easy to do. You can make this exercise harder by shortening the distance between your feet and the floor. This exercise mainly targets the lower abs, abdominals, obliques, hip flexors, quadriceps, and glutes. To perform this, you will:
- Begin by lying on your back with your arms on the side, and palms pressing into the ground. Keep your lower back flat by tightening your core and engaging your glutes. Raise your legs so that your heels are 2 inches off the ground. This is your starting position.
- Exhale as you slowly raise your legs roughly 6 inches off the ground with toes pointed.
- Inhale as you lower your legs back down to the starting position with your core engaged.
- Repeat this movement between 8-20 reps for 4 sets.
Reverse Leg Lifts
Reverse leg lifts, otherwise known as reverse leg raises are great for strengthening the lower back muscles, glutes, and hamstrings. You will need to lie on your stomach on an elevated platform so that your legs can be in a pike position. To perform reverse leg lifts, you will:
- Begin by lying on your tummy on an elevated surface and your legs are hanging straight down towards the floor. Grip your hand firmly on the sides or the front of the platform. Brace your abs to keep your spine stable. This is your starting position.
- Exhale as you lift your legs up (either in straddle form or with feet together) by contracting your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back. Raise them up until they’re approximately parallel to the floor. Raise at a count of 2. The motion should be smooth with little or no momentum. Squeeze at the top position.
- Inhale as you lower your legs down to the starting position at a count of 2.
- Repeat this movement between 8-20 reps for 4 sets.
The Takeaways: Lying Leg Raises Exercise Guide
If you’re after a simple ab exercise to help develop a strong core, consider including lying leg raises should in your core training routine. It’s a versatile exercise that gives you the freedom to do it anywhere you want and if they’re executed with proper form, lying leg raises should work the core, hip flexor muscles, hamstrings, and lower back muscles.
If the traditional method is too hard and you struggle to keep your lower back flat, start by training them with your legs bent (lying knee raises). Also, when the lying leg raises feels too easy, you can make this exercise more challenging by:
- Add a dumbbell or ankle weights during the lifts to increase the load on the core muscles
- Take extra 2-3 seconds to lower down as this will increase the time under tension to your core
- increase reps and sets to your routine.
Thank you for reading these articles, I hope they add value to your health and fitness. Don’t forget to follow and connect with me on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube to stay on top of my content. Big love and I’ll catch you next time.
All Core Exercises
I’m Pat Chadwick, a qualified Level 2 and Level 3 calisthenics coach and athlete from London, England, with six years of experience. I’ve competed in various UK competitions, including the Kalos Stenos Championships, where I achieved third place in the lightweight category. My passion is highlighting the beauty of calisthenics as an authentic and pure form of body expression. I believe that everyone has the potential to become a champion of their body and mind, and that calisthenics opens the door to personal empowerment.