What are Side Leg Raises?
Side leg raises is a core and leg exercise that involves you lying on the floor on your side, and abducting your leg (pushing them) away from the midline. You can also perform this whilst standing up. This exercise is great to develop strength and endurance in the core, thighs, and hip abductors.
Side Leg Raises Muscles Worked
The side leg raise is great for developing strength in the outer thighs and hip abductors, with the primary muscles being targeted being the abdominals and obliques. The secondary muscles targeted are the hip adductors, glutes, and quadriceps. Strengthening these muscles through this exercise can also help avoid injury to the knees, hips, and lower back. You can perform this whilst lying down on your side or standing on your feet using only your body weight, which will reap the same benefits.
What level is the Side Leg Raises?
This exercise is great for beginners as they are simple to do, and is very effective in targeting the midsection and lower body. When this exercise gets too easy, you will need to increase the volume of your sets to feel the burn on the targeted muscles.
You can also superset this with another exercise such as the jumping jacks to increase the time under tension on muscles. I have written a superset article that will guide you on how to utilize this training concept to increase the intensity of your workouts.
How to do Lying Side Leg Raises?
1. Lie On Your Side
Lie down on the floor on your side. Rest your head on your right hand and place your left arm in front of your stomach or on your side for additional support. Your body should be in a straight line with feet stacked on top of each other. Engage your core. This is your starting position.
2. Lift Your Legs
Exhale as you lift your top leg vertically upwards until it reaches 45 degrees or above. Count 2 seconds as you do this. Keep your legs straight and core engaged. Pause for a second at the top position. Ensure your hips are squared and facing forward.
3. Lower Your Leg
Inhale as you return back to the starting position, counting 2 seconds as you do this.
Repeat this movement between 8-20 reps for 4 sets. Practice on both sides in a single set.
Side Leg Raises Workout
Beginners should perform between 10-12 reps for 4 sets, 3 times a week.
The intermediate level should perform between 12-20 reps for 4 sets, 3 times a week.
The advanced level should perform between 20+ reps for 4 sets, 3 times a week.
Side Leg Raises benefits
Build Core Strength
The side leg raises develop strength in your hips, glutes, and abs, which assists you in building a solid core that can improve functional strength and stability. This is a great exercise that simultaneously works on your core and glutes. Do this consistently and you will obtain the physical benefits of getting sculpted abs.
In fact, a 2022 study suggests that core training has a positive effect on everyday activities such as low load and slow movements, and sporting activities such as high load, resisted, and dynamic movements. The results of this study declare that core training should be used to increase endurance strength, as well as abdominal and core muscular strength
Improve Range of Motion
When performed with proper form, side leg raises will develop flexibility through a range of motion which helps to prevent injuries in the lower body such as the hips and knees. This is due to the hip abductor muscles being accountable for driving your leg away from the midline. The Men’s Health empathized that lower body training will strengthen your hamstrings, develop muscle around weak joints and help promote stability and mobility.
Tone Your Legs
Side leg raises can help you increase lean muscle mass which will give you a toned lower body. A combination of mechanical tension and metabolic stress will stimulate the release of testosterone, which is a hormone that builds and grow your muscles.
Improve Muscular Endurance
Side leg raises will develop your muscular endurance as you will be performing many repetitions for a period of time. The more reps you perform, the more time under tension on your muscles. This will improve the aerobic capacity of your leg muscles, therefore, enhancing the ability to perform daily functional activities such as walking or running.
Variations of Side Leg Raises
Standing Side Raises
The standing side leg raise is a great exercise for developing strength in your hips, glutes, quadriceps, abdominals, and obliques. It is simple to do and all you will need is a sturdy object in front of you, or on your sides such as a rail or a chair for support and balance. To perform this, you will:
- Stand tall in front or adjacent to the sturdy object, with your hands holding onto it as a support. Engage your core to keep your body straight, and your toes are pointing forward. This is your starting position.
- Exhale as you raise your legs off the floor to your side until it’s at a 45 degrees angle or further. Keep your core engaged, hips squared, and leg straight. Count 2 seconds as you raise and, hold at the top position for a second.
- Inhale as your return your leg back to the starting position.
- Repeat between 8-20 reps for 4 sets on each leg. Practice on both legs in a single set.
The curtsey lunge is a beneficial, functional, and compound exercise that targets the glutes, quadriceps, hip abductors, and core. This exercise will fire your core away as they act as a stabilizer for your body.
The lunge is a compound movement that targets both your core and lower body muscles, check out this lunges tutorial to learn six different variations and create a new stimulus, which will help you to progress over time. To perform this, you will:
- Stand tall with feet hip-width apart and arms down by your sides.
- Inhale as you draw an anti-clockwise semi-circle with your left foot back and around your right foot. Lower into a lunge until your right thigh is parallel to the floor. Bring your arms in front to help with balance. Engage your core to keep your torso straight.
- Exhale as you return back to the starting position, and repeat this movement on the opposite side.
- Repeat this movement between 8-20 reps for 4 sets.
Side leg kicks
This variation automatically recruits your core muscles to execute the movement, which is called reactive core training. Instead of raising your leg up, you will kick your leg forward in front of your to until it’s at a 90 degrees angle in relation to the torso. To perform this, you will:
- Lie on your right side with your head resting on your right hand. You can place your left hand on your side or in front of your stomach for support. Keep your body straight, and your feet stacked on top of each other. This is your starting position.
- Lift your top leg up at hip height and sweep the left leg in front until it forms a 90 degrees angle with your torso. Keep your leg straight and core engaged throughout this movement.
- Inhale as you return back to the starting position.
- Repeat this movement between 8-20 reps for 4 sets.
Side Leg Circles
Single leg circles target your core, hip abductors, and hip adductors. From a side-lying position, you will draw circles with your top leg either clockwise, anti-clockwise, or both! To perform this, you will:
- Lie on your right side with your head resting on your right hand. Your left hand is either on your side or placed in front of your stomach for support. Keep your body straight with legs stacked and toes pointed. This is your starting position.
- Lift your top leg up and draw circles with this leg. Count 2-3 seconds to complete a single circle.
- Repeat on the opposite side, and perform this movement between 8-18 reps for 4 sets.
The Takeaways: Side Leg Raises
Side leg raises are great for working your upper legs and core, and there are many variations to create a new stimulus to keep on building functional strength. Doing this exercise will help to develop balance and hinder your hip joints from encountering strains or other injuries.
Having strong hamstrings, quadriceps, and hip abductors will guard your knees as well as hips, therefore, combining side leg raises with other lower-body and core exercises will prepare you for daily activities like walking and running. Whether you have time for the gym or not, if you want to get a quick workout in, side leg raises are great as you can do them anywhere and anytime with little space needed.
Use the tips and tricks in this tutorial to develop the strength and endurance of your body for a mountain of strength and health benefits. If you enjoy reading this article, I recommend you to check out this mountain climber guide as this exercise is similar to the side leg raises.
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.