equipment is needed to perform one of the most effective all-purpose exercises for strong abs.
Leg raises are a simple bodyweight exercise that works your core from your hips to your midsection. Although widely regarded as an effective way to produce six-pack abs, leg raises also target the hip flexors, glutes, and pelvic floor. When done right, the core does all the work, and the legs are there for the ride. Here's how to incorporate this crucial movement into your lower body workout.
Benefits of leg raises
Leg raises target the upper and lower abs and improve core strength. Unlike many moves, this exercise requires no equipment other than a yoga mat or a soft surface to lie on — so there's no excuse not to do it at home or while traveling. Because leg raises involve the hip flexors, rear hamstrings, and glutes, they're a tremendous bang for your buck, bringing three areas back into balance after all those hours of floating over desks and steering wheels. Leg raises even strengthen the pelvic floor, which is important for men looking to maximize erections, prevent urinary problems and even premature ejaculation.
What Muscles Do Leg Raises Work?
All movements begin at the transverse abdominal muscle, which originates from the lower spine and wraps around and attaches to the ribs, abdominal muscles, and pelvis. The "TA" is the first muscle to fire during the movement. At the very least, leg raises should be effective—otherwise you're just kicking with your legs.
Few movements work the lower and upper abs as much as this simple exercise that needs the glutes to fire and the hip flexors to move properly. Don't just dismiss leg raises as ab exercises. They are an effective way to build core muscles, counteract long hours of sitting and prevent injuries.
How to do leg raises
- Lie flat on your back on a yoga or exercise mat and stretch your legs. Your arms should be at the sides of your body and your hands should be lightly pressed to the floor. You can also hold onto a solid object behind you, such as a a bank.
- Activate your transverse abs by pulling your belly button inward as if you're pressing your lower back into the floor. Exhale and slowly raise your legs.
- Raise your legs until they are 90 degrees off the floor and your lower back begins to lift off the floor. Pause at this point and exhale fully.
- As you slowly lower your legs, inhale and keep your lower back in contact with the floor.
- At the end of the movement, let your feet float off the floor. The key is to keep your lower back grounded and engage your core.
How to add a leg raise to a workout
Leg raises fit into any workout, whether at home or on the go, with or without equipment. If you stretch in the morning or before bed, leg raises will help bring your body back into position. If you have a regular ab routine, leg raises can be used anywhere in the workout.
Some prefer them to come at the end, not because they're the most challenging move (although they're not easy), but because they help reset your posture. They also fit into traditional strength training sessions. Drop the exercise and do a few leg raises when you have a minute or two before sets, especially on leg days.
Leg Raise Variations
If you lack core strength, try bending your legs to a 45-degree angle instead of the full 90 degrees — or start with a set of 10 (or even 5) instead of doing three sets of 10 reps first . It's better to master proper breathing and five proper reps than to establish bad habits.
To make leg raises more difficult, raise your legs one at a time. Even harder, bring your pelvis off the floor or your legs to the side to work the obliques and improve hip rotation. Be sure to move from the hips and core.