What are Leg Raises? 

The leg raises are an effective strength training exercise that builds a rock solid core and sculpting six-pack abs. There are seven variations that will be covered in this article which will range from beginners, intermediate, advanced level. But, the main one we will be focusing on is the lying leg raises. You don’t need any equipment to do this other than a comfortable floor to lie down on.

What muscles do Leg Raises work?

This exercise targets muscle groups throughout your body which includes the rectus abdonominis especially the lower abs. It also targets the hip flexors as the abdominal muscles are used isometrically to support the body during the motion, and it targets the obliques and the quadriceps. 

What level is the Leg Raises?

There are a variety of leg raises that you can do, depending on your physical condition and the level of intensity that you’re seeking for a workout. The lying leg raises are for those who is at the beginner’s level, but for those who cannot perform this variation, a regression exercise for this would be the lying knee raises. Individuals that are more advanced with core exercises, do not worry, this article will cover other variations that will benefit you also. Different variations that will be mentioned in this article includes:

  • The Hanging Leg Raises (Intermediate Level)
  • The Side Leg Raises (Beginner's Level)
  • The Weighted Leg Raises (Intermediate Level)
  • The Six-Inch Leg Raises (Beginner's Level)
  • The Toe Touches (Advanced Level)
  • The Windshield Wipers (Advanced Level)

How to do Lying Leg Raises? 

  1. Lie With Your Back Flat

You will begin this exercise by lying flat onto the ground with your legs stretched in front of you. Keep your feet together and position your palms by your side to stabilise your body. Keep your toes pointed at all times. You can use a yoga, exercise mat or a carpet for support and comfort.

  1. 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. 

  1. 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. 

  1. 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.

What Are The Benefits Of Leg Raises?

Sculpted Abs

The leg raises will help you to build a sculpted abs as it targets the rectus abdominis (abdominal muscles) and the obliques. Exercising your core muscles will strengthen them. This should be complemented with a good diet for maximum gains. 

Strengthens Your Hip Flexors

This will help to stabilise the pelvis and spine which allows you to move and exercise more without risk of injuring your lower back. Training your abs will have a positive spillover on other physical activities as the hip flexors are powerful muscles used in explosive motions such as running and jumping.

Has Many Variations

There are seven variations mentioned in this article: lying leg raises, hanging leg raises, side leg raises, weighted leg raises, six-inch leg raises, toe touches and windshield wipers. They are different in level which you can implement to your routine based on your current strength and fitness goals. You can create a new stimulus, which creates more progress over time. 

Fat Burning 

You can get an aesthetic six-pack abs from training your abdominals and burning fat. The leg raises can be used as one of the exercises in your High Intensity Interval Training (HITT). The more intense the exercise, for example, higher reps with lower rest times, the more effective your abs workout will be. 

What are the variations to Leg raises?

Hanging Leg Raises

This exercise is intermediate level because it requires your upper body strength to hang off of a bar. The muscles targeted are the abdominal muscles, obliques, hip flexors, quadriceps. As well as secondary muscles such as the forearms and lats. To perform the hanging leg raises, you will need a pull up bar above you that you jump onto and gripping tightly shoulders width apart. Keep your body straight, feet together and toes pointed. 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. Lastly, you’d lower your legs down to the starting position, and focus on core engagement to reduce the swing of your body.

Side Leg Raises

This variation is also a beginners level exercise as it is very simple to perform. It targets many muscles such as abdominals, obliques, glutes, and inner thighs. To perform this you would lie down on your side with your hips and feet stacked on top of each other. Your legs are straight and your head is resting on your right hand. Keeping your core engaged, lift your top leg up slowly until you feel your hips being tilted upwards. Keep the hips steady and facing forward and do not rotate forward or backward.  Pause at the top briefly, then lower your leg down to the starting position. Complete the number of repetitions set,  followed by switching sides, performing an equal amount of reps on both sides.

Weighted Leg Raises

This variation is a progression to the lying leg raises. There is more resistance on your core due additional weight carried between your feet. It is an intermediate level exercise that targets the abdominals, obliques, hip flexors, quadriceps and the glutes. The movement of this exercise is similar to that of the lying leg raises. To perform this, you will place a dumbbell between your feet and squeeze them tight to keep them in a secured place. Lie flat onto the ground with your hands by your side pressing down onto the floor, and keeping your feet together. Raise your legs up towards the sky with your toes pointed until they are at a 90 degrees angle with your torso. Slowly lower them down, leaving 2-3 inches gap between your heels and the floor. Perform this movement for a desired number of repetitions.

Six-Inch Leg Raises

Six-inch Leg raises are for those who are at beginners level as it doesn’t require any equipment and is relatively easy to do. Note that 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 the glutes. To perform this you will lie with your back onto the floor 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 roughly 6 inches off the ground with toes pointed. Lower your legs back down to the starting position with your core engaged. Repeat this movement for a desired number of repetitions.

Windshield Wipers

Windshield Wipers is an advanced level core exercise, which combines oblique twist with hanging toe touch. If you are at a beginner to intermediate level, you can practice the floor windshield wipers. The muscles targeted in this variation are the obliques, rectus abdominis, lats, hip flexors, glutes, quadriceps, and forearms. To perform Windshield Wipers, you will hang on the bar shoulders-width apart. Squeeze your abs and bring your toes up towards the bar in a pike position. Try to keep your legs straight and toes pointed. Rotate your legs 90 degrees to the right, then 180 degrees to the left. Repeat this side-to-side movement, holding your legs together like they’re one windshield wiper. 

About the Author

My name is Pat Chadwick, I am a calisthenics coach with over 4 years of experience in helping people from all backgrounds to achieve their calisthenics goals. My goal is to become the number one calisthenics coach in the world as it is my passion to help people change their lives through inspiring bodyweight movements. I believe everyone deserves the right to feel good about their health, body, and be delighted inside and out.