What are Lying Leg Raises

The lying leg raise is a great core exercise that can strengthen your abdominal muscles and develop the appearance of sculpted abs. Whether you want to improve your aesthetics appearance,  improve your 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.

According to research, your core muscles protect the spine from excessive force, as well as play a vital role in body stabilization and force generation during sporting activities.  A recent study has conducted  8-week core training on core endurance and running economy in college athletes. Results have found an improvement in static balance, core endurance, and running economy in these athletes.

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, 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.

How to do Lying Leg Raises

  1. 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.

2. Slowly Raise Your Legs

Exhale as you slowly raise your legs towards the sky until they are at a 90 degrees angle in relation to your torso, and your butt lifts off the floor. Keep your core tight throughout this movement. 

3. Slowly Lower Your Legs Down

Inhale as you slowly lower your legs down until they are 2 inches off the ground. Your heels should not touch the ground. Control the gravity and not let it control you! Remember to breathe: exhale as you raise, and inhale as you lower. This will help you to perform more reps.

4. Repeat

Repeat this movement between 5-20 reps for 4 sets, 3 times a week (see the recommended reps and sets ranges below).

What are the Benefits of Lying Leg Raises

Tone Your Abs

Lying leg raises will not only strengthen your core to helo you in functional movements but also tone your core, giving you sculpted-looking abs, in condition to having a good diet. 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 research, excess abdominal fat is associated with a higher risk of cardiometabolic disease.  

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, in 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.

Improve Posture

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

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 this exercise, you will:

  1. Hang from a pull-up bar using a pronated grip at shoulder-width apart, shoulders-width apart. Keep your body straight, feet together and toes pointed. This is your starting position.
  2. 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.
  3. Inhale as you lower your legs down to the starting position, focus on core engagement to reduce the swing of your body.
  4. Repeat this movement between 5-18 reps for 4 sets.

Side Leg Raises

Side lying leg raises 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 this, you will:

  1. 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.
  2. 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. 
  3. Inhale as you slowly lower your leg back down to the starting position at a count of 2. 
  4. 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

This is 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 this, you will:

  1. 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. 
  2. 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. 
  3. 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. 
  4. Repeat this movement between 5-14 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 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 glutes. To perform this, you will:

  1. 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.
  2. Exhale as you slowly raise your legs roughly 6 inches off the ground with toes pointed. 
  3. Inhale as you lower your legs back down to the starting position with your core engaged.
  4. 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 at a pike position. To perform this, you will:

  1. 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
  2. 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. 
  3. Inhale as you lower your legs down to the starting position at a count of 2.
  4. Repeat this movement between 8-20 reps for 4 sets.

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.