January 13, 2022 9 min read
If you are searching for a bodyweight exercise to add to your ab workout routine, leg lifts should be a top choice. Although they might look basic, they are great for tightening the abs.
Leg lifts, also called leg raises, are fundamental low impact exercises. To get the most out of your leg lifts, here are some form tips and tricks to help you along the way.
Leg lifts are one of those basic staple ab exercises that work wonders on the upper body. It enhances core strength, improves hip mobility, enhances your flexibility, and increases your range of motion. For an exercise so low in impact, it provides significant advantages that many exercises would get you sweating for.
At first look, leg lifts might look too simple to achieve any muscle contraction. Admittedly, raising and lowering your legs repeatedly does not look so promising; however, you are looking at it all wrong. If your abs are not fired up during leg lifts, you do it wrongly.
Leg lifts are somewhat of a reverse crunch strength-training exercise.
Leg lifts are designed to target the upper and lower abdominal wall muscles. It activates and strengthens them, improving core strength as you go. While your abs get most of the movement, your hip flexors, hams, and back muscles are not left out. Essentially, leg lifts fire up a range of significant muscle groups across your body. Although the basic leg lift exercise is done by unilaterally lifting your legs up and down, other variations involve moving your legs across other planes.
The muscles activated in each variation might vary with a slim difference, but your abs and core muscles remain the primarily engaged muscles.
Study shows that leg lifts activate abdominal muscles better when compared to other exercises. Besides their fantastic ability to target the ab muscles, what makes leg lifts stand out is their impact on the stabiliser muscles. Leg lifts are a great starting ground for other high-intensity, weighted exercises.
Like crunches and planks, Leg lifts focus on the stimulation and contraction of the abdominal wall. It covers a lot of ground in core tightening, providing a slim waistline.
Unlike these other exercises, however, leg lifts not only work the upper abdominal muscles but also target the lower abdominal muscles like the transverse abdominis, pyramidal, and rectus abdominis.
Leg lifts help to achieve a toned six-pack.
It activates the rectus abdominis muscle, a band of visible abdominal muscles popularly known as the six-pack muscle.
Mass gains and strengthening of this muscle is not only aesthetically pleasing but also an improvement for weighted exercises in the gym. The leg lifts primarily target the core muscles. Core strength is a functional need evident in daily activities like standing, running, walking, and climbing the stairs. Core strength is also necessary for the gym for lifting heavily and even using treadmills. Core strength is enhanced by general engagement in exercises and even more specifically in exercises that engage the multifidus, obliques, erector spinae, diaphragm, and pelvic floor muscles, all of which are leg lifts involved.
Several exercises target the obliques, but leg lifts activate both the internal and external obliques. Since the obliques help pull the chest downwards and compress the abdominal cavity, it performs the critical task of keeping your torso stable. Obliques also help in the rotation of the torso, improving functional flexibility and mobility.
The hip flexors and the muscles of the inner thighs help the movement during the leg lifts.
Hip lifts increase the hip flexor’s range of motion, enhancing its flexibility and increasing its mobility. Other than the contraction of your abdominal muscles, the leg lifts focus on rotating your legs as far as they will go. This hip movement also engages the adductors of the inner thighs that aid flexion.
Although leg lifts are basic and easy to execute, you can execute them wrongly. Leg lift goes past simply lifting your legs. It involves the engagement of the core and a discipline that goes into holding proper form. Your ability to properly perform leg lifts hinges on your ability to hold proper form. Your form is not only crucial for the engagement of the correct muscle groups but also helps in keeping your muscles safe from stress and injuries.
To do leg lifts properly:
The key to perfectly performing the leg lift is to keep your lower back on the floor and to engage your core throughout the movement. If you are new to this routine, you will feel the burn of the workout in your abdominal wall.
If this intensity is too much on your back muscles, place your palms face down underneath your back. To crank your leg lift up a notch, do not lower your legs all the way. Stop once your leg hovers an inch off the floor before starting another rep. This will increase the intensity of the isolation of the ab muscles, resulting in better results.
Other than being an easy way to build your six-pack muscles, build a stronger back, and get a toned waistline, leg lifts are great for a lot of reasons. It is a functional movement and helps to strengthen other major muscle groups.
Leg lifts are used for many things, including the clinical evaluation of sciatica. They can be performed for various reasons regardless of your fitness level.
There are tons of leg lift variations and modifications to rev up or decrease the intensity of the basic leg lift. Each leg lift primarily engages the core but differs in the degree to which they engage supporting muscles. The best leg lift for you depends on your athleticism and fitness goals.
Some of the best leg lift variations include:
The side leg lift changes the plane of movement. Instead of moving your legs from top to bottom, you push your legs out laterally. Not only does this variation engage the ab muscles, but it also activates the muscles of the inner thighs, outer thighs, hips, and glutes.
The side leg lifts help to target the gluteus medius, the strongest and most overlooked backside muscle that helps in the stabilisation of the pelvis. It increases the range of motion in tight hip flexors, enhances your flexibility, activates minor muscles crucial to the movement, and improves muscle tolerance.
To do the side leg lifts:
Side leg raises can also be done standing by gripping sturdy support for balance.
Bent knee lifts are a beginner-friendly leg lift variation. They are low-intensity as you keep your legs bent throughout the sets.
To do this variation:
To crank up the intensity, hover your feet a few centimetres off the floor after every rep.
Weights increase the resistance of your leg lifts, increasing the activation of each muscle group. It works the lower and upper abdominal muscles, hamstrings, quads, hip flexors, calves, and back muscles.
To do the weighted leg lifts:
The dip bar or dip station leg lifts provide all the advantages of a basic leg lift with the added benefit of arm and grip strength. You perform the dip bar leg lift while suspended from a dip bar machine, using your body weight and gravity as a means of resistance. It is an advanced leg lift variation that focuses on the isolation and contraction of your abdominal muscles. The dip bar leg lift is easy to learn but requires an immense degree of arm strength and stability. Breathing technique is essential as breathing can be compromised during the leg raises.
To do this variation:
Dip bar leg lifts can be done as straight leg lifts, bent knee lifts, or bent knees to straight legs lift. This leg lift variation is an excellent exercise for shedding extra body fat.
There are other variations like the hanging leg raises, scissors leg lifts, and unilateral raises that engage various muscles. Leg lifts can be modified to suit your fitness needs and goals without compromising the activation of your core muscles.
To hold proper form:
Leg lifts are a simple, fun exercise that can be easily integrated into your ab day workout routines. There are various leg lift modifications for you to explore but regardless of your choice, ensure that you execute them in perfect form. This would enable you exploit the advantage of this workout. To help you on your quest for shredded abs and impressive core strength, here are some simple and rewarding core exercises for you.