Ab workouts: how to do lying leg raises for a full core burner

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If you’ve been making your way through bodyweight exercises during your home workouts, you’ve probably spent a lot of time focused on abdominal training. When we’ve got no equipment and not much time, core exercises are some of the best – think planks, crunches and bird dogs.

Another great move to add into your repertoire of moves is the lying leg raise. Don’t be fooled by the name; you might be flat on the floor, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy on your abdominals. Specifically, it’s your lower ab muscles that will be taking a lot of the load, says Emma Obayuvana, fitness trainer from the Strong Women Collective

“Leg raises will work all of your abdominal muscles, but if you do them right and your form is in check, they will work the lower section of your core,” she says.  

How to do a lying leg raise?

  1. Lie on your back with your legs pointing up towards the ceiling. The toes can be pointed or flexed. 
  2. Tuck your tailbone under so your back is flat against the mat. 
  3. Keeping your legs straight, begin to lower them down towards the ground, all the while keeping your back flat and not arching through the spine. 
  4. When you have gone as low as you can while maintaining form, squeeze your core to bring your legs back to the starting position. 

You can work on any rep range that suits you for this exercise, whether that’s 5, 10 or 20. Alternatively, you can just keep going until failure (ie you can’t do anymore), or for a block of time such as 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off. 

Are lying leg raises effective?

The effectiveness of leg raises all comes down to execution. “Don’t be competitive and try to get your feet all the way to the floor, as you’ll start to arch your lower back. Instead, focus on having your back glued to the floor the entire time to ensure that you get 100% of the effort into your core,” says Emma. 

“You also need to make sure that you don’t grip onto your mat and end up recruiting your arms, rather than your abs, to lift the legs. Make sure that your arms are relaxed, your palms are down, and all of the work is coming from your abdominals.” 

Add an extra challenge by keeping your legs straight, rather than bending in your knees. “That adds secondary work through your legs as you’ll be engaging the muscles in your thighs by keeping them straight,” Emma says. 

While this is a tough exercise, don’t be put off if you’re a beginner. “Most people can do this exercise. You can start by lowering your legs just a little, but as you grow stronger in your core you will notice that you’re able to lower your legs further, you’ll be using less momentum, and you can go slower through the movement to really challenge yourself,” Emma says. 

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Images: Getty

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Chloe Gray

Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).