Strength training: how to do leg raises correctly, according to a fitness trainer

Strength training: how to do leg raises correctly, according to a fitness trainer

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Leg raises are an ideal exercise for those of us who spend our days sitting, and they’re simple to do, too.  Here’s how to add them to your strength training routine for maximum impact. 

Now that gyms have re-opened, you might be in the market for some new strength training exercises that will engage and challenge you after so long sedentary. So what better than a dynamic movement that targets both the lower body and core?

Introducing: leg raises, a fantastic exercise that can easily be worked into an existing training regime or done as a standalone exercise, at home or in the gym. 

And, according to Kerry Dixon, personal trainer and co-founder of fitness brand The Athlete Method, leg raises are particularly beneficial “for anyone who spends a lot of time sitting at a desk,” making them a perfect exercise in the age of working from home

This has to do with the muscles leg raises work, explains Kerry. “They strengthen your rectus abdominals,” perhaps better known to you and me simply as your abs, as well as “your internal and external obliques (or side abs) and your quads.”

Leg raises “target your hip flexors,” too, which help to stabilise your hip joints and support key lower body movements, from everyday activities such as walking to more intensive strength training exercises.

They are “an Athlete Method favourite” for good reason then, “because as well as working your lower abs, leg raises also improve the strength and flexibility of your hips and lower back.”

However, leg raises are most beneficial when you perform them slowly. Swinging your legs back and forth creates momentum rather than working the focus muscle groups, so don’t rush.

How to do leg raises

How to do leg raises in three simple steps
How to do leg raises in three simple steps, and the benefits they'll add to your strength training.

So, without further ado, here’s how to nail leg raises in three simple steps and start reaping the many benefits they have to offer, according to Kerry. 

  1. “Start by lying down flat on your mat with your arms by your sides and legs stretched out next to each other. Then, raise your legs.”
  2. “Even if you can’t hold them perfectly rigid, keep your legs as straight as possible, and lift them until they are pointing at the ceiling, or as near as you can get.”
  3. “Make sure your toes are pointed and then lower your legs back down to the ground.”

Points to remember

While leg raises are simple enough to do, there are some important points you need to remember as you work through the movements.

Kerry emphasises the importance of keeping your leg raises controlled “and really utilise your lower abdominals to assist your movement,” to work the many muscles involved in the exercise in the right way and avoid injury.

Also, “if you find your back is peeling off the ground, you can place your hands under your back to fill the gap,” says Kerry. “This will allow you to lift and lower without the exercise tugging on your lower back.”

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Images: Getty

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