What Leg Lifts Really Do For Your Body

Picturing leg lifts likely calls to mind the old workout videos from the early nineties for many people. Or maybe it conjures an image of a gym teacher barking orders at you during a warmup drill. But have you done leg lifts recently, or considered adding them to your workout routine? These sneaky little movements work much more than your legs: different variations can double as ab workouts, or serve to improve hip mobility.

Side leg lifts provide a focus on glute, hip, and thigh muscles, while a leg lift done lying on your back will focus more on your core. But the best part about leg raises is that they're easy to do in the comfort of your own home, while lying on the floor and watching a show on TV (via Livestrong). They're a great addition to doing a few repetitions of planks, maybe adding a few burpees or pushups for some added work. And if you're a runner, side leg raises might help keep your muscles happier and in better balance for the work you do out on the roads and trails.

How do you do a leg lift?

A double leg lift done from lying flat on the ground and lifting your legs in the air, then bringing them back down in a controlled manner can work the abs much more than it works the legs. For a less strenuous variation, you can opt to lift one leg at a time. Aim for three sets of 10 repetitions (via CoachMag.uk).

A side leg lift, or leg raise, can be done lying on your side. Keep your core engaged as you slowly lift your leg up in the air, then bring it back down in a controlled way — remember, this is an easy exercise to do casually, but you should be focusing on engaging the muscles in your legs and glutes while moving your leg up and down if you want to actually get any of the benefits. You can add a band for more challenge as you progress. Similar to the double leg lift, three sets of 10 repetitions per side is a great starting point (via Healthline).

Whatever you do, avoid arching your lower back during a leg lift. Jen Widerstrom, Shape's consulting fitness director, explains that arching your back allows your ab muscles to stop working and puts more pressure on your hip flexors. So pay attention as you're doing these exercises, even if you're right in the middle of a good part of your favorite TV show!