How to Do a Leg Raise

Leg raises are an excellent addition for anyone looking to round out an abdominal-specific routine. This exercise targets the lower abdominals, which are notoriously difficult to work but very important to overall core fitness. Leg raises require no additional equipment to perform and can be modified to suit any fitness level.

As well as targeting the lower abdominals, leg raises also work to improve the strength and flexibility of the hips and lower back. This can help to combat the long hours most people spend sitting at work and at home.

How To

  • To perform a standard leg raise, lay on the floor with your arms straight down at your sides. Hands should be placed palms down on the floor. Alternatively, you can also place your hands under your lower back and glutes.
  • Engage your core and point your toes while keeping your legs glued together and straight. Exhale as you lift your legs up until your feet are pointed at the ceiling or until you can’t keep your legs straight anymore.
  • To complete the movement, inhale as you slowly lower your legs back down until they are hovering just above the floor. Your feet will not touch the floor before beginning the next repetition. Make sure to keep your lower back pressed into the floor through the entire movement.


Aim for three sets of 15–20 repetitions, but keep in mind that this exercise is can be quite deceptive. The first rep may feel like nothing, while the 10th feels nearly impossible. It may take some time to work up to three sets, so don’t be discouraged. 


Single leg raises: If you need to decrease the difficulty of this exercise, you can do so by keep one leg on the ground. This will give you more stability and allow you to focus on perfecting the movement.  

Bent legs: Another way to make the exercise a little easier as you build up strength is to bend your knees at the start of the movement. Plant your feet on the floor with a slight bend in your knees, and while keeping your legs together pull your knees back toward your chest. Once your thighs are perpendicular to your body, straighten your legs. Keep them straight when lowering, and then bend the knees to place your feet back on the floor.

Added weight: If you are ready to amp up the difficulty, try adding extra weight to your legs. This can be accomplished by holding a dumbbell between your feet. You don’t have to add much weight at all to increase the difficulty.

Cautionary Notes

Make sure to keep your lower back pressed into the floor during the exercise. Arching your back can unnecessarily strain your lower back muscles. If you have a hard time keeping your lower back down, really concentrate on contracting the ab muscles. Alternatively, try single-leg raises or bent-leg raises.

Make sure to breathe. Exhale while lifting the legs and inhale as you lower. Remember, muscles need oxygen to perform at their best.

Be mindful not to tense the neck while completing the exercise. Tensing the neck and lifting the head is a common mistake that can easily lead to muscle strain.

Don’t use momentum to complete the maneuver. You lose any benefit to the abs and put yourself in a position to get injured.

More Abdomen and Obliques Exercises

Leg raise
Russian twist

More Leg Raise Related Resources

Straight Leg Raise | Illustrated Exercise Guide
How to Do Leg Raises – Well Activity – The New York Times
How To Do The Lying Leg Raise Abs Exercise
Leg Raises: Build Strong Abs And Core Muscles | Coach
Lying Single-Leg Raises Exercise Demonstration | SparkPeople
How to Do a Straight Leg Raise in Physical Therapy

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