Muscle group:   The abdominal muscles, the leg muscles

Trained muscle:   All parts of the abdominal muscles, thigh front

Focused muscle:   Rectus abdominis (straight abdominal muscle)

Fitness level:   Advanced, experienced

Type of training:   Own body weight exercises


Straight leg lifts represent an extremely effective exercise for the abdominal muscles. This is due to the large amount of compensation work the ab has to perform to stabilize the pelvis. It is essential to know that straight leg lifts activate the hip flexors a lot what causes the risk of developing a hollow back. People with problems in that area should not work out straight leg lifts.

Straight leg lifts

Straight leg lifts in seated or lying position are smoother and less intense than hanging leg raises. We have different start positions we can choose from. We could either work out on the ground with a gym mat, on a bench, or similar. Here, we either choose a lying (supine) position with our arms beside our body or under our head. Or we take a seated position with our upper body raised from the ground at approximately 30 to 45 degrees. Seated our hands could be supporting behind our back. In lying position the exercise is less intense as in a seated position. Seated we can further intensify the workout by taking our hands from the ground holding them beside the upper body or crossed on our chest.

Before we lift our legs we should already tense our ab muscles to pre-erect and stabilize the pelvis what prevents negative effects. From the chosen position we lift our legs straight up. A quite intense exercise would be to just hold our stretched legs in that position close to the ground. It would get even more intense performing small up and down movements. It is also possible to perform circular movements or draw numbers or letters into the air. Furthermore we could bent and stretch our legs alternatingly or both legs together. Notice, that a workout with a long lever (stretched legs) is more intense than with a short lever (bent legs).

Straight leg lifts and hollow back

Straight leg lifts correct execution

Straight leg lifts correct execution

It is important to abort the exercise if you are no longer able to hold the pelvis erected. Also do never lift your legs quickly or in sudden movements what increases the stress for the back. Perform straight leg lifts in a smooth and controlled execution at any time. Putting the hands under the pelvis supports its erection and helps us to execute the exercise in a clean way. Avoid press breathing (exhalation against closed airways).


Antagonist: Lower back muscles

Stretching: Abdominal stretches

Straight leg lifting

Straight leg lifting

Straight leg lifts variations

Straight leg lifts variations

Straight leg lifts variations

Straight leg lifts variations

Straight leg lifts variations

Straight leg lifts variations

Straight leg lifts on bench

Straight leg lifts on bench

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