How to Do The Bent Leg Raise Properly

The bent leg raise is a strength training movement that targets your abdominal muscles and hip flexors.

In this exercise, both the transverse and rectus abdominis are used to stabilize your spine to prevent extension and the pelvic tilt that could occur when the legs are lifted in front.

How to do it:

  • Lie on your back on a flat surface with your palms facing down.
  • Bend your knees and hips at 90 degrees. This is your starting position.
  • Tuck your tummy in to fully engage your core.
  • Without moving your upper body, inhale and extend your knees, drawing them towards your chest. Your feet should be together throughout this exercise.
  • Pause for a few seconds.
  • Exhale then extend your legs outwards and return to the starting position.

This exercise does not require any specialized equipment. However, you can get a yoga mat to use if you do not want to lie on the bare ground.

WHAT MUSCLES DOES THE BENT LEG RAISE WORK?

CORE

The bent leg raise is great for working the abdominis muscles located at the front of your midsection.

These two muscles, rectus and transverse abdominis, stabilize your spine to prevent you from suffering spinal injury during this exercise.

HIP FLEXORS

If you have tight or weak hip flexors, this exercise would be ideal for you.

It stretches, strengthens and activates your hip flexors to improve your hip mobility and flexibility.

BENT LEG RAISE BENEFITS

WORKS YOUR LOWER ABS

There are several core exercises, such as crunches and sit-ups, that promise to work your core and give you rock solid abs, but not all of them will work both your upper and lower abs.

Fortunately for you, the bent leg raise will work them both to give you a full six-pack unlike crunches which will only give you a four-pack.

PREVENTS LOWER BACK PAIN

When your muscles are strong, you are less likely to develop pain in your back.

Additionally, core-centric movements such as the bent leg raise can help relieve your back pain if you have any.

IMPROVES HIP FLEXIBILITY

By stretching and strengthening your hip flexors, this exercise helps you gain better hip mobility so that you are able to move your lower body with ease.

ALTERNATIVES TO BENT LEG RAISE

WEIGHTED STRAIGHT LEG RAISE

This exercise also works the abdominal muscles with the help of a med ball.

How to do it:

  • Lie on your back on the floor with your arms straight above your shoulders, holding a med ball.
  • Straighten your knees and lift your heels off the floor.
  • Keeping your core tight, lift both your legs in the air.
  • Slowly and with control, move your legs without passing 90 degrees of flexion.
  • Pause briefly at the top.
  • Return to your starting position and repeat the motions for as many reps as you desire.

Apart from your core, this exercise also works your thighs and hip flexors.

REVERSE CRUNCH

For this exercise, you only need a yoga mat on which you will lie.

It also works the core and the hip flexors.

How to do it:

  • Lie flat on the floor with your hands behind your head and your legs extended. Your heels should be about 3-5 inches off the floor.
  • Tighten your core and curl your hips toward your trunk.
  • Bend your knees and lift your shoulder blades slightly off the floor.
  • Stay in this position for a few seconds.
  • Uncurl your hips.
  • Keeping your abs tight, push your hips in front and straighten your knees as you lower your shoulder blades back to the floor.
  • Pause again briefly then repeat these steps for the desired number of reps.

Doing a reverse crunch will work your hip flexors more than your core muscles.

To get the most out of it, move slowly and in controlled motions as you focus on using your core to pull your hips in toward your chest.

BENT LEG RAISE MISTAKES TO AVOID

SWINGING YOUR LEGS

The bent leg raise will be more effective if you perform it slowly and with control.

Swinging your legs back and forth will create momentum instead of working the target muscles, which will make this exercise less effective.

FLEXING YOUR NECK

Lifting your neck off the ground as you are doing this exercise is a no-no.

It could cause unnecessary strain on the muscles on your neck and make it sore.

You should instead make sure your head stays on the ground throughout this movement to place more emphasis on your hip flexors and abs instead of your neck.

MOVING TOO QUICKLY

If you are yanking your legs up and down real quick so you can finish the exercise fast, you are doing it wrong.

Moving too quickly forces you to use momentum rather than your target muscles to complete the rep. This would mean your abs are not in any way involved.

Additionally, it is not easy to maintain the correct form if you are moving too fast.

You should perform this exercise in a slow tempo so that you get as much muscle activation as possible.

ARCHING YOUR BACK

This is one of the most common mistakes exercisers make while doing the bent leg raise.

When you arch your back and lift it off the ground, you shift your focus from your core to your hip flexors.

This arching also strains your bones, joints and ligaments which can contribute to injury or pain over time.

You should instead press your back into the floor to fully activate and engage your abdominal muscles.

 

CONCLUSION

Like most leg raises, the bent leg raise might be a bit challenging to beginners or people with weak abs since they require a lot of core control to perform.

If you are a beginner or you have under-developed abs, it may take you several months for you to start seeing the results.

However, this does not mean it is not ideal for you; you will certainly see results if you stay consistent and maintain the correct form for this exercise.

Additionally, if you have arthritis or bad hips, be sure to consult your doctor before doing the bent leg raise. This is because it involves a lot of movement around the hip joint.

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