There are many different ways to improve your current exercise routine. What about doing side leg raises, what will the effects be?
Side leg raises, also known as lateral leg raises, are an exercise where you move away your leg from the middle of your body. You can do this exercise both lying down and standing up.
Side leg raises are good for growing and strengthening hip abductor muscles like your gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, and tensor fasciae latae. For other fitness goals, there are better exercise options.
Before you give this hip muscle exercise a try, keep in mind that you generally can’t target fat loss in specific body parts. Side leg raises can be helpful for strengthening hip abductor muscles but they are not the best for losing thigh fat. If that is your goal you want to look for exercises that help you burn a lot of calories.
Whether you should add side leg raises or alternatives to your routine depends on things like your personal situation, personal preference, and training goals.
How to do a side leg raise
This article will consider the lying side leg raise as the standard. For this version you preferably want a yoga mat or other soft surface to lie on. To do a side leg raise take the following steps:
- Start lying down on your side with your body in more or less one straight line, adjust for stability.
- Raise one leg upward as far as comfortable or until it is at about a 45-degree angle with the ground. Make sure the movement comes from your thighs, not your hips or the rest of your body.
- Lower this leg back into the position of step 1 in a controlled motion.
- Repeat the same number of repetitions with the other leg.
Keep your movements slow and controlled to make your hip abductors really work hard. Also remember to keep your hips still. Your thigh and the rest of your leg should do the moving.
Side leg raises variations
This article considers lying side leg raises with just your body weight the standard version of the exercise. There are also a few variations that can make the exercise easier or harder.
Some people are not ready yet for full lying side leg raises. To work up to the full version you can consider only raising your leg a small amount. The standing side leg raise is another less challenging option. For this variation, you may need something to hold for balance.
Both of these will help you train similar muscles as lying side leg raises but at a less challenging level.
A different variation is raising both legs together. This also engages the hip adductor muscles in the inner thigh of the bottom leg. One downside is that this can take away some training from your hip abductors.
Another more different variation is combining side leg raises with a side plank. This will offer extra training for core muscles like your obliques.
Bodyweight side leg raises can also become too easy. At this point, you may need to turn to other exercises or make side leg raises harder to keep seeing a lot of muscle growth and strength progress.
Making side leg raises harder at the right points in your training journey can also speed up progress compared to doing the regular bodyweight variation over and over.
You can make this exercise harder by doing weighted side leg raises. The most convenient ways to add resistance to side leg raises are ankle weights and resistance bands.
Muscles worked with side leg raises
Side leg raises mainly target hip abductors like your gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, and tensor fasciae latae. Your quadriceps may have to work to a certain extent to keep your leg straight.
The way you build muscle in places like your hip abductors is by engaging these muscles so that they get damaged enough. This may sound counterintuitive but this damaging makes it so your body repairs these muscles, and adds a bit more to be better prepared to exert similar efforts in the future.
If you stick to exercises with the same weight, as your muscles become stronger this same effort may not damage your muscles enough to promote extra muscle growth.
By adding extra resistance to exercises like a side leg raise you are better able to damage the muscles in a shorter amount of time. If you don’t overdo it, give your body enough nutrients, and give your muscles enough rest this can in turn lead to faster and more core muscle gain.
Depending on your personal situation, workout plan, and training goals, side leg raises may be a good or bad addition.
Side leg raises benefits
Some people question how useful this exercise can be but adding side leg raises to your routine can offer you some helpful benefits. Some of the most important ones include:
- Stronger muscles: Side leg raises are a type of resistance training that can help you strengthen your hip abductor muscles.
- No equipment or location required: Since side leg raises are a bodyweight exercise you don’t have to invest in equipment or be in a specific location. You can even do a standing leg raise in the line at the grocery store.
- Can improve hip flexibility: Most people do not go through the leg motion of side leg raises. By doing this exercise you can regain some of your lost hip flexibilty.
- May reduce or prevent knee pain: Hip abductor strengthening exercises like side leg raises can reduce or prevent knee pain.
- Better body stabilization: Your hip abductor muscles play a role in balancing yourself. By doing side leg raises you can strengthen these muscles.
While inevitably some workouts are better for these benefits than side leg raises, it is amazing that you can get so many important benefits from adding one activity to your routine.
The main thing to keep in mind is that side leg raises can be hard on body parts like your hips, even if you implement the right technique.
If you are weak or sensitive in your hips you may need to do other strengthening exercises first. You may want to talk to your primary care provider before starting a new workout routine.
If you feel pain in any body parts it may be a sign you are overdoing it. In that case, you may need some rest, better lifestyle habits, a less intense workout schedule, or it may be a sign that side leg raises are not (yet) for you.
Side leg raise alternatives
While side leg raises can be a great addition to your workout routine, there are also some alternatives available for training your core muscles. Some of these side leg raise alternatives include:
- Fire hydrants
- Weighted leg abductions
- Squats (bodyweight or weighted)
Which one of these options is the best depends on things like your personal situation, training goals, the equipment you have available, etc.
Many people will benefit from adding side leg raises with the right technique to their routine. You may need to make the regular version more challenging soon to keep seeing a lot of muscle growth and strength progress.
That being said, for goals besides strengthening your hip abductors, there are many better exercise options.
You also need to remember is that side leg raises can be hard on body parts like your hips, even if you implement the right technique.
If you are sensitive or weak in your hips you may need to do other strengthening exercises first. You may want to talk to your primary care provider before starting a new workout routine.
Also keep in mind that consistency is an important factor for any workout plan. The more you love the exercise you do the easier it becomes to do it consistently. If doingside leg raises is a workout you love, great. If not other exercises can also offer a lot of benefits.
If you do decide to implement more side leg raises make sure you give your body enough nutrients, rest, and sleep to repair and grow your muscles.