Besides crunches and sit ups, various leg raises are among the most popular and done exercises for the abs. These moves are very similar to sit ups, but in this case, the abdominal muscles lift the lower body and pull it forward the upper body and not the opposite.
I have met opinions saying that leg lifts are harmful since they can cause back pain. This is only true if the person has weak back muscles and he wants to perform the move with stretched legs. If you gradually build the leg raise up, so you do not overload yourself at the beginning, and you strengthen your back, this abs exercise should not cause any problems.
As I mentioned before, there are few variations. The hardest ones are the hanging leg lifts, but here I’m going to focus only on the incline leg raises.
What muscles does it work?
It works the rectus abdominis (six pack muscles) and the oblique (side abs). But, due to the nature of the exercise hip and leg muscles are also engaged, particularly in the beginning of the movement.
How to do incline leg raises
Lie on the sit up bench and grab the handles at the top. You do need to stretch your leg entirely to protect your back.
Breathe in and lift your legs until they are almost at a right angle with the hips, and that point, raise your hips up as well. Then, pull your legs until your knees almost reach your forehead. Then, slowly and with a controlled motion, lower your hips and then your legs back until a position where your heels just touch the floor or the bench.
Breathe in when your lift our legs, and exhale when you let your legs back to the starting position.
Here is the video tutorial
Mistakes to Avoid
Do not use the momentum when lifting your legs because that can cause back pain and the exercise will lose its benefits. Control the motion and force your muscles to work.
Do not let your heels to “rest” on the floor. The best would be if your heels never touched the floor or the bench.
If you have an adjustable sit up bench, you can make the move harder or easier by changing the angle of the board.
If you are at a higher fitness level having strong abs, you can add extra resistance to this exercise by using weights. For example, light dumbbells between your ankles, ankle weights or a resistance band. However, do not use heavy weights that you cannot handle safely because it can cause serious back injuries.
Doing it at home
The incline leg raise is an excellent exercise to strengthen your core, but it is crucial to perform it correctly. If you have not included it in your abs workout routine, I recommend to add it.