Side Leg Raises (Side Leg Lifts): Steps, Benefits, and Contraindications

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Side Leg Raises, also known as Side Leg Lifts, targets the muscles of the hips and thighs. This exercise helps strengthen the hip muscles, improve stability, enhance core engagement, and shape the hips and thighs.

Muscle Targets

  1. Primary muscles:
    • Hip abductor group (gluteus medius and gluteus minimus)
  2. Secondary muscles:
    • Tensor fasciae latae (TFL)
    • Sartorius
    • Rectus femoris
    • Adductor muscles

Benefits of Side Leg Raises (Side Leg Lifts)

Side leg raises offer a range of benefits for your lower body strength and stability. To reap the most advantages from this exercise, use perfect technique, gradually increase the intensity and repetitions over time, and integrate it within a well-rounded fitness regimen that includes aerobic activity, weight training, and flexibility exercises.

However, the benefits of Side Leg Raises are giving below:

  • Strengthening the hip abductor muscles: In this exercise primarily muscles worked are the hip abductor muscles, including the gluteus medius and minimus. These muscles are responsible for moving the leg away from the midline of the body. Strengthening these muscles can improve stability, balance, and total lower body strength.
  • Toning and shaping the hips and thighs: Side leg lifts engage the muscles of the outer hips and thighs, helping to tone and shape the region. Regular practice of this exercise can contribute to a more defined and sculpted appearance in the hip and thigh area.
  • Improving hip stability: The hip abductor muscles are vital in maintaining correct hip stability, especially during activities involving weight bearing like strolling, running, or completing other exercises. Strengthening these muscles through side leg raises can enhance hip stability, reducing the risk of injuries and improving overall movement efficiency.
  • Enhancing core engagement: This exercise require core engagement to maintain proper alignment and stability throughout the exercise. By strengthening the core muscles, including the deep abdominal muscles and obliques, side leg raises can improve overall core strength and stability.
  • Supporting functional movements: Strong hip abductor muscles are essential for various daily activities and functional movements. They help with maintaining proper alignment and stability during walking, running, and other weight-bearing tasks. By strengthening these muscles, side leg lifts can enhance your ability to perform these activities with greater ease and efficiency.
  • Addressing muscle imbalances: Many individuals have muscle imbalances between the inner and outer hip muscles, which can contribute to postural issues and increased risk of injuries. Side leg raises specifically target the hip abductors, helping to correct these imbalances and promote muscular symmetry.
  • Low impact exercise option: Side leg lifts are generally considered a low impact exercise, meaning they put minimal stress on the joints. This makes them a suitable choice for individuals with joint conditions or those looking for a low impact exercise option that still provides significant benefits.
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Side Leg Raises (Side Leg Lifts) Practice Guide

Side Leg Raises (Side Leg Lifts) - SharpMuscle
Image: KANIKA GUPTA/Instagram
Side Leg Raises (Side Leg Lifts) - SharpMuscle
Image: KANIKA GUPTA/Instagram

Side Leg Raises involves lifting one leg sideways while maintaining a straight and aligned body position. The movement of this exercise primarily focuses on the hip abductor muscles, notably the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus, which are responsible for lifting the leg away from the midline of the body.

Side leg lifts are typically performed lying on one side, either on the floor or on an exercise mat, and can be modified or varied to suit different fitness levels and goals.

Step-by-step Instructions

To perform side leg raises, follow these steps:

  1. Lie down on an exercise mat, positioning yourself on your right side. Place your right hand or a small towel under your head to provide support. Keep your head and neck in a neutral position, with your chin tucked as if you were holding an egg underneath.
  2. Use your left hand to stabilize your upper body by resting it on the side of your left hip or in front of your waist. Ensure that your pelvis is slightly tucked and your ribs are down. Engage your core muscles. Keep your legs fully extended and stacked on top of each other, avoiding locked knees. Your body should form a straight line. This initial position will serve as the starting point for all repetitions.
  3. While keeping perfect alignment, begin the upward motion by elevating the left leg 10-15 inches away from the right leg. Pause momentarily at the highest point of the movement.
  4. Slowly lower your leg back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat the exercise for the desired number of repetitions. Then, switch to the opposite side and repeat the entire sequence.

Tips:

  • Start with an appropriate number of sets and repetitions based on your fitness level and ability to maintain proper form. Gradually increase the intensity as you become more comfortable with the exercise.
  • Focus on maintaining good technique throughout all sets and repetitions. It’s better to perform fewer repetitions with proper form than to sacrifice form for higher numbers.
  • Keep your head and neck in a neutral position throughout the exercise. Imagine holding an egg under your chin to help maintain the correct alignment.
  • Engage your core muscles by pulling your belly button towards your spine. This will provide stability and support for your body during the leg raises.
  • Avoid locking your knees during the exercise. Keep your legs extended but maintain a slight bend in the knees to prevent strain on the joint.
  • Control the movement throughout the exercise. Lift your leg slowly and with control, and lower it back down in a controlled manner as well.
  • Don’t forget to breathe. Inhale before you start the movement, and exhale as you raise your leg and inhale as you lower it.
  • Take breaks between sets if needed, but try to maintain a consistent pace and keep the workout challenging.

Common Mistakes

Watch the following common mistakes while performing the side leg raises and understanding it why they can negatively impact your side leg raises, you can take the necessary precautions to avoid them. Always prioritize proper form, control, and alignment to maximize the benefits of the exercise and reduce the risk of injury.

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1. Lifting the leg too high

Raising the leg beyond the recommended range can lead to instability and improper alignment. It may also cause strain on the hip or lower back. Stick to the suggested range of 10-15 inches to maintain control and avoid excessive stress on the body.

2. Allowing the upper body to collapse

Failing to stabilize the upper body by not engaging the core or using the supporting hand properly can lead to poor posture and reduced effectiveness of the exercise. This mistake takes the focus away from the targeted muscles and may result in muscle imbalances or inadequate activation of the glutes and hip muscles.

3. Not maintaining a straight line with the body

When the body is not aligned properly during side leg raises, the exercise becomes less effective. It’s important to keep the legs stacked, avoiding any twisting or leaning forward or backward. Misalignment can place unnecessary strain on the joints and compromise the engagement of the targeted muscles.

4. Using momentum instead of control

Swinging the leg up and down with momentum rather than using controlled movements reduces the effectiveness of the exercise. It shifts the emphasis away from the muscles being targeted and can result in a loss of stability. Focus on slow and deliberate movements to fully engage the muscles and maintain proper form.

5. Neglecting proper breathing

Forgetting to breathe properly can lead to muscle tension and decreased endurance. Remember to inhale before initiating the movement and exhale as you raise your leg. Inhale again as you lower the leg. Consistent and coordinated breathing helps maintain a steady rhythm and supports muscle activation.

6. Holding the breath

Some individuals tend to hold their breath during challenging movements, which can increase tension in the body and hinder performance. It’s essential to maintain a steady breathing pattern throughout the exercise to promote oxygen flow, maintain relaxation, and enhance overall performance.

7. Overarching or rounding the lower back

Excessive arching or rounding of the lower back, for example, might put strain on the lumbar area and reduce the efficiency of the exercise. Maintain a neutral spine posture during the exercise by activating the core muscles, which will help to stabilise the pelvis and protect the lower back.

Modifications and variations

Modifications and variations of side leg raises can be beneficial for individuals with different fitness levels, mobility restrictions, or specific goals. Also, they can be beneficial for targeting specific muscles, increasing or decreasing the intensity of the exercise.

However, the modifications and variations of Side Leg Raises are explaining below:

1. Modified Side Leg Raises

This modification is useful for beginners or those with limited strength or mobility in their hips or core. Instead of lying on the side, perform the leg raises in a seated position on a chair or the edge of a bed. Sit up straight, extend one leg to the side, and lift it a few inches off the ground. Lower it back down and repeat on the other side. This modification reduces the resistance and places less strain on the muscles, making it more accessible for those starting out or with physical limitations.

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2. Clamshells

Clamshells primarily target the muscles of the hips, particularly the gluteus medius. Lie on your side with your knees bent and your feet together. Keeping your feet in contact with each other, open your knees as far as comfortable while maintaining control. Pause briefly, then close your knees back together. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions. Clamshells are effective for strengthening the hip abductors and improving hip stability.

3. Resistance Band Side Leg Raises

Adding resistance with a band increases the challenge and targets the muscles of the hips and thighs more intensely. Place a resistance band just above your ankles. Follow the same steps as the standard side leg raise, but with the added resistance of the band. The band provides constant tension throughout the movement, activating the muscles to a greater extent. This variation can enhance muscle strength and endurance.

4. Side Plank with Leg Lift

This variation combines the benefits of side leg raises with the stability challenge of a side plank, engaging the core and hip muscles simultaneously. Begin in a side plank position, with your forearm supporting your body weight and your feet stacked on top of each other. Lift the top leg up while maintaining the side plank position, then lower it back down. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions before switching sides. This variation strengthens the entire core, including the obliques, while also targeting the hip abductor muscles.

5. Weighted Side Leg Raises

Adding weights increases the resistance and intensifies the workout, helping to build strength and muscle tone. Secure a light dumbbell or ankle weights around your ankle. Follow the standard side leg raise steps, but with the added weight. Start with a weight that challenges you but allows you to maintain proper form. Gradually increase the weight as your strength improves. This variation enhances muscular strength and can contribute to muscle growth in the hips and thighs.

Precautions and Contraindications of Side Leg Raises (Side Leg Lifts)

It’s crucial to prioritize your safety and well-being when engaging in the Side Leg Raises. While practising side leg lifts, consider the following precautions and contraindications in mind to reduce the risk of injury, customise the exercise to your specific needs, and get the most out of your workout while keeping your body safe.

  1. Use appropriate form and technique: Maintain proper alignment, engage the core, and avoid compensatory movements to reduce the risk of strain or injury.
  2. Joint or hip injuries: If you have a current or recent injury or condition affecting your hips, knees, or ankles, it’s crucial to to consult a healthcare professional before attempting side leg raises. They can provide appropriate guidance based on your specific condition and advise on modifications or alternative exercises.
  3. Pregnancy: During pregnancy, certain exercises may need to be modified or avoided altogether. Side leg raises can strain the abdominal muscles and may not be suitable for all stages of pregnancy. Consult your healthcare provider for guidance on safe exercises during pregnancy.
  4. Pain or discomfort: Individuals with pain or discomfort in your hips, lower back, or other regions while practising side leg lifts, it’s best to stop and consult with a healthcare expert. They can help identify the cause of the pain and provide appropriate recommendations or modifications.

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