What Are the Benefits of Leg Lifts?
Leg lifts target the core and leg muscles. The main muscle groups involved include the abdominals, hip flexors, back muscles and thigh muscles. Various secondary muscles come into play depending on whether you are standing, lying down or using an exercise ball while performing the lifts. Leg lifts are also used for rehabilitation with sports injuries and can help beginners build core strength before moving onto more complex exercises.
Toned abs are not only sexy, but also help strengthen your core. Your core muscles form the trunk, which is essential in everyday movements such as bending over to pick up the newspaper, tie your shoes, and trunk rotation in sports and exercises. A strong core improves your balance and physical stability. Also, toned, lean abs are a sign of fitness, which leads to a reduced chance of acquiring chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, notes the May 2007 issue of “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.”
Leg lifts strengthen the abdominals, which help support the back muscles. A face-down leg lift exercise done by lying on your stomach, placing your head on your upper arms and alternately lifting your legs can strengthen the back muscles. Back muscles help support and stabilize your body, which is essential in various sports and dancing.
Doing leg lifts regularly can improve trunk flexibility, which is important in hip and trunk rotation. Trunk and pelvic flexibility is also important for a healthy back, writes Len Kravits, Ph.D. and Ron Andrews, M.S., P.T. at the University of New Mexico. The obliques, hamstrings and hip flexors play a role in flexibility, reducing low back pain and keeping your back healthy. Leg lifts work the lliopsoas, also called hip flexors and pelvic girdle. The pelvic girdle is where the hip and lumbar spine work together providing a pelvic frame, allowing the legs and spine to move and work. This is also a common area of low back pain.
Leg lifts help tone your thighs by working the adductors that run along the inner thighs and the tensor fasciae latae or abductors, which run along the outer thighs. Both the adductors and abductors connect to the hip. Leg lifts work the inner and outer thighs, but do not work the entire thigh muscle group. Lunges and squats are a more efficient total thigh workout.
Athletes use a wide range of movements, which rely heavily on the hip and trunk muscles. These core muscles provide stability and motion in sports. The lumbar spine is also associated with trunk stability and flexibility or range of motion during competition. In addition, the adductors and abductors come into play when standing on a single leg or squat turns. Leg lifts not only help strengthen the muscles, but are also used in sports injury rehabilitation. Physical therapists may use leg lifts to assess hip adductor strength and neuromuscular coordination, according to the December 2011 issue of “Current Sports Medicine Reports.”
- Current Sports and Medicine Reports: Review and Role of Plyometrics and Core Rehabilitation in competitive Sport
- ACE: Six Essential Keys to Helping High School Athletes Maximize Their Potential
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Waist Circumference and Cardiometabolic Risk
- University of New Mexico: Fitness and Low Back Pain
- Orthopedic Institution of Michigan: Pelvic Girdle Syndrome
Caroline Thompson is a professional photojournalist who has been working for print and online publications since 1999. Her work has appeared in the "Sacramento Bee," "People Magazine," "Newsweek" and other publications. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in photojournalism from California State University at Hayward and a personal trainer certification from the university's Health and Fitness Institute.