Leg raises are the ultimate way to turn jelly-bellies into a toned masterpiece. These exercises are so commonly performed because they work. The leg lift completely isolates the rectus abdominis -- the muscle responsible for adding tone to your tummy. Completing leg lifts as part of your exercise routine, while using good form and the right number of repetitions, can maximize the health and aesthetic benefits of these exercises.
Leg lifts build strong abs and hip flexors. You'll find it easier to hold a plank during yoga and you'll be less fatigued when the elevator is out of order and you have to use the stairwell. You'll improve your posture and reduce lower back strain by adding support to your mid-section. Strong hip flexors increase your walking and running stride and prevent groin injury. Abdominals should be treated the same as other muscle-- your abs need time to heal; wait at least 48 hours between ab workouts. Incorporate lower back, oblique and quad exercises to fully develop your core.
Balance and Stability
Leg lifts add support to your upper body so whether you're on a balance ball or in high heels, you'll be less likely to stumble. Anytime you twist, bend or reach, the time invested in leg lifting is helping you stay centered. The importance of good balance becomes more important as you age, but it's also important for the young -- elite athletes, whether they are runners, volleyball players, tennis players or gymnasts, use leg lifts or other abdominal exercises to improve athleticism.
A 150-pound person will burn approximately 58 to 65 calories for every 10 to 15 minutes of leg raises. Take into account the length of your legs -- taller people have more leg to lift, burning more calories than shorter people. No matter your height, you won't burn enough calories doing leg lifts to rid yourself of stomach fat. Combining leg raises with cardio, a full strength-training regimen and a good diet is the only way to burn fat and shape your mid-section. A good diet includes low-fat, high-protein and carbohydrate control. Starchy food, white flour, pasta, junk food, fruit juice and red meat should be traded in for steamed vegetables, lean fish like salmon or tuna, chicken, brown rice, fresh fruit, yogurt and tofu.
Flat-Bench Lying Leg-Lift
You can use a mat for this exercise, but a bench gives you increased range of motion for greater contraction. Lie down on a bench face-up, legs extended and hands palm down under your butt. Begin by elevating your legs while keeping them extended. Slowly bring them up to a 90-degree angle -- it should take three seconds -- then lower them until your feet are a few inches lower than 180-degrees -- it should take another three seconds. Complete three sets of 12 to 20 reps with 30 seconds of rest between sets.
Matthew Demers is a certified personal trainer based in Windsor, Canada. He is also the co-founder of YourSpace Fitness.