Tight hamstrings may have caused you to shy away from leg raises because you feel a pulling and pain in your lower back when you lift your legs. With modifications, however, leg raises can be a regular part of your workout program, as long as you execute the proper form. Leg lifts can improve strength in the hip flexors and the lower rectus abdominis, the muscle that lies on top of your stomach. Keeping your abdominal muscles engaged and your lower back pressed into the floor throughout the exercise can help you to remain pain free.
Press your arms into the floor for assistance as you lift your legs.
Discontinue the exercise and consult a physician if you feel any pain in your lower back while performing leg lifts.
Lie on your back on an exercise mat with your legs together and extended in front of you. Extend your arms on the floor alongside your torso, palms facing down.
Pull your stomach muscles in toward your spine to protect your lower back. Place your hands under your glutes, because elevating the glutes slightly helps your lower back remain on the floor. Keep your head and shoulders resting on the floor throughout the exercise.
Lift your legs toward the ceiling, stopping when your feet are directly over your hips. If possible, the legs should be kept straight throughout the exercise. However, bending your knees slightly can help to loosen your hamstrings and alleviate any strain on your lower back.
Hold the contraction for one count, then lower your legs back to the starting position, using a slow, controlled movement. Complete 10 to 15 leg lifts.
Beth Rifkin has been writing health- and fitness-related articles since 2005. Her bylines include "Tennis Life," "Ms. Fitness," "Triathlon Magazine," "Inside Tennis" and others. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Temple University.