Lateral leg lifts offer a lot of burn for just a little movement. This simple-to-perform body weight exercise requires no additional equipment in its standard variation. You can perform lateral leg lifts virtually anywhere, and the exercise accommodates multitasking, so feel free to take in your favorite TV show while working your lower body.
To begin this exercise, start in a standing position with your back straight and feet slightly less than shoulders-width apart. Rest one hand on a sturdy support object, such as the back of a chair or wall. Lift the opposing leg to about a 45-degree angle; then bring the leg back in so your ankles touch. This completes one repetition of the lateral leg lift. Switch working leg to complete a set.
As its name implies, the lateral leg lift works lower-body muscle groups. This exercise targets the adductor muscles of the leg, which serve as essential leg stabilizers. It also targets muscle groups such as the hip flexors and the gluteal muscles. In addition, lateral leg lifts engage the quadriceps, specifically the quadriceps muscles of the outer thigh.
Adding Leg Lifts to Your Regimen
Perform the lateral leg lift as part of your regular lower-body regimen. Sports medicine physician Dr. Mauro Di Pasquale recommends three sets of five repetitions, eventually building to three sets of 10 reps as you become more proficient at the exercise. At the beginning, simply do as many reps as you can. Always allow the muscle groups you targeted during your workout at least 24 hours of recovery before working those muscles again. Don't perform lateral leg lifts if your legs or hips are still sore from your last lower-body workout day.
You can increase the intensity of the lateral leg lift by performing it with a resistance band. Stand on one end of the resistance band, and hold the other end in your hand on the side of the body you are working. Push against the band as you raise your leg. This reduces the range of motion by about half.
You can also perform these while laying on your side. This exercise, lateral leg raises, mimics the motion of lateral leg lifts, specifically targeting the glutes.
Focus on engaging your core leg muscles throughout this exercise. Always perform lateral leg lifts with a slow, controlled and deliberate motion. For an added challenge at the top of the motion, hold your leg for a few counts or make circles with your foot. If initially you can't lift your leg to 45 degrees, lift as far as you can and gradually increase your lift each time you workout. As you gain proficiency, you may be able to lift even more than 45 degrees.
- Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images