Whether you run, swim, bike or just want to prevent back pain, you've probably been told that you should focus on your core. And if you haven't heard that, you should probably focus on your core anyway, as that set of muscles plays a role in nearly everything you do. One effective exercise for core training is the double leg lift. Although the motion of the double leg left is rather simple, it works a number of different muscles.
Double Leg Lift Technique
Performing the double leg lift is relatively simple, and you can do it practically anywhere, as it requires no equipment. To perform the exercise, lie on your back on the floor or on an exercise bench. Keep your arms down at your sides, with your hands under your upper thighs. Maintain straight legs -- no knee bend -- and flex from your hips to bring your legs from a position parallel to the floor to one that is perpendicular to the floor. Slowly reverse the motion and repeat as desired.
The primary muscles driving the motion of the double leg lift are the iliopsoas, or hip flexors. You use these muscles every time you take a step, as they drive flexion of your leg from the hip joint, and they also contribute to rotation of your spine. If you're an athlete, performing exercises to strengthen your hip flexors is crucial. Weakness in the muscle increases your risk of iliopsoas tendonitis, a painful condition common to high jumpers, runners and ballet dancers. In other words, if you play sports that involve running, jumping or a combination of the two, the double leg lift is for you.
Your hip flexors don't act alone in the double leg lift. Helping to drive your legs up and down during the exercise are a group of muscles called the hip adductors -- the adductor longus, adductor brevis and tensor fasciae latae -- as well as your pectineus, a groin muscle; your rectus femoris, on the front of your thigh; and the sartorius, which happens to be the longest muscle in your body. Strengthening these muscles can help put more power in your kick, whether for swimming or soccer, and will also help you move faster on foot and on bicycle.
As you may have noticed while running or dancing, when one part of your body moves, the rest of it tends to move as well. When performing exercises, keeping your body still so that the target muscles have to do all of the work is important. Some muscles act in stabilizing roles to keep the rest of your body in place. During the double leg lift, those muscles are the quadriceps, rectus abdominis -- otherwise known as the six-pack muscles -- and your obliques. In addition to helping you run and assisting in maintaining good posture, working these muscles can help give you a sexy stomach and toned thighs. Those aesthetic improvements are certainly not bad side effects to this core strength exercise.
Alternative Core Exercises
Though effective, the double leg lift is hardly the only exercise to target your core. Performing side planks, the ball roll-out, regular planks and hanging leg raises can all keep your core muscles strong and help you prevent injuries.
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