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You may never want to skip leg day again with these side leg raises that take your fitness game up a notch.

By adding these leg exercises into your routine, you’ll be shaping and strengthening your hips, thighs, and backside.

Side leg raises involve abducting, or pushing away, the leg from your midline. It’s a great and simple way to build strength in the outer thighs and the hip abductors, which includes the gluteus medius and minimus.

You can do it lying down or standing using just your body weight. This makes it easy to sneak in a few reps pretty much anywhere.

The gluteus maximus, one of the strongest muscles in the body, is usually the most well-known muscle of the derrière.

This means that the gluteus medius can sometimes get overlooked, even though it plays a very important role as the muscle responsible for stabilization of the hip.

Side leg raises targets this muscle primarily, which leads to several benefits, including:

  • better range of motion in the hips
  • better body stabilization
  • use of muscles that aren’t usually active in those who sit for prolonged periods each day
  • improved muscle endurance

Strengthening these muscles through side leg raises can also help prevent injury and pain with the hip, knees, and lower back.

A standing leg raise is an extremely versatile exercise since you can do it pretty much anywhere, even while standing around waiting.

For better stabilization, you may choose to use a chair or another means of support.

  1. Start with your hands out in front of you or resting on your hips. Stand upright with your toes facing forward.
  2. As you lift your right leg up off the floor with the foot flexed, inhale and shift the weight into your left foot.
  3. As you exhale, bring the leg back down to meet the left.
  4. Repeat 10-12 times, then switch to the other side.

If your hips are tight, you may benefit from lying on a mat for extra support.

  1. Lie down on your right side on a mat or the floor. Your body should be in a straight line with your legs extended and feet stacked on top of each other.
  2. Place your arm straight on the floor under your head or bend your elbow and cradle your head for support. Place your left hand out front for extra support or let it rest on your leg or hip.
  3. As you exhale, gently raise your left leg off the lower leg. Stop raising your leg when you feel the muscles flex in your lower back or obliques.
  4. Inhale and lower the leg back down to meet the right leg. Stack your feet again.
  5. Repeat 10-12 times, then switch to the other side.

Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your side leg raises.

When you’re standing:

  • Try to keep your legs straight. Doing so will help you get the most out of the exercise and prevent any strain to your back.
  • Ensure that your hips are in line and your knees aren’t locked. They should be soft and relaxed as you progress through the exercise.
  • Keep your trunk and back straight throughout the exercise.

When you’re lying down:

  • Avoid raising your leg too high throughout the exercise. Lower it when you start to feel pressure in the lower back or obliques.
  • Keep your core tight during the exercise as this helps relieve some of the pressure on your lower back.

Try to:

  • Remember to breathe throughout the exercise. You can inhale while lifting the leg and exhale as you lower, or the other way around.
  • Take breaks and hydrate as needed.
  • Know your limit and stop when necessary.
  • View videos online that can help you perfect your form or seek out the help of a trainer for in-person guidance and personalized tips.

To make standing leg lifts easier:

  • Modify by holding onto a chair or sturdy surface.
  • Don’t lift your leg as high.

As you progress with both the standing or supine side leg raises, you may want to make it more challenging.

To make side leg raises harder:

Weights go around your ankles and the resistance bands can be placed around your thighs. There are varying levels of resistance bands.

Looking for additional exercises to add to leg day?

A complementary exercise to add to leg raises is a curtsy lunge since it works the same areas of the hips, thighs and buttocks, with the addition of some inner thigh work.

To perform a curtsy lunge:

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your hands on your hips.
  2. Shift your right foot behind you and into a “curtsy” motion by bending both knees and lowering down.
  3. As you rise back up to stand, either return the leg back to its original position or combine this move with the leg raise. To add the leg raise, lift the right leg to the side as you stand up and then move it back behind into another curtsy.
  4. Complete 10-12 times, then repeat on the other side.

Adding side leg raises — whether standing or lying down — to your routine is a great and easy way to strengthen your hips, thighs, and backside. This helps to support your balance, posture, and everyday activities.

If you currently have or have had hip problems, talk to a doctor first before making this exercise part of your fitness routine.