Leg raises are exercises that focus on working the muscles of the lower abdomen. These exercises are often used by people who want to strengthen and tone muscles in this region. Though leg raises do focus on the lower abdominal muscles, they also give a much less intense workout to the upper abdominal muscles. Leg raises also involve the intercostal muscles, which are located between the ribs.
Many appreciate the look of a well-toned abdomen, but that's not the only reason leg raises are beneficial. Keeping these muscles in good shape is critical for movement and flexibility, especially for people who play sports or have physically active lifestyles. Strong muscles in this area can even help to prevent a person from developing a hernia.
To perform simple leg raises, a person lies on a carpeted floor or exercise mat. He then places his palms down on the carpet or mat and begins to lift both of his legs from the floor. As he lifts his legs, he works to keep them straight. The goal for this movement is to make it as smooth as possible, slowly raising the legs and keeping the knees locked into position.
After lifting his legs until they are directly above him, the exerciser usually pauses for a moment or two before gradually and smoothly lowering his legs back to the floor. Some people aren't able to lift their legs quite so high, especially if they are new to exercising. In such a case, the exerciser should simply lift his legs as high as he can comfortably do so.
Repetition is key to toning and strengthening the abdominal muscles, so the exerciser should continue to lift and lower his legs until he feels tired. He should not continue working the muscles until he feels pain, however, as he could injure himself. Even if he does not sustain an injury, he could push himself so far he is unable to exercise again for at least a few days. Eventually, an exerciser may want to work up to doing about 15 leg-raise repetitions at a time. Once he is comfortable with doing that many, he may decide to challenge himself further by moving up to 30.
As with all types of exercise, it may prove helpful to consult with a doctor before starting leg raises. This is particularly true for those who do not exercise regularly or are usually sedentary. A person with back pain or other health conditions should consult his doctor before starting leg raises as well.