Six-inch leg lifts, also called leg levers or leg raises, help strengthen the abdominal muscles. Besides toning the abs, they can also help improve your posture, increase balance and make it easier to perform everyday movements like bending down to lace your shoes. Consult your doctor before starting any new exercise routine, especially if you suffer from lower-back pain or a chronic medical condition.
Lie flat on your back with both legs straight and your arms at your sides. Bend your right knee until it is pointed at the ceiling; keep your left leg straight. Contract your abdominal muscles and lift your left leg 6 inches up from the floor. Hold the position for five seconds and then slowly lower your leg back to the floor. Continue lifting for a total of 15 repetitions, then switch to the right leg and repeat.
To boost the intensity of the exercise, lift both of your legs at the same time. You can also hold a dumbbell between your feet as you lift or perform leg lifts on an exercise bench with your legs extended off one end of the bench. For another advanced variation, place your hands behind your neck and lift your torso 45 degrees off the ground as you raise your legs 6 inches.
For best results, keep your hips still throughout the entire exercise; the motions should just come from your legs. Keep your abdominal muscles tight and engaged throughout the entire exercise. Breathe properly -- exhale as you raise your legs and inhale as you lower them back to the floor. This helps you better contract the abdominal muscles. Press your fingers against the base of your neck and imagine you are holding an apple beneath your chin to help release tension if you experience any neck discomfort while doing any variations of the 6-inch leg lift.
Because leg lifts recruit the hip flexor muscles, which attach your upper thigh muscles to your spinal column, you may experience lower-back pain while performing them. Talk to your doctor before attempting them if you are new to exercise or have a history of back pain or injury. Lower your legs slowly back to the floor, as dropping them suddenly can lead to back pain. Do not lock your knees at any point during your routine, which puts pressure on your knee joints and can cause pain and injury.
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