There are many different ways to improve your current exercise routine. What about doing plank leg raises, what will the effects be?
Plank leg raises are a variation of regular planks where you make your heart, balance and a few leg muscles work harder. To do a plank leg raises start in the high plank position and raise one foot vertically off the ground for a small distance.
Similar to the regular plank, plank leg raises are typically done to grow and strengthen core muscles like your abs and obliques. For other fitness goals, there are many better exercise options.
One potential downside of plank leg raises is that it is hard to make the bodyweight version more challenging. If you are more experienced with core training, plank leg raises may be too easy to cause a lot of progress.
Before you give this core exercise a try, also keep in mind that you generally can’t target fat loss in specific body parts. Plank leg raises can be helpful for building abs and obliques but they are relatively bad for losing belly fat. If that is your goal you want to look for exercises that help you burn a lot of calories.
Whether you should add plank leg raises or alternatives to your routine depends on things like your personal situation, personal preference, and training goals.
How to do a plank leg raise
To do a plank leg raise take the following steps:
- Start in the high plank position. This means on your hands and front feet with stretched arms and a stretched body. Keep your shoulders above your hands.
- Shift your weight to one foot and lift the foot some distance upward. If you want to avoid hyperextending your back you may need to lift your hips slightly.
- Return the foot to starting position and repeat with the foot of the other side.
The main attention point when doing plank leg raises is keeping your body straight. Do not lower your hips too much but don’t raise them too much either. Keep your head in line with your body so looking downward but don’t lower your head too much, keep your neck straight.
If you have lower back issues or want to avoid overextending your back for other reasons you may want to raise your hips a little when you raise your leg instead of keeping your hips in the same position as when you start.
You can also do plank leg raises in a regular plank position, on your forearms instead of your hands. This is mostly for comfort reasons.
To make both of these variations harder you can wear a good heavy weighted vest close to your hips to make plank leg raises harder.
Plank leg raises muscles worked
With any exercise you will almost always make a variety of different muscles work, especially with a compound core exercise like plank leg raises. Even so, there are a few muscles that will have to work the hardest for moving and keeping your body in position.
Even with the extra leg movements, plank leg raises are still mainly a core muscle (abs and obliques) exercise. Your glutes and hamstrings will have to work slightly harder, but likely not enough for any significant muscle growth, compared to a regular plank.
Besides that muscles like quadriceps, erector spinae, triceps, and back muscles may have to work a small amount too.
You do move your leg but for your core muscles, plank leg raises are still mainly a type of isometric exercise. This means that you engage your muscles in a more static way, without moving a lot.
On the other hand, you have isotonic exercises where you engage your muscles in a dynamic way, by moving. Isotonic exercises are generally more useful for building muscle. That means that other core exercises are likely better for building a lot of core muscle.
One way to counteract this is to do weighted planks. You can do plank leg raises with a weighted vest but in general, there are many core exercises that are more convenient to add a lot of extra resistance to.
Plank leg raises will mostly be helpful to build muscle for core training beginners. More advanced individuals may not see that many results with leg raises.
Plank leg raise benefits
That being said, doing plank leg raises is still generally better than doing no exercise at all. Some of the benefits of plank leg raises include:
- Balance and coordination: Balance and coordination are fitness skills that can be improved by challenging them. Plank leg raises can help you with this.
- Stronger muscles: Plank leg raises are a type of resistance training that can help you strengthen your core muscles.
- Can help with losing weight: Doing plank leg raises likely requires more energy than your regular daily activities. Extra muscle mass also helps with burning more calories. Both of these aspects can help with, but are no guarantee for, weight loss. Keep in mind that there are better exercise choices if weight loss is your goal.
- May reduce or prevent back pain: Core strengthening exercises like plank leg raises can reduce or prevent back pain (1, 2). If you currently have back pain you do want to be careful and talk to an expert before implementing this exercise.
- Improves mood: Exercise like plank leg raises promotes the release of substances that help you feel good.
- Can improve posture: When doing plank leg raises you engage muscles that can be helpful for improving your posture.
- Improves sleep: Exercise like plank leg raises can improve the quality and duration of your sleep which in turn offers many important benefits.
- Slows down aging: Plank leg raises won’t influence how many days have passed since you were born. However, exercise can slow down the progress of certain aging markers that are correlated with negative health effects.
While inevitably many workouts are better for some of these benefits than plank leg raises, it is amazing that you can get so many important benefits from adding one activity to your routine.
The main thing to keep in mind is that plank leg raises can be hard on body parts like your back, hips, wrists, elbows, shoulders, and neck even if you implement the right technique.
If you are weak or sensitive in these body parts you may need to do other strengthening exercises first. Especially if you have any back or wrist pain, you may want to talk to your primary care provider before implementing plank leg raises into your workout routine.
If you feel pain in any body parts it may be a sign you are overdoing it. In that case, you may need some rest, better lifestyle habits, a less intense workout schedule, or it may be a sign that plank leg raises are not (yet) for you.
Plank leg raise alternatives
While plank leg raises can be a good addition to your workout routine, there are also some alternatives available for training your core muscles. Some of these plank leg raise alternatives include:
- Ab wheel roll-outs
- Plank toe touches
- Reverse crunches
- Compound core exercises
- Bicycle crunches
- Leg raises on the captain’s chair
Which one of these options is the best depends on things like your personal situation, training goals, the equipment you have available, etc.
Many people will benefit from adding plank leg raises with the right technique to their routine. You may need to switch to more challenging alternatives soon to keep seeing a lot of muscle growth and strength progress.
If you are more advanced when it comes to core training, plank leg raises may be too easy for you.
For goals besides strengthening your core muscles and making them stand out more, there are many better exercise options. Even for this goal, more dynamic alternatives may be more effective than plank leg raises.
You also need to remember is that plank leg raises can be hard on body parts like your back, hips, wrists, elbows, shoulders, and neck even if you implement the right technique.
If you are sensitive or weak in these body parts you may need to do other strengthening exercises first. Especially if you have any back or wrist pain, you may want to talk to your primary care provider before doing more plank leg raises.
Also keep in mind that consistency is an important factor for any workout plan. The more you love the exercise you do the easier it becomes to do it consistently. If doing plank leg raises is a workout you love, you can consider implementing this exercise anyway. If not plank alternatives and other exercises can also offer a lot of benefits.
If you do decide to implement more plank leg raises make sure you give your body enough nutrients, rest, and sleep to repair and grow your muscles.