Side Leg Raises: How To Do, Muscles,…

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You can focus on different leg muscles by doing specific movements. Find out how to do side leg raises and what muscles they work.

Side leg raises, also known as lateral leg raises, are an exercise where you move your leg sideways and away from the middle of your body.

You can do this exercise both lying down or standing up.

Side leg raises are good for growing and strengthening your hip abductors aka outer thigh muscles which include your gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, and tensor fasciae latae.

To achieve these training goals you do still need to use enough resistance and do enough repetitions.

More advanced individuals may need equipment options like resistance bands or ankle weights to make this happen.

How to do a side leg raise

This article will consider the lying side leg raise as the standard version of the exercise. Something soft to lie down on can make this variation more comfortable.

That aside, take the following steps to do a lying side leg raise:

  1. Lie down on your side. Adjust your upper body and your bottom leg for stability and comfort.
  2. Slowly raise the upper leg as far as comfortable while keeping your hips in the same position.
  3. Lower the upper leg back into starting position in a controlled motion.
  4. Complete your set on one side and then repeat the same number of repetitions on the other side.
How to do a side leg raise

You mainly want to pay attention to keeping your hips still while doing side leg raises. The lying variation makes this a lot easier to do than the standing version.

Besides that, it is possible that side leg raises with your leg stretched are too hard for now.

In that case, you can start by folding your upper leg and/or doing the standing version anyway.

Muscles worked with side leg raises

The main muscles worked with side leg raises are your hip abductors aka outer thigh muscles. These include your gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, and tensor fasciae latae.

Keep in mind that you still want to implement set, rep, and resistance for your training goals.

For example, to grow your hip abductors, you would do about 3 to 6 sets of 6 to 25 side leg raises (per side) with a resistance that is very challenging.

Most people will find the bodyweight version challenging enough or even too challenging for this.

However, very advanced lifters could consider doing side leg raises with ankle weights or resistance bands when the bodyweight version becomes too easy.

Side leg raises benefits

You don’t have to work all your leg muscles at once to get positive effects from an exercise. Some of the benefits of side leg raises are:

  1. Stronger muscles: Side leg raises in combination with a good workout plan can help you strengthen your outer thigh muscles.
  2. No equipment or location required: You don’t need to invest in exercise equipment or go to the gym to be able to do side leg raises. You could even do standing leg raises in line at the grocery store.
  3. Can improve hip flexibility: Most people do not go through the leg motion of side leg raises. By doing this exercise you can regain some of your lost hip flexibility.
  4. May reduce or prevent knee pain: Strengthening your hip abductors with side leg raises can potentially help prevent or avoid knee pain if there are muscle imbalances causing this.
  5. Better body stabilization: Your hip abductor muscles play a role in balancing yourself. Strengthening these muscles with side leg raises could help you avoid falling down.

It is true that side leg raises are not the only movement that can help with these benefits.

At the same time, it is impressive that this one exercise can help you in so many ways.

Side leg raise alternatives

After giving a few side leg raises a try you may conclude that they are not for you. Luckily, there are a few ways to work the same or more muscles too.

Some of these side leg raise alternatives include:

  • Clamshells
  • Fire hydrants
  • Weighted leg abductions
  • Squats (bodyweight or weighted)
  • Deadlifts
  • Lunges
  • Step-ups

What side leg raise alternatives you will prefer depends on what you are trying to achieve, what you like doing, and what equipment you have available.

Are side leg raises a good exercise?

Side leg raises can be a very good exercise for working your hip abductors aka your outer thigh muscles.

In combination with the right resistance and repetitions, side leg raises can help you grow and strengthen these muscles.

This exercise positively stands out in the many different resistance levels you can achieve with just your body weight.

Not many people will really need the weighted version to get the results they desire from this movement.

At the same time, it is worth mentioning that there are other good hip abductor exercises too. If you prefer these over side leg raises, you can definitely also consider them.


What are side leg raises good for?

Side leg raises are good for working your outer thigh muscles aka hip abductors at a variety of resistance levels.

Why are side leg raises so hard?

Side leg raises can be hard because the hip abductors aka outer thigh muscles are not the strongest.

Do side leg raises work obliques?

Standing side leg raises could work your obliques to some extent but these are not the main target muscles of this exercise.

Do side leg lifts make your hips bigger?

Side leg lifts can grow your outer thigh muscles which in turn, could help make your hips look slightly bigger.

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Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.