It can be challenging to add weights to exercises where your hands are not involved. Luckily, there are still a few ways to do weighted leg raises.
All of the equipment options below can be used for lying leg raises. For the hanging and standing versions, the options are somewhat more limited but there are still a few good choices.
Something else to note is that you are doing leg raises as an ab isolation exercise, the bodyweight version should already be very challenging. If not, your technique may need some improvement.
That being said, if you want to do this exercise to work both your core and hip flexors, the weighted options below could help you see more results.
1. Ankle weight leg raises
Ankle weights are basically straps with weights attached to them. If you have not heard of them before, you will wonder where they have been for all your core and leg muscle isolation workouts.
This is because in movements like leg raises where your hands can’t hold the weights, they are a secure way to add resistance anyway.
You can also use them in all types of leg raises including hanging, lying, and standing variations.
Additionally, the weight jumps of ankle weights are relatively small which makes them great for progressing in weaker muscles like the abs, obliques, and hip flexors.
On top of these things, ankle weights are relatively budget-friendly, easy to take with you, and compact to store.
One potential downside is that ankle weights have a somewhat limited weight capacity. For leg raises, this should not be too much of an issue but if you want to use them for leg isolation exercises too, they could feel lacking.
Most people will find ankle weights the best way to do a weighted leg raise. Ideally, you want to get an adjustable pair so that you can increase the challenge as you get stronger.
2. Dumbbell leg raises
Dumbbells are the handles with a weight on each side. They are a popular equipment choice to do leg raises with weights but this is mostly because of how common they are in gyms and how few other good options there are.
To do a dumbbell leg raise you clamp the weight between your legs with your feet at handle height. After that, the same movement applies.
As you can imagine, a big downside of this version is that it is possible to drop the dumbbell. Especially in lying leg raises this could be painful.
At the same time, dropping a dumbbell on the floor during hanging leg raises is not preferred either.
Besides these things, dumbbells have relatively big weight jumps. This can be suboptimal for training weaker muscles like your abs, obliques, and hip flexors.
Lastly, while it is not the most popular leg raise variation, dumbbells can also not be used for the standing version.
So while you could use them if they are the only option available, you may want to consider investing in a pair of ankle weights instead of doing dumbbell leg raises.
3. Medicine ball leg raises
A medicine ball is a weighted ball with a soft outer shell.
The main benefits of these for leg raises are that they are less painful if you drop them while doing the lying variation and that dropping them during the hanging variation is not that bad.
On the flip side, they are not perfect either.
First of all, you really have to clamp your legs together to keep a medicine ball in position.
The inner thigh muscles which are responsible for this movement are not the strongest either so this could interfere with training your abs, obliques, and hip flexors.
Secondly, while the weight jumps are small in the lighter part of the range, at some point the medicine ball weight jumps become relatively big for the muscles involved in lying leg raises.
So you can consider medicine ball leg raises because they are one of the few suitable equipment options. However, you want to take their downsides into account too.
4. Cable machine lying leg raises
Cable machines are a construction where a cable is attached to weights on one end and has a place to attach handles on the other end. To do cable machine lying leg raises you will need an ankle strap attachment.
After that, you simply strap on the attachment, lie down in front of the cable machine, and do the lying leg raises. The standing version can be done in a somewhat similar way.
This weighted version is helpful in that you can’t drop the ankle strap and that the cable machine allows you to adjust the resistance in relatively small jumps.
One downside is that the cable machine is not really an option for weighted hanging leg raises which are a popular variation.
Additionally, smaller gyms may only have a few cable machines which could be occupied. There are also more at-home-friendly cable machines but these tend to be somewhat pricey.
5. Heavy backpack
Fitness equipment options are typically preferred but there are objects around you at home that can also benefit your resistance training goals.
One example of this that can be used to do weighted leg raises is a backpack. You can fill it with somewhat heavy objects like books or water bottles and strap it around your ankles/clamp it between your feet.
A benefit of this option is that you likely don’t have to make any additional investments in fitness equipment. Additionally, you can strap a backpack to your ankles relatively well to avoid dropping it.
One downside is that the weights in the backpack could move around a good amount. This could take your attention away from working your muscles as much as possible.
Additionally, your weight adjustments may not be that precise depending on what other objects you have available.
6. Resistance band leg raises
Resistance bands are basically elastic bands that create resistance as you stretch them out. Similar to cable machines they have the advantage of being able to create resistance at different angles if you have a good anchor.
Another thing they have in common is that resistance bands are not that great for hanging leg raises. It can be hard (but not impossible) to get into a hanging position with the bands already strapped around your ankles.
Additionally, while you can get small resistance adjustments by changing at exactly what point you strap on the bands, it is hard to get the exact same challenge every time.
Two other small downsides to note are that you need a good anchor to attach your resistance bands to and that resistance bands could be somewhat uncomfortable around your ankles if you don’t get ankle straps.
These things aside, some of the benefits of resistance bands are that they are budget-friendly, versatile, and easy to store. They are not ideal for the leg raise exercise but great for at-home workouts.
3 Benefits of weighted leg raises
After finding out about the different ways to do them, you may want a refresher on why weighted leg raises can be a good addition to your exercise routine. Some of these include:
- More muscle growth and strength potential: To grow and strengthen your muscles you have to challenge them enough. By adding weights to leg raises, you work your abs, obliques, and hip flexors more. In turn, this could offer more results.
- Can speed up your workouts: A good workout does not necessarily mean spending a lot of time. By doing weighted leg raises, you challenge your muscles more in a shorter amount of time.
- Offers other benefits to a larger extent: There are a variety of other secondary benefits you get from doing resistance training. You can expect slightly more weight loss, cardiovascular system engagement, etc. by using extra weights.
These benefits can definitely be worth it but you also want to keep in mind that there is a way to overdo it. You likely want to start with bodyweight leg raises and only when you are ready for it, slowly increase the resistance you use.