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Lateral Side Leg Raises

author image Natalie Woodhurst
Natalie Woodhurst is a U.S. Air Force Veteran, former mental-health professional and ISSA Nationally Certified Fitness Trainer who began writing in 2010. Her enthusiasm for fitness and entertainment comes through when writing for various websites. Woodhurst is currently continuing her education in performance nutrition and fitness therapy.
Lateral Side Leg Raises
A woman is in position to do side lateral leg raises. Photo Credit Satyrenko/iStock/Getty Images

Lateral leg raises, also referred to as hip abduction, fall under the category of calisthenics exercises. This means your body weight supplies the resistance. This single exercise utilizes multiple muscle groups and offers numerous benefits. They are easy to do but proper form is essential to injury prevention. The term lateral implies movement away from the midline of the body. If done while standing, your leg moves outward and when lying down on your side, the motion is upward.

Form and Technique

For standing leg raises, stand up on one leg with your back straight, keep your stabilizing knee slightly bent. Holding your opposite leg a few inches off the ground, lift it as high as you can, usually to about 45 degrees. Lower it back to the starting position and repeat. Avoid bending at the waist to compensate for weak muscles, and rest your hands on your hips to keep the arms out of the exercise. To do lateral leg raises from a lying position, keep one side of your body in contact with the ground, particularly from hip to ankle. You can rest on your elbow, but ensure your back is in line with your legs and not leaning forward. Keeping your core muscled tight, lift your upper leg approximately 45 degrees and lower it in a controlled, smooth manner.


Lateral leg raises focus on often-overlooked muscles. Typical workouts target more front to back motion while neglecting the side-to-side that is the focal point here. While toning the muscles in this area may improve your appearance, injury prevention, however, may be the ultimate advantage. Adding these to your routine may help ward off knee, lower back, hip and IT band -- or iliotibial tract -- problems.

Muscles Involved

This exercise spotlights the hip flexor, core and abductor muscles. The hip flexor muscles include the ilopsoas wrapping around the groin area, rectus femoris of the quadriceps and the pectineus, which runs through the mid thigh. Additionally affected is the longest muscle in the body, --the sartorius that crosses both hip and knee joints. Core muscles cover the lower torso around your body and are comprised of the oblique, abdominals and lattisimus dorsi of the back. The abductor muscles, the gluteus minimus and gluteus maximus, are on the outside of your butt.

Repetitions, Sets and Accompanying Exercises

Lateral leg raises, as part of a workout program, should encompass two to three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions. Accompanying exercises may include front leg lifts, completed similarly except raised in front of the body with a bent knee. Squats, forward lunges, jumping jacks, burpees and mountain climbers are other complementary possibilities. To make it a full body workout, do at least three each of the lower body, core and upper body exercises. Core options are various crunches, hanging knee raises and flutter kicks. For the upper, try any type of pushups, pullups, lateral or front arm raises and dips.

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