What Muscles Do Side Leg Raises Work?

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Side leg raises are great for the glutes.
Image Credit: Martin Novak/Moment/GettyImages

To build your glute, thigh and hip muscles, incorporate side leg raises into your regular workout routine, recommends the National Institute on Aging. This exercise can be done lying down or standing, making it a versatile move that you can sneak in nearly anywhere. Watching TV? Lie down on the floor and bust out a few sets. Waiting in line at the post office? You can do it there too. Just make sure to do it with proper form, so you work your muscles most effectively.



Side leg raises work the glutes, hips and thighs. They can be done standing up or lying down.

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Doing the Move

To perform the standing side leg lift, stand next to a chair or wall and grasp it for support. Transfer your weight to your right leg then lift your left leg out to the side as high as possible. Slowly return to the starting position. Complete the desired number of repetitions; then repeat the exercise with your right leg.

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You can also perform this exercise while lying on your side. Begin lying on your left side, with your body in a straight line from head to toe and your right hip directly above your left hip. Lift your right leg toward the ceiling and then return to the starting position. After doing your desired number of repetitions, perform the exercise with your left leg. ACE Fitness notes that you can also add an isometric hold at the top of the raise.

Read more:The Benefits of Leg Raise Exercises

Make It Harder

When you begin working on the side leg raise, either from the standing or lying position, do them without resistance. As you get stronger, you can add resistance with either a resistance band or cable machine. If using only your body weight for resistance, perform two to three sets of 20 to 30 repetitions. If using weight, complete two to three sets of 10 to 20 repetitions. Side leg raises should be performed only every other day to allow for muscle recovery.


Read more:The Top 15 Moves to Tone Your Glutes

Work Those Muscles

The gluteus medius is largely covered by the gluteus maximus, says ACE Fitness. It works to abduct and medially rotate the thigh — turning the thigh inward so that the knee points toward your other leg — while also steadying the pelvis. When performing the side leg raise with your right leg, the gluteus medius on the right side is actively working to abduct the thigh while the gluteus medius on the left side is stabilizing the pelvis.


The gluteus minimus is the smallest of the gluteal muscles and lies deep beneath the other two. This muscle aids the gluteus medius in pelvic stabilization and thigh abduction.

The tensor fasciae latae is a muscle enclosed between layers of connective tissue. The muscle itself is rather short and originates in the hips but attaches to the knee via the long, thick iliotibial tract. This muscle helps the gluteus medius and minimus muscles in thigh abduction and medial rotation. Because it crosses the knee, it also works to steady the joint, keeping it straight during the exercise.




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