How to Do Standing Leg Raises

The standing leg raise tends to get overshadowed by showier exercises like hip thrusts and burpees — but if you want to build up a strong lower half, it’s time to familiarize yourself with this simple but effective move.

It’s easy to do standing leg raises practically anywhere — so even if you can’t make it to the gym, you can still knock out a few sets right in your living room.

Standing Leg Raise Exercise: Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Stand tall with your hands on your hips and feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Shifting your weight to your right foot, slowly lift your left leg straight out in front of you, as high as you comfortably can. Keep your core tight and your left foot flexed; don’t bend your knees, and avoid rotating your ankle outward.
  • Lower your foot back down to starting position. That’s one rep. Complete all reps on one side before switching to the other.

What Muscles Do Standing Leg Raises Work?

The standing leg raise exercise targets and strengthens your hip muscles. Specifically, the adductors along your inner thighs and the gluteus medius on the upper, outer edge of your pelvis.

Because you use your hip muscles for walking, running, and balancing, this exercise is especially helpful for keeping you stable during cardio and strength moves like sprints, squats, and lunges.

Standing leg raises also work the rectus abdominis muscle (a.k.a. your “six-pack”). The cross-body action in the side variation lights up the obliques (the muscles on the sides of your waist).

Standing Leg Side Raise Variation

One variation of the standing leg raise incorporates hip abduction, or moving the leg away from the body. Here’s how to do it.

  1. Stand tall with your hands on your hips. Cross one ankle over the other so your top foot hovers over or lightly touches the floor.
  2. With your foot flexed, lift your top leg out to the side as high as you can without bending your knee. You should feel a slight squeeze in your working hip. Be careful not to rotate your foot outward as you lift — your foot should stay parallel to the floor with toes facing forward throughout the move.
  3. Lower your foot back down to starting position. That’s one rep. Complete all reps on one side before switching to the other.

Ready to add the standing leg raise to your next leg workout? Hannah Viva, NASM-certified personal trainer with Fit Body Boot Camp recommends sticking to a regular tempo so you can complete every rep with control and consistency.

And if you want to make standing leg raises more challenging, add a resistance loop or ankle weight around your ankles.