The single-leg lower exercise is sure to get your abdominals fired up and feeling strong! It is important to introduce new exercises into your routine so your body doesn’t plateau. Our bodies respond well to change and variation.
This exercise builds deep-core strength and pelvic stability. It engages the external abdominal muscles as well. So consider it an all-over core workout.
Lie flat on your back with your hands behind your head. Start with your legs in a tabletop position (in other words, bend your knees at a 90-degree angle to your body).
1. Inhale to prepare and engage your deep-core muscles by drawing your navel in.
2. Exhale as you lift your head and shoulders up and extend both feet toward the ceiling.
3. Inhale to hold this position. Focus on engaging your pelvic floor.
4. Exhale as you lower one leg toward the floor.
5. Inhale to bring it back up.
Repeat on the other side. Complete a set of five repetitions on each side.
The aim of the exercise is to maintain stability in your pelvis. Be very mindful that your lower back and hips do not arch away from the floor as you lower your leg. If your back arches, you will be putting your back at risk for injury, and you will be strengthening your hip flexors, not your abdominal muscles.
If you cannot keep your back on the floor as you lower your leg, you are either lowering it too low to the ground or not engaging your abdominal muscles enough. The stronger you get, the closer to the ground you will be able to lower your leg without arching your back.
Your body should be rock-solid as your legs move.
If your neck gets tired or feels strain, check that you are lifting your head and shoulders correctly. Your ribs should be squeezing down toward your hips. If this doesn’t help, lower your head and shoulders to the floor. Leaving your head on the floor will simply work your lower abs even more.
The single-leg lower exercise challenges not only your core strength but also your core stability. Both are equally important. Without stability, we leave ourselves open to the possibility of lower back and hip strain.
Build up to two sets of ten repetitions on each leg. Team it up with side and front planks for a great new abdominal sequence.
Emma-Kate Stampton certifies Pilates instructors and is a certified personal trainer. She is based in Brisbane, Australia.
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