Side Lying Leg Lifts - Bent Leg
How to Do Side Lying Leg Lifts - Bent Leg | In-Depth Guide [VISUAL LEARNERS]
Proper Form, Common Mistakes & Variations | Home Strength Training
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MAIN MUSCLES WORKED IN Side Lying Leg Lifts - Bent Leg
Gluteus medius & Gluteus minimus
These are the smaller glute muscles on the sides of our hips.
OTHER MUSCLES WORKED:
- Internal and external obliques
- Quadratus lumborum
- Rectus abdominis
- Erector spinae
- Transverse abdominis
WHAT & WHY
BENEFITS OF TRAINING THE Glutes
WHAT WE'RE DOING TODAY
Other names for this exercise: Side Lying Core Stabilization, Side Lying Leg Abduction, Side Lying Leg Lifts
ALL WE'RE DOING:
Lying on your side, you'll lift one leg a few inches into the air, then back down. Done.
This group of hip exercises is done lying down on your side and lifting the leg up against gravity. No equipment is needed because the weight of your leg is the resistance the muscles will be working against. The main muscles used are two of the gluteal muscles - the gluteus medius and minimus, these are the hip abductors - muscles that move the leg out to the side, away from the midline of the body. These muscles will lift the leg up when you hold your pelvis still.
This movement can be a bit tricky to get right, but when you do, you can feel the muscle work after just a few repetitions. Side lying leg lifts are probably one of the most common exercises that are done wrong.
You may have seen people in classes lifting their leg up so high that the foot points to the ceiling. The movement of the hip joint taking the leg out to the side is 30 - 50 degrees, which means that if you are lying on your side, most people will be able to lift the leg less than halfway between parallel to the floor and pointing straight up in the air - that is normal motion.
When the leg lifts higher than halfway* - that means the movement is coming from your pelvis and low back, or it means that you have rolled back or rotated the leg, and are actually lifting the leg to the front.
This will not work the muscles on the side of the hip - do not make the mistake of thinking that higher is better. In fact, the muscles will be working the most when the leg is parallel to the floor, lifting the leg higher will be easier.
*Some people do have very lax ligaments and excessive movement in their joints.
Even though the side lying hip exercises focus on moving the leg, they are working the muscles that keep the pelvis stable. The focus of this exercise will be on holding the pelvis and low back very still and in a neutral position as you lift the leg. The series of leg movements work the outside, front, back, and inside of the hips - all of the muscles that help move and stabilize the hip joints. The exercise strengthens the lower abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. It is frequently used to treat and prevent pain in the sacral joints (back of pelvis) and low back.
WHY DO WE EVEN CARE?
IMPROVE TIGHT HIP ISSUES
The hip is the second least stable joint, a large ball and socket joint, that is designed for movement. This is in contrast to the very stable low back and pelvis, which are designed for support and stability, to carry the torso upright as the legs move the body through space. Unfortunately, it is pretty common to have tight hips, leading to moving less through the hips and more through the back. This is probably due to our sedentary lifestyle, we don’t need to squat, climb, run, and walk on uneven surfaces as much. The days of having to squat to go to the bathroom or to eat are gone.
STRENGTHEN OUR OUTER HIP MUSCLES
When the hip does not move enough, the muscles of the outer hip can get weaker. When the hips are weak and stiff it changes the way the leg is used. The knee can begin to collapse inward, causing knee pain, pronation (ankle rolling in), bunions, hip pain and back pain.
Strengthening the hip muscles and learning to move the leg in the hip socket while keeping the back and pelvis still can improve your balance, stability, posture, and can prevent back, hip, knee, ankle, and foot problems. Weak hip muscles have been associated with increased fall risk and poor balance.
LEARN HOW TO MOVE THE LEG & NOT THE PELVIS
This leg series is unique in that it targets all of the muscles surrounding the hip joint. The exercise is used to teach awareness of the concept of moving the hip while keeping the pelvis and low back still. The movements are carried out slowly and are very deliberate - teaching the body to control the movement.
The series version also moves the hip in all directions which trains the core muscles to stabilize against changing movement of the leg in all directions. This is consistent with how we use our bodies, as we move around throughout the day we are changing directions, pivoting, bending. The core muscles must be able to stabilize the spine during these movements in order to prevent injury or long-term damage due to wear and tear on the joints.
EVERYDAY LIFE &
HOW WE USE OUR glutes MUSCLES IN EVERYDAY LIFE
1. MOVES THE LEG OUT TO THE SIDE WHEN THE PELVIS IS HELD STILL
- Stepping sideways
- Lifting the leg to the side to get into a car
2. IN STANDING, THE MAIN FUNCTION OF THE HIP ABDUCTORS IS TO HOLD THE PELVIS HORIZONTAL (PREVENT IT FROM SAGGING) DURING GAIT/MOVEMENT
- Balance and stability when walking or standing
- Weak hip muscles have been associated with increased risk for falls and poor balance
- Especially on uneven surfaces, or across a slope
- Climbing stairs
3. THE HIP ABDUCTION EXERCISES FOCUS ON STRAIGHT ABDUCTION BUT IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE:
- The gluteus medius can contribute to flexion and internal rotation (anterior fibers) and extension and external rotation (posterior fibers) [this is similar to the actions of the different parts of the deltoid muscle]
- The gluteus minimus can help with flexion and internal rotation
HOW Side Lying Leg Lifts SHAPE OUR BODY
Firm and toned waist, flat abdomen, toned outer hips (firm saddlebag region), toned inner thighs.
This is the standard side lying hip abduction exercise. It is a good option for first learning the movement, or to include as a part of a series of side lying hip movements. Bending the bottom leg will provide a stable base to work off of. The top hand can be placed on the top of the pelvis, checking for movement.
How to Feel What Muscle is Working
This can be a tricky muscle group to feel because most of the gluteus medius is underneath the large gluteus maximus, and the gluteus minimus is underneath the gluteus medius.
Lying on your side with the legs stacked and straight down in line with your torso. Feel the top of your pelvis with the palm of your hand on the side of the hip. Slide the hand back so the palm of the hand is about where it would be if you were putting your hand in your back pocket. Keep your pelvis still and lift your top leg up.
You should feel the muscles deep, around the back side of the hip joint. Try to keep the gluteus maximus relaxed and soft.
PROPER FORM: Side Lying Leg Lifts - Bent Leg
EQUIPMENT, SETS & REPS
Mat, optional small folded towel or pillow for the head.
SUGGESTED STARTING WEIGHT FOR WOMEN:
SETS & REPS:
2 sets of 8-10, must fatigue the muscles.
Slow and controlled up and down.
BODY POSITION FOR THE Side Lying Leg Lift - Bent Leg
BODY: Lying on your side. Neutral spine - in this position your spine wants to curve sideways (the middle section drops down to the floor). Keep your waist long, you should not allow the side of your waist that is on the bottom on the floor to drop. You should be able to slide a hand between your waist and the floor. This ensures that your spine is in neutral and not side bending. Abdominals gently engaged. You should be able to draw a line down the side of your body through the earlobe, torso, hip, and down the top leg - knee to foot.
LEGS: Bottom knee bent. Having the knee in front of you about the same distance as the foot in behind you would be the most stable position. [The bent knee is to increase the base of support. The most stable position would be to have equal support on either side of the body. Most people will just bend to a comfortable spot where they feel stable.] This also depends on comfort, the knee and hip should be bent to a comfortable position. Top Leg (working leg): Straight down in line with the torso. Energized to the toes. The foot can be pointed or flexed - it will work the muscles of the calf a little differently - the muscles on the front of the shins will be active if you flex the feet, the calf muscles will be more active if you point the feet. When you are learning the exercise don’t worry about the foot position, it will not affect the core stabilization or the hip muscle activity.
ARM: Bend your bottom arm, so you are lying on your shoulder, your elbow is pointing forward and your head is resting on your hand. Adjust the position as needed. You should be comfortable. The top arm: place your hand on the floor in front of you to help stabilize.
NECK: Neutral and relaxed, looking straight ahead. In line with the rest of the spine. You may want to use a small towel folded to support the neck or something under the head.
HOW TO DO
HOW TO DO Side Lying Leg Lift - Bent Leg
CUE: Focus on using the abdominal muscles keeping the shoulders and hips squared to the front of you and in one plane. All of the movement is coming from the arm.
Lift your top leg up a few inches so it is just higher than hip level. You should be able to feel where your hip movement ends and your pelvis begins to move. Only move your leg, your pelvis should not move.
Pause at the top and slowly lower it back down. Keep your top leg above the bottom leg, not touching your bottom leg in between reps. This will keep the tension on your muscles.
*If you are having difficulty feeling the correct muscles working: angle your entire torso forward - keep your torso together like a cylinder and slightly lean it forward; and rotate your leg so that your toes are angled down (this means your leg will rotate in the hip socket, internal rotation at your hip joint).
Repeat for the desired number of repetitions, switch sides.
HOW TO SAFELY GET OUT OF THE EXERCISE
Lower your leg back to your other leg, bend your top knee, press up to sitting.
WHAT TO AVOID WITH Side Lying Leg Lifts - Bent Leg
Guess what? Good news! Many avoids are the same for most movements. Once you learn the basics, there's really only a few extra avoids for each individual movement.
1. Avoid side bending waist
AVOID: Avoid letting the pelvis sag or move
- This will pull your low back out of the neutral position.
- This indicates that you are moving from your spine - repetitive spinal movement under load (weight of leg) ) can cause soft tissue/joint irritation or damage over time; and defeats the purpose of the exercise.
WHAT TO DO:
- Maintain a neutral spine position to prevent injury or muscle strain.
- In a side lying position, the sides of the torso should be equal - both lengthened.
- You can use your top hand to monitor the pelvis for movement.
2. Avoid lifting Leg too high
AVOID: Avoid lifting your leg too high. This is the most common error/cheat for this exercise.
- The goal of the exercise is to keep the pelvis still and isolate the movement to the hip joint while lifting the leg out into abduction.
- The most common error is moving the pelvis and low back to get the leg higher.
WHAT TO DO:
- Normal movement of the leg out to the side is halfway or less to being straight up.
- Lifting the leg higher is not the goal, the goal is to keep the pelvis still as you lift the leg.
- To use the correct muscles, the hip abductors must have a stable base to work off of.
- If the pelvis moves then the muscle cannot lift the leg, the quadratus lumborum and gravity (collapsing the spine into sidebending) would be causing the leg to rise up.
- The targeted muscles would not be working, and the spine would be moving. So no benefit, only risk.
- The muscles will be challenged the most when the leg is parallel to the floor, lifitng higher is easier.
3. Avoid rotating Hips or Torso
AVOID: Avoid letting your shoulders or hips rotate forward or backward
- This results in using the quadriceps femoris to lift the leg instead of the gluteus medius and minimus.
WHAT TO DO:
- Roll your top hip forwards just a bit - this can help activate the gluteus medius and minimus during the leg lift.
- If you cannot feel the gluteal muscles working, it may help to point the toe down (a bit of internal rotation of the hip). This can help to prevent the muscles on the front of the thigh from helping.
4. Avoid bending at the hip
AVOID: Avoid bending at the hip or moving toe forward.
- This will end up using your hip flexor muscles more, rather than your hip muscles.
WHAT TO DO:
- Keep toe in line with the hip.
- No crease at the hip joint.
5. Avoid hip extension
AVOID: Avoid moving your toe behind your body
- This will get the glute max more involved.
WHAT TO DO:
- Keep toe in line with the hip for best glute medius activation.
6. avoid losing energy in leg
AVOID: Avoid losing the energy down your leg to the foot.
WHAT TO DO:
Energizing the leg helps with stability and will use more of the muscles of the hip and leg.
7. avoid leaning on your Top arm
AVOID: Avoid leaning on your top arm
- The top arm can be on the floor in front of you to help you stabilize but do not lean on to it. It is just for stability.
8. avoid swinging the leg up
AVOID: Avoid swinging the leg
WHAT TO DO:
- The purpose of this exercise is to hold the torso still while controlling the movement of the leg.
VARIATIONS OF Side Lying Leg Lifts - Bent Leg
POINTING AND FLEXING THE TOES
Point or Flex Foot
Flex (dorsiflexion) the ankle so the toes are lifted up towards your head when you lift the top leg.
Point the toes down (plantar flexion) as you lower the leg back down.
You can repeat for 5 repetitions and reverse the pattern: point and lift and flex and lower.
This will engage the muscles that cross the ankle and knee joints.
When the toes are pointed down, the calf muscles are more active, when the foot is flexed - toes lifted up, the front shin muscles are more active.
Arm position options
Arm position options for Side Lying Leg Lifts
Move the top arm on top of the torso (lying the upper arm on the side of the torso).
You can also hold the top arm up in the air - this challenges the stability more - core muscles will work harder.
The top arm can be held in any position of comfort.
Just lifting the arm off of the body will make you less stable and your core muscles will need to work harder.
Wear shoes or ankle weights
Wear shoes or add ankle weights side lying leg lifts
The weight of the shoe on the long lever arm of the leg will increase the torque on the hip joint.
SPIFFILICIOUS FACTS ABOUT MUSCLES & MOVES
The muscles that surround the hip joint work together in a coordinated pattern of muscle activation to stabilize and move the leg in the socket. The muscle and joint function and structure are very similar to the shoulder joint. The pelvic bone is analogous to the shoulder blade and the small deep muscles are analogous to the rotator cuff muscles of the shoulder. Establishing good control over the muscles of the hip joint will prevent injury and degenerative changes over time.
The function of the core muscles is to stabilize the torso against forces: rotation, flexion (forward bending) and lateral flexion (side bending), movement of the torso, and compression of the abdomen (pulling the belly button in towards the spine). They can help in moving the pelvis and ribs.
The gluteus medius and minimus muscles move the hip out to the side, away from the body (abduction). The two muscles lie on the side of the pelvis, slightly towards the back. The gluteus medius muscle originates from the top of the pelvis, most of the bulk of the muscle is under the gluteus maximus (towards the side of the pelvis). The gluteus minimus lies deep to the gluteus medius. The two muscles attach to the trochanter (bony prominence) on the femur (thigh bone). If you slide your hand down the side of your pelvis to the top of the thigh you should be able to feel a round bony protrusion, this is the trochanter - where the muscles attach. When the pelvis is held still and the muscles contract, the leg will lift out to the side. When the leg is held still (as in weight bearing - standing on one leg) the pelvis on the other side will sag down. This is the same as the support leg adducting, or moving towards midline. The gluteus medius and minimis will contract to abduct the leg to straighten the pelvis.
ALLLL MUSCLES & WHEN
ALL MUSCLES WORKING & WHEN DURING THE Side Lying Leg Lift - Bent Leg
The core muscles (internal and external obliques, quadratus lumborum, iliopsoas, rectus abdominis, erector spinae, multifidi, transverse abdominis) are active to maintain a stable spine and pelvis. The core muscles are working to keep the trunk and pelvis in good alignment as you lift your leg.
Active/engaged core muscles does not mean: gripping, stiff, rigid, tight muscles. It is a gentle stabilization, the muscle activity will be constantly changing to stabilize against the movement, this means that while some of the muscles are contracting, others are relaxing - if you hold your torso rigid and guarded the muscles will not be able to relax when they need to. You should feel controlled but relaxed, you should be able to breathe comfortably - you should not be holding your breath. The diaphragm helps to stabilize the core and the pelvic floor forms the bottom of the core. Thinking of gently lifting the pelvic floor will help to stabilize the pelvis and will strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.
The gluteus medius and minimus are working concentrically to lift the leg and eccentrically to lower the leg.