In the pantheon of great ab exercises perhaps only sit-ups are placed higher than leg raises, and for good reason. They’re simple, effective and easy to vary to keep them challenging even when you become a lower-limb-lifting master.

Leg raises are a great way to target your lower abdominal muscles, which can be left short-changed by traditional sit-ups. They’ll also increase the strength and flexibility in your hips and lower back, traditional problem areas for people who spend plenty of time at a desk.

If you’re keen to strengthen your core and increase the flexibility of your mid-section, there are few better places to start.

RECOMMENDED: Core Exercises

How To Do Leg Raises

Start by lying down on the floor or a mat. Unfortunately, it gets tougher from here. Lay flat with your arms at your sides and legs stretched out next to each other, then raise those legs. Even if you can’t hold them perfectly rigid, keep your legs as straight as possible, and lift them until they are pointing at the ceiling, or as near as you can get. Make sure your toes are pointed.

Then lower them back down, being careful to keep your movements measured. The return journey should be at the same pace at which you raised your legs. Lower them until they’re hovering just above the ground, and then raise them again. Shoot for three sets of 10 reps, or simply do as many raises as you can – keeping the pace steady – in a set time as part of a circuit.

If you’re struggling to do even 10 traditional leg raises, you can make the movement a bit easier by bending your legs at right angles when you lift. Once your thighs are perpendicular to your body, try and straighten your legs to point at the ceiling.

A good way to ensure you’re keeping your movements steady, and test your leg-raising abilities, is to set a metronome running and do the exercise in time with the beat. At 50bpm, you should lift on one beat and lower on the second. Try and stick with the beat for a minute, rest for 30 seconds and do it again.

Leg Raise Variations

Medicine Ball Leg Raise

Add an extra challenge for your abs, hips and adductors (the insides of your thighs) by gripping a medicine ball between your feet.

Hanging Leg Raise

Hang from a pull-up bar with your body straight. Keeping your legs as straight as possible, use your lower abs to raise them until they are parallel to the ground. This is one to work up to.