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The classic plank exercise is cool and all, but plank leg raises really take it to the next level. Adding leg raises (aka leg lifts) can boost the intensity and activate more of your abdominal and lower-body muscles. Butts and guts, watch out — plank leg raises are coming for you!

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Image by Dima Bazak
  1. Start in plank position with hands shoulder-width apart. Your shoulders, hips, and ankles should be in a line.
  2. Keep abs engaged and raise right leg off the floor until it’s at about hip height. Keep right foot flexed.
  3. Pause and feel the burn. Then lower your right leg back to the floor.
  4. Repeat with your left leg.

Aim for 3 sets of 10 reps, alternating legs. If that’s too hard, start with fewer reps and work your way up. Too easy? Add more sets!

Adding leg raises can help activate your ab muscles more than regular planks, and they’re effective at strengthening your core. With a strong core comes good posture, better balance, and even a healthier back.

Beyond the muscles in your abs, plank leg raises also work out your:

  • glutes
  • hamstrings
  • quads
  • shoulders

You don’t reap the benefits of plank leg raises if you don’t do the exercise properly. Making sure your form is on point means you’re less likely to get injured.

Some major plank mistakes to avoid:

  • lifting your head up and craning your neck
  • dropping your hips or raising your butt too high
  • not keeping your neck and spine straight
  • holding your breath

As with most exercises, you can modify plank leg raises to suit your fitness level. Here are some plank leg raise variations to try.

Medicine ball plank leg raises

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  1. Put both hands on a medicine ball and keep it in line with your shoulders as you get into plank position.
  2. Squeeze abs tight and raise one leg straight up, keeping leg straight and hips tucked.
  3. After a few seconds, lower your leg and repeat with the other leg.

Do 3 sets of 10 reps, alternating legs.

Pro tip: Keep your legs straight and avoid raising your hips. If you feel unsteady on the medicine ball, do the standard plank leg raises until you feel comfortable with the balance.

Forearms/elbows plank leg raises

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  1. Start in plank position on your forearms. Keep abs and butt tight and your body level.
  2. Raise one leg to about hip height and hold there for a second or two. Then drop it back down.
  3. Continue to alternate legs.

Do 3 sets of 10 reps, alternating legs.

Pro tip: Keep your head down and avoid putting your booty in the air. You want to keep your body straight like a board!

Alternate-arm plank leg raises

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  1. Start in a standard plank with arms and legs straight and shoulders above wrists.
  2. Simultaneously raise left leg and right arm off the floor. Hold for 1 second.
  3. Lower arm and leg back to the floor and repeat with the opposite arm and leg.

Do 3 sets of 10 reps, alternating legs.

Pro tip: Avoid rotating your hips or upper body. Go slow and keep control when lifting your arms and legs off the floor.

Reverse plank leg raises

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  1. Sit on the floor with legs straight and palms behind you with fingers facing your toes.
  2. Lift your butt off the floor, driving feet into the floor to remain stable.
  3. Keep hips lifted and alternate lifting your right and left leg at a slow and steady pace.

Do 15–20 lifts per leg.

Pro tip: The position should look like your body is in one diagonal line, and you should be facing upward, not downward like in a typical plank. You can also do this on your elbows if it hurts your wrists.

Side plank leg raises

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  1. Place either your right or left elbow on the floor, lift your hips, and extend both legs.
  2. Balance on the outside edge of your bottom foot and lift top leg up just a bit higher than your hip.
  3. Slowly lower top leg back down.
  4. Repeat on the other side.

Do 15–20 lifts per leg.

Pro tip: Help out your balance by keeping your free hand on your hip or extended in the air. Keep your feet flexed if you can.

If you tend to do regular planks in your exercise routine, now is your chance to add leg raises. As long as your form is correct, your core will be engaged. Trying the modifications will keep your routine fresh and exciting!