The Seated Pike Leg Lift is a quick, effective, but criminally overlooked way of improving your core stability.
The seated pike leg lift boosts our core strength by improving mobility and control of our hamstrings, quads, glutes, hips and lower abdominal muscles. It’s a very straightforward, beginner-friendly exercise that can be adapted to your current ability, whether you’re a new mover or an experienced athlete.
Like all core workouts, the seated pike leg lift addresses those mobility issues created by everyday life. You see, we spend so much time in seated or prone positions, with our core muscles disengaged, that many of us develop unstable cores by the time we reach adulthood. Taking back control of your core is one of the first steps towards taking full control over our entire body.
In this detailed seated pike leg lift exercise guide, we’ll outline the steps to follow, adjustments to make it easier (if necessary), and we’ll go into detail on how this exercise will benefit you in the short and long term.
Seated Pike Leg Lift Exercise Guide
Check out the quick, one minute video for a great visual guide. Though do take a moment to read through the steps detailed below to keep your form right!
1.(Optional)Gather your apparatus: A yoga block is an ideal tool for the seated pike leg lift exercise, as it indicates where to put your feet and how far to raise them.
If you don’t have one to hand, and no suitable alternative, that’s fine. Just pay close attention to your form as you perform the exercise.
2.Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Your feet can rest on each side of the yoga block, which should be broad-side down i.e. one of the faces with the larger surface area should be on the floor.
3.Keeping your legs straight, lock your knees and point your toes out in front of you. Put your hands on the floor, approximately in line with your knees. This will depend on your body type of course — for people with longer legs it will be more suitable to put your hands on the floor next to your mid-thighs.
N.B. Your hands are used purely for balance here. They won’t be bearing any significant weight at all, so feel free to extend your fingers to the floor and keep your palms aloft if it’s more comfortable.
4. Engage your core and lift: Keeping your back straight and near vertical, legs straight, knees locked and toes extended forward, slowly lift your legs until your feet are just above the yoga block and tap your heels together.
Tip: If you’re not using a yoga block – raise your feet until they’re about 10 cm, or 4 inches, off the floor.
N.B. Don’t rush this movement, rather allow it to put some strain on your core.
5. Lower: With your core still engaged, bring your heels apart and slowly lower your feet back down to the floor. Make sure to maintain that same form in the back, knees and toes.
6. Repeat the above as many times as you can with the correct form. 4-5 times is a great start for beginners, while as many as 15 or 20 is a good amount for those of you with more experience. Remember though, for a core workout like this, good quality trumps untidy quantity every time.
What If I Can’t Do The Seated Pike Leg Lift Exercise?
Don’t stress! The point is that you’re trying, so kudos for that. As Dan shows in the video, there are more achievable progressions to build your core strength up to being able to perform a full seated pike left lift:
- Instead of lifting both legs at once, just lift one while keeping the other locked, your core engaged and your back straight.
Doing this repeatedly will gradually improve your control over the movement. Before long, you’ll be raising both legs at the same time with no problem.
At A Glance: The Benefits of Seated Pike Leg Lifts
The obvious benefit of leg lifts is that they strengthen and stabilize our core, which in turn allows for improved balance, better posture, increased mobility, injury prevention,more explosive power and plenty more.
But let’s go into a little more detail on how this exercise benefits us, since the core is not just one simple muscle:
- Increased hamstring flexibility and mobility
We don’t really get the chance to work our hamstrings in any natural way anymore since we spend so much time in passive positions i.e. seated or lying down. The long term effect of this is that our hamstrings become much less mobile and flexible. One clear example of this is how difficult many adults find it to simply touch our toes!
With tight, inflexible hamstrings, we’re basically driving around with the handbrake on. But the active compression and extension of leg lift exercises increase our hamstring mobility and flexibility by steadily loosening the tissues, or fascia, in these muscles.
- Improved lower abdominal and hip strength
This ties in with the above, as our hips and lower abs work hand in hand with our glutes, quads, and hamstrings to mobilize and control our core.
The seated pike leg lift requires us to engage these muscles as we raise and lower our legs, which strengthens them over time.
- Improved knee stability and injury prevention
Leg raise exercises like this are widely used in knee injury rehabilitation as they strengthen the muscles around the knee joint. And anything that can be used for injury rehab can be used for injury prevention.
On that note, it’s not just your knees that’ll be more resilient with a more stable core — you lower back, upper legs and hips will benefit immensely too.
Indeed, our core is often ground zero for any number of body issues, as it’s the foundation on which our body is built — it’s our chassis in other words. By strengthening the core, and with it our posture and body control, we can steer clear of stress and injuries to our ankles, mid and upper back, and even the neck shoulders.
When Should I Do the Seated Pike Leg Lift Exercise?
That’s the great thing about this exercise, it’s very adaptable, and can be done just about anywhere — as part of a gentle, flowing movement session, or as part of a high intensity workout.
A short seated pike leg lift exercise of 4 or 5 reps is a suitable warm up exercise that will get engage your core ahead of a heavier workout, and help prevent an avoidable injury.
However if you want to supplement, or even finish off your exercise session with some intense core strength work, a higher volume of seated pike leg lifts is going to give you a real testing workout.
The Final Word
Movement is good for you — it’s pretty much that simple. But to be able to move with all the freedom we’d like, we first have to take back ownership of our foundations. As we gain more control over our core muscles, we’re steadily reinforcing them, and this will allow us to move better in the future. We’ll lift heavier weights, climb higher, run and swim faster. In short, we’ll feel more confident and at one with our body. That’s what it’s all about.
Take care of your core, and it’ll take care of you.
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