THE GYMNASTIC STYLE LEG RAISE...

This is a great drill to build your abdominal and hip-flexor strength, while practicing holding your straight-leg gymnastic position at the same time. Plus it will definitely, definitely give you a six-pack of course.

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HOW TO GYMNASTIC-STYLE LEG RAISE:

HOW TO DO IT STRAIGHT-LEG STYLE

GET DOWN! – on the floor. Pick a nice mat or maybe even a colourful rug or something to lie on.

DRIVE YOUR CHEST UP – Any sloppiness in your posture really ruins these, so PLEASE pay attention, drive your chest up like you’re standing to attention and showing off your incredible physique (or practicing for when you get there at least).

ELONGATE YOUR LEGS – We want our legs completely straight; completely locked out. They should be squeezed together with your toes pointed gently and there should be a bit of ‘activity’ in your quadriceps.

RAISE YOUR LEGS – Now raise your legs simply by using your abdominals and hip-flexors. Nothing else moves, just hinge at the hip joint. Lift them as high as you can without breaking form.

SQUEEEEEEEEEEZE AGAIN – Your legs will stop when you are near the top of your range of motion / when you run out of strength, but you will always be able to go a wee bit further. So keep squeezing, we should be able to see a definite 'second pull'. Keep squeezing for 1-2 seconds at the top, trying to feel the hip-flexors, abs and quads contracting, and the hamstrings stretching (if you aren’t particularly flexible).

LOWER BACK DOWN SLOW, TAP THE FLOOR AND GO AGAIN – Then lower and tap the ground and go again. Tap the ground gently if I were you. We aren’t trying to crack our heal or bounce them back up!

HOW TO DO IT FLEX/EXTEND STYLE:

FROM THE SAME START POSITION – as described above -- big big chest and arrow straight legs and all that…

BRING KNEES TO 90 – taking out the hardest part of the move (lifting the fully extended legs from the bottom position), stop here, exaggerate and correct posture, push hands into the ground and squeeze your knees together tight.

THEN KICK YOUR LEGS STRAIGHT – the highest you can get them without breaking form, making sure we return to the absolutely straight leg. Concentrate on this move coming purely from your quads.

ATTEMPT THE OL’ SECOND PULL – by squeezing your legs closer to your sternum.

THEN CONTROL DOWN WITH STRENGTH – feeling in control the whole way, feeling your abs and hip-flexors working a wee bit along the way.

TAP THE FLOOR AND GO FOR MORE – Tap the floor (or as low as you can control your legs), then suck your knees back to 90 (the easy bit) and keep going, trying to make every rep better than the last.

WHICH PROGRESSION?

Here are the four main progressions of this move in order of difficulty -- easiest to hardest. Pick the one that you feel you can do well / get the most out of it.

You do get quite a bit of variation on these between individuals on which progression feels right, so it's one to use your judgement on a little. Generally the goal should be to master the hardest progression, but when you're training, go by feel a little.

--> LAID BACK -- FLEX/EXTEND STYLE

--> LAID BACK -- KEEPING LEGS STRAIGHT

--> UPRIGHT -- FLEX/EXTEND STYLE

--> UPRIGHT -- KEEPING LEGS STRAIGHT

HOW NOT TO DO IT...

DON’T FAKE IT – the movement has to come from the hip joint. If your chin sticks out towards your legs, or your spine flexes — you’re faking itry, you're trying to get more range of motion by moving from the wrong place. We don’t want that. Be at one with where you are, and be mindful not to let anything move but your legs.

DON’T SMASH DOWN – Pretty self explanatory. These can be hard work. If you let your legs collapse down, you ain’t doing it right. Stop if you can’t control it. Do less reps or regress to one leg at a time for a while.

DON’T GET PUSHED BACK – As discussed above. As your legs come up, your torso can get pushed back. This can be because you are ‘faking’ movement as discussed above, or it can simply be that you haven’t learned to control the move. So, I humbly suggest that as you straighten your legs, you push your chest up torwards your them, push through your arms and hold your upper body perfectly still.

DON’T BEND THE LEGS – If you have weak quads, or tight hamstrings, your legs may bend during the move. If this happens to you, correct first by paying attention, regressing to fewer reps, or if that doesn’t fix it, try doing just one leg at a time. Then of course you can get better by building your hamstring flexibility and your quad and ab strength.

DON’T GO ONLY HALF WAY UP – If its tough, you might not get very high at first. That’s fine, but work on it. This is a slightly regressed gymnastics drill, but it is still tough. Don’t do more than a few reps though until you can get your legs close to your torso. If you’re stuck lower, you need more strength and more flexibility before you do high rep work.

WICKED CUES!

PENCIL LEGS! – No, I’m not mocking myself for having skinny legs. While you're doiung these, imagine your legs are rigid-straight…like a pencil. That’s the cue that will help you here.

HINGE AT THE WAIST – Remember we’d really rather not lose the torso position. Imaging your torso is set in concrete and the only place movement is possible is at the hip joint.

MASSIVE CHEST – everyone loves a massive chest right?! Now, I’ve taught these to loads of people, and this is the most common piece of ‘cheating’ I see. I've mentioned that over and over again, haven't I? If you don’t have flexible hamstring things, you won’t get that high up on these. You’re going to want to fake it by allowing your chest to cave in, Naughty. Rather, tell yourself to show off your massive chest and accept the reality of how high you can get it up for now. Don’t worry, in the future, you’ll get further.

SECOND PULSE – I’m pretty sure I told you to do a second pulse above right? I meant it you know. The first move is to bring your legs up until the seem to ‘hit the wall’, you stop there and then actively, firmly, squeeze again. You’ll get an inch or two further and a whole world stronger (a rather fun loving lady named Mrs. Sherrell taught me that).

STERNUM TO THIGHS – another sneaky thought to help you keep your MASSIVE CHEST, and to stop you faking it by sticking your chin out…you ain’t fooling anyone or getting any stronger with this madness!

CRAMP THE QUADS – it's not likely to actually happen, but the thought, that’s enough to keep the knee locked and make the magic happen. Remember, this is an ab, hip-flexors AND QUAD exercise.

WHY DO IT TO YOURSELF?!

It will give you wicked strong abdominals and hip flexors – This will make you very athletic and give you great looking abs (as long as you can see them!).

You get to lie down for a while – which is always nice.

It will help your L Sit – which is fundamental gymnastics move, which in order to do well...you need a strong, athletic body (so well worth training for 🙂)

ALTERNATIVES...

Have a problem with these? Extra work on these, (in order of preference as ever), should be ideal:

--> HOLLOW EXTENSIONS

--> HOLLOW BODY POSITION

--> L-SIT

--> HANGING, WITH BODY POSITION EMPHASIS

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