Why Do Lying Leg Raises Hurt My Back? Find Out Here

Why Do Lying Leg Raises Hurt My Back?

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Why Do Lying Leg Raises Hurt My Back? Find Out Here

When it comes to core exercises, lying leg raises are a popular choice for many fitness enthusiasts. They effectively work your abdominal muscles and help build overall core strength. However, a common downside of this exercise is the potential for lower back pain.

In this article, we’ll dive into the causes of back pain during leg raises and discuss ways to prevent and remedy the issue, all while maintaining an engaging and conversational tone.

Why Do Lying Leg Raises Hurt My Back?

Lying leg raises, a popular core exercise targeting lower abdominal muscles, can cause lower back pain due to improper form, muscle imbalances, or pre-existing conditions. Arching the lower back, incorrect leg height, and weak core muscles contribute to discomfort, while herniated discs, muscle strains, or sciatica can worsen the pain. Preventing lower back pain requires proper form, technique, and muscle strengthening. Maintaining a neutral spine, controlled movements, and appropriate leg height can reduce pain. Strengthening the core through exercises like planks and stretching hip flexors also helps. Modifying leg raises or consulting a professional, such as a chiropractor or physical therapist, can provide guidance and support. If lying leg raises persistently cause pain, alternative core exercises like planks, dead bugs, bird dogs, seated leg lifts, and Swiss ball exercises can be incorporated. A balanced workout routine and consistent, patient approach to fitness are essential for preventing injury and promoting overall health and wellness. By understanding the causes of lower back pain during leg raises and implementing proper techniques, you can safely strengthen your core and enjoy the benefits of a strong midsection.

Importance of core strength and the popularity of leg raises

Core strength is crucial for overall fitness and health, as it helps maintain balance, stability, and even posture. Lying leg raises have become a go-to exercise for many because they specifically target the lower abdominal muscles, an area that can be challenging to engage with other exercises. Unfortunately, the popularity of leg raises also means that many people experience lower back pain as a result.

The downside: potential lower back pain from leg raises

As with any exercise, improper form or technique can lead to pain and injury. In the case of lying leg raises, lower back pain is a common issue. This article aims to help you understand the root causes of this pain, how to prevent it, and how to modify the exercise to ensure that you can continue to strengthen your core without causing harm to your body.

Arching the lower back

One of the primary reasons people experience lower back pain during leg raises is due to an excessive arch in the lower back. When you arch your back, you create unnecessary stress on your spine, which can result in pain. Picture this: You’re lying on the floor, ready to start your leg raises, but instead of keeping your lower back flat on the ground, you allow it to curve away from the floor. This seemingly harmless mistake can lead to significant discomfort and potential injury.

Lifting legs too high or too low

Another common mistake during leg raises is lifting your legs too high or too low. If you lift your legs too high, you’re placing extra strain on your lower back. Conversely, if you lift them too low, your abdominal muscles may not engage properly, causing your lower back to compensate for the lack of support. It’s essential to find the right balance when performing leg raises to prevent injury.

Over-reliance on hip flexors

Sometimes, the issue isn’t with your form but with the muscles you’re using to perform the exercise. In some cases, people may over-rely on their hip flexors during leg raises, which can result in lower back pain. Your hip flexors are a group of muscles that help you flex your hips and lift your legs. When these muscles are overworked, it can cause strain and discomfort in the lower back.

Insufficient engagement of the abdominal muscles

On the flip side, not engaging your abdominal muscles enough can also contribute to lower back pain during leg raises. When your abs aren’t working hard enough, your lower back has to pick up the slack, which can lead to strain and pain. It’s crucial to focus on engaging your core muscles during the exercise to prevent this issue.

Herniated discs

If you have a history of lower back issues or injuries, such as herniated discs, performing leg raises can exacerbate the problem. A herniated disc occurs when the soft, gel-like center of a spinal disc pushes through a crack in the tougher exterior. This can cause pressure on nearby nerves, leading to pain and discomfort. If you’re already dealing with a herniated disc, leg raises can make the situation worse by placing additional strain on your spine.

Muscle strains

Muscle strains in the lower back can also contribute to pain during leg raises. When you strain a muscle, it can become inflamed and painful, and performing leg raises can exacerbate the issue by putting stress on the already injured area.


Sciatica, a condition characterized by pain radiating down the leg from the lower back, is another potential cause of discomfort during leg raises. If you have sciatica, it’s important to consult with a medical professional before attempting leg raises or any other exercise that may exacerbate your symptoms.

Maintaining a neutral spine

To prevent lower back pain during leg raises, it’s crucial to maintain a neutral spine throughout the exercise. This means keeping your lower back flat on the ground and avoiding arching your back. To help achieve this position, think about pressing your belly button down towards the floor while performing the exercise.

Related: Are Hanging Leg Raises Bad For Your Back?

Appropriate leg height

As mentioned earlier, finding the right balance in leg height is essential for preventing lower back pain during leg raises. Aim to keep your legs at a height where your abdominal muscles are engaged, but you’re not putting too much strain on your lower back. A good rule of thumb is to keep your legs at a 45-degree angle from the floor.

Controlled movements

Performing leg raises with slow, controlled movements can also help prevent lower back pain. This allows your muscles to work together more effectively and reduces the risk of injury. Avoid swinging your legs or using momentum to lift them, as this can place unnecessary stress on your lower back.

Planks and other core exercises

Incorporating other core exercises, such as planks, into your routine can help strengthen your abdominal muscles and reduce the risk of lower back pain during leg raises. A strong core can provide better support for your lower back, making it less likely that you’ll experience pain during the exercise.

Strengthening the lower back muscles

It’s also essential to strengthen your lower back muscles to support your spine during leg raises. Exercises like bridges and back extensions can help target these muscles and reduce the risk of pain and injury.

Stretching hip flexors

Tight hip flexors can contribute to lower back pain during leg raises. Incorporating hip flexor stretches, like the runner’s lunge or the pigeon stretch, into your routine can help alleviate tightness and reduce the risk of pain.

Modifying the exercise

Bent-knee leg raises – If you find that lying leg raises cause discomfort in your lower back, consider modifying the exercise by bending your knees. Bent-knee leg raises can help reduce the strain on your lower back while still effectively targeting your abdominal muscles.

Single leg raises – Another modification to consider is performing single leg raises. By lifting one leg at a time, you can reduce the load on your lower back and still engage your core muscles effectively.

Lying lateral leg raises – Lying lateral leg raises are another alternative that can help alleviate lower back pain. This exercise targets your hips and outer thigh muscles while placing less strain on your lower back.

Consulting a professional

Chiropractors – If you’re experiencing persistent lower back pain during leg raises, it may be beneficial to consult a chiropractor. They can assess your spinal alignment and provide adjustments to help alleviate pain and discomfort.

Physical therapists – Physical therapists can also provide guidance on proper form and technique for leg raises, as well as recommend modifications or alternative exercises based on your specific needs and limitations.

Fitness trainers – Working with a fitness trainer can also be beneficial, as they can help you develop a well-rounded core workout program and ensure that you’re performing exercises like leg raises with proper form to prevent injury.

Alternative exercises for core strength

If you’re unable to perform lying leg raises without experiencing lower back pain, there are plenty of alternative exercises that can help you build core strength. Consider incorporating some of the following exercises into your routine:


Planks are a highly effective exercise for targeting the entire core, including the abdominal muscles, lower back, and obliques. They also help improve overall stability and balance.

Dead bugs

Dead bugs are another excellent core exercise that engages your abdominal muscles while keeping your lower back in a neutral position. This exercise is particularly beneficial for those with lower back issues, as it puts minimal strain on the spine.

Bird dogs

Bird dogs are a dynamic exercise that targets the core muscles while also engaging the glutes, lower back, and shoulders. This exercise requires coordination and balance, making it a great option for a well-rounded core workout.

Seated leg lifts

Seated leg lifts are a seated variation of the traditional leg raise exercise. They still target the lower abdominal muscles but place less stress on the lower back.

Swiss ball exercises

Swiss ball exercises, such as Swiss ball knee tucks or Swiss ball pikes, can help strengthen your core muscles while minimising the strain on your lower back.

Related: Why Do I Get Chest Pain When Doing Sit Ups?

Continuing your fitness journey safely

It’s important to remember that everyone’s fitness journey is unique. What works for one person may not work for another, and that’s perfectly okay. The key is to listen to your body and make adjustments as needed. If leg raises consistently cause you pain or discomfort, don’t be afraid to explore other exercises or seek guidance from a professional.

The importance of a balanced workout routine

While core exercises are an essential part of any workout routine, it’s crucial to maintain a balanced approach to fitness. Incorporating a variety of exercises that target different muscle groups will not only help you achieve a more well-rounded physique but also reduce the risk of injury and muscle imbalances.

Staying consistent and patient

Building core strength and overcoming lower back pain during leg raises won’t happen overnight. It’s essential to stay consistent with your workouts, practice proper form and technique, and be patient with yourself as you progress. Remember, slow and steady progress is better than risking injury by pushing yourself too hard too quickly.

Listening to your body

As you continue your fitness journey, always remember to listen to your body. If you notice increased pain or discomfort during leg raises or any other exercise, it’s crucial to take a step back, reevaluate your form, and consider seeking professional guidance. Your body is your best guide, so pay attention to its signals and adjust accordingly.


How does a slipped disc feel?

A slipped disc, also known as a herniated or bulging disc, can cause a variety of symptoms. These may include localised pain in the affected area, radiating pain along the nerves affected by the disc, numbness, tingling, or weakness in the limbs, and muscle spasms. The severity of symptoms can vary depending on the location and severity of the disc herniation.

What does a positive straight leg raise test usually indicate?

A positive straight leg raise test typically indicates irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve, which can be caused by conditions such as a herniated disc or lumbar spinal stenosis. The test involves raising the patient’s leg while they are lying on their back, and a positive result occurs when the patient experiences pain, numbness, or tingling down the leg during the test.

Why does it hurt to lift my leg up?

Pain when lifting your leg can result from various causes, including muscle strains, joint inflammation, nerve compression, or underlying conditions such as hip or lower back problems. Identifying the root cause of the pain typically requires a thorough examination by a healthcare professional.

How do you test for a herniated disc?

To test for a herniated disc, a healthcare professional will typically start with a physical examination, which may include tests such as the straight leg raise test. They may also ask about your symptoms and medical history. In some cases, imaging studies like X-rays, MRI, or CT scans may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis and assess the severity of the disc herniation.

What are the 4 stages of disc herniation?

The four stages of disc herniation are:

  1. Disc degeneration: The disc starts to lose hydration and becomes less flexible.
  2. Prolapse: The disc begins to bulge as its outer layer weakens.
  3. Extrusion: The outer layer of the disc tears, and the inner material starts to push out.
  4. Sequestration: The inner material of the disc fully breaks through the outer layer and separates from the disc itself.

How do you tell if lower back pain is muscle or disc?

Determining whether lower back pain is caused by a muscle strain or a disc issue can be challenging without a professional assessment. Generally, muscle-related pain tends to be localized and may worsen with specific movements or positions. Disc-related pain often radiates down the leg, following the path of the affected nerve, and may be accompanied by numbness, tingling, or weakness.

What happens if a herniated disc goes untreated?

If a herniated disc goes untreated, it can lead to worsening pain, increased nerve compression, and potential nerve damage. In rare cases, untreated herniated discs may result in a condition called cauda equina syndrome, which causes severe lower back pain, loss of bowel or bladder control, and leg weakness. This condition requires immediate medical attention.


Understanding the root causes of back pain during leg raises is essential for preventing injury and ensuring that you can continue to strengthen your core safely. By implementing proper form, technique, and modifications, as well as exploring alternative exercises for a well-rounded core workout, you can minimise the risk of lower back pain and enjoy the many benefits of a strong and stable core.

Remember, if you’re experiencing persistent pain or discomfort, don’t hesitate to consult a professional for guidance and support.

Does your back hurt when doing lying leg raises and have these tips helped? Let us know in the comments below.

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