How to Do a Straight Leg Raise: A Hinge Health Guide

Learn how to do straight leg raises to help with hip strength and mobility, plus modifications to make it easier or harder.

Published Date: Jul 28, 2023

Whether you're an athlete trying to enhance your athletic performance, seeking better hip strength for daily activities, or trying to ease your hip pain, incorporating targeted exercises can help — a lot. But which exercises are best? Straight leg raises shine as a simple yet effective movement that can yield significant benefits for your hips. 

Here, we discuss the numerous benefits that this exercise offers in improving hip strength and mobility, and how you can modify the straight leg raise exercise to meet your needs.

Our Hinge Health Experts

Dylan Peterson, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist and Clinical Reviewer
Dr. Peterson is a Hinge Health physical therapist who focuses on developing clinical exercise therapy programs and member education.

What Is a Straight Leg Raise?

The straight leg raise exercise is commonly used in physical therapy and rehabilitation settings to help strengthen the muscles of the hip and thigh. It also helps to improve flexibility and range of motion in the hip joint.

What Muscles Do Straight Leg Raises Work? 

Straight leg raises primarily target the muscles of the hip and thigh, including: 

  • Quadriceps: This muscle group is located on the front of the thigh and consists of four muscles: rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and vastus intermedius. These muscles extend the knee joint and play a major role in helping you do things like walking and running, jumping, climbing stairs, squatting to pick something up from the ground, and kicking a ball. 

  • Hip flexors: The hip flexor muscles, including the iliopsoas and rectus femoris, are located at the front of the hip. They help to flex the hip joint and are engaged when you do things such as climb stairs, sit or stand from a chair, put on socks and shoes, and step over obstacles on the ground in front of you. 

Your abdominal and core muscles are also engaged during the straight leg raise (though to a lesser extent), along with other muscles in your lower body, such as the glutes (buttocks) and hamstrings (back of the thigh). 

Straight Leg Raise: Benefits

Performing straight leg raises can help make it easier and less painful to do many everyday activities, like lifting your leg to put on shoes, getting in and out of a car, and kicking a soccer ball. More specifically, straight leg raises help: 

  • Hip stability and mobility by strengthening the hip flexors 

  • Core strength and stability, which can help you manage back pain (and prevent future back pain flares) 

  • Improve hip range of motion and flexibility 

  • Prevent knee and hip injuries by strengthening weaker muscles and improving stability around the hip joint  

Straight Leg Raise: Exercises and Modifications 

The information contained in these videos is intended to be used for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice or treatment for any specific condition. Hinge Health is not your healthcare provider and is not responsible for any injury sustained or exacerbated by your use of or participation in these exercises. Please consult with your healthcare provider with any questions you may have about your medical condition or treatment.

Straight Leg Raise

Straight Leg Raise

Straight Leg Raise

Straight Leg Raise

To do a straight leg raise: 

  • Lie on your back with one leg resting straight on the floor and the other bent at the knee (with your foot flat on the ground). 

  • Raise your straight leg toward the ceiling, focusing on keeping your leg straight as you do so. 

  • Hold for a few seconds and relax your leg back to the floor. 

Everyone is different, which is why you may need to modify the straight leg raise to meet your needs. 

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Straight Leg Raise Modifications

Straight Leg Raise Modifications

Straight Leg Raise Modifications

Straight Leg Raise Modifications

To make straight leg raises easier:  

  • Decrease your range of motion by limiting how far you lift your leg toward the ceiling. 

  • Start from a standing position with your hands on a table for support. Then lift one leg up towards the ceiling, keeping your leg straight as you do so. 

To make straight leg raises harder: 

  • Loop a resistance band around your knees to add resistance. 

  • Hold your leg in the air for a longer time. 

You can apply one of the above modifications to make the exercise easier or harder, or multiple modifications at once. 

How Hinge Health Can Help You 

If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program. 

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you.  

Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you. 

See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.

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  1. Straight Leg Raise Test. (n.d.). Physiopedia. Retrieved from https://www.google.com/search?q=straight+leg+raise&rlz=1CAOFPC_enUS905&oq=straight+leg+raise&aqs=chrome..69i57j0i512l4j69i64l3.4621j0j4&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

  2. Camino, G. O., & Piuzzi, N. S. (2019, September 10). Straight Leg Raise Test. NIH; StatPearls Publishing. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK539717/