This is one of my favorite core work exercises - I actually learned this during barre teacher training with Barre & Soul! I usually use a yoga block (this is the kind of yoga block I have) to do this, but you can use any sort of prop as long as it is stable. I have used a shoe, a weight, and a glove - as you can see here! You can also do it without a prop; the prop just makes this more challenging and really makes you engage your core to lift your legs.
This is also a great core exercise for people who have neck pain or tension - my mom has a very stiff, sensitive neck and many traditional core exercises done from a seated or supine position aggravate her neck. She loves this core exercise as well because it doesn’t strain her neck, so when I teach barre classes to my family, I often choose this move! I usually do a set of 16 of each move, but feel free to do more or less - just try to do an even amount on both legs and challenge yourself with a slight hold at the end if possible!
The key to this exercise is to lean forward and really press your weight into your hands and fingers to engage your core. You can do this very easily if your weight is back towards your seat, but you’d be using your leg muscles and hip flexors instead of your core to lift your legs. So really round forward and press as hard as you can into the floor, focusing on using your abdominal muscles to lift the legs.
To start, sit down on the floor with your feet out in front of you. Place your feet on either side of the prop if you are using one. I recommend starting with a bend in your knees, and then if you feel comfortable with that and want more of a challenge, you can fully straighten your leg. If you are bending your knees, make sure you are lifting the whole leg up from the thigh, and not just moving your lower leg from the knee down (then you won’t be using your core strength). Lean forward as far as you can and reach your arms out in front of you, pressing your fingertips into the floor. Keep this strong pressure in your hands throughout the exercise to keep the focus in your core, as I described earlier.
Start to lift one leg, then the other up over the prop in the center of your body. Depending on how high/low your prop is, you can gently tap the top of the prop, but try to avoid taking a break by resting the foot on the prop and releasing the core strength. If you feel good about doing one leg at a time, then start to bring both legs up together and tap your feet in the center. This is often when people start to lean back and lose their core engagement, so be sure to keep pressing forward into your hands!
For the next variation, place one foot on the prop and cross the other ankle on top of it. Use your core to lift the top leg up a few inches, then raise the bottom leg to meet it, hold for a second, then gently release both legs down. It’s normal for your weight to shift back slightly during this, just because of balance, but try to keep your fingers pressing down as much as you can. Try to keep the muscles working even on the way down as opposed to just dropping the legs. If this feels impossible, try just lifting and lowering the top leg, or go back to the first variation. Switch legs and repeat on the other side!
And now you’re done!! I hope you enjoyed this core work series and feel a little stronger after having completed it!