With the side leg lifts, we are using the abductor, gluteus, hip, and inner thigh gracillis muscles. These muscles tend to be tight, contracted and under used since we are sitting down so much. Even when we walk, we are not really lengthening these muscles. Pulling the leg out and keeping the hip forward during leg lifts is difficult, since it is not a natural position for the muscles to be in. By pulling the leg out we are not only lengthening and strengthening these muscles, but opening up the hip joint, giving us greater range of motion.
You can think of braces on teeth; it takes time to re-align the teeth by slowly pulling on the jaw muscles and gums to move the teeth. If you leave the teeth as they are, then they will stay in the original position. The side of the legs and hips are the same - they like to be in an easy, comfortable, contracted position, so we pull on the outer thigh muscles to lengthen and strengthen them.
It never gets easier, because our muscles will always go to the most convenient position on a day to day basis. With each Essentrics class we try to go to the end of our movement and pull the leg out a little further than last time, always challenging the muscles. Leg lifts on the 2nd leg always seem more difficult because we are tired from doing the lifts on the 1st leg.
Summary of the benefits of side leg lifts:
1) Strengthen & lengthen all muscles around the hip joint, 2) Tone, lengthen, strengthen entire leg and outer thigh, 3) Tone & strengthen abdominal and back muscles, 4) Improve mobility & agility of hip / leg.
Tips for doing leg lifts:
Roll hip forward, pull leg out, lift the leg. Your leg should only lift a few inches if you are doing the movement correctly. Keep your body up and supported with your hands / arms.
A special thanks to Bev Seymour - Certified Level 4 Essentrics Instructor - for her contribution and input on this article. You can sign up for a class with Bev in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Here is her website for additional information: www.essentricsclasseswithbevinwinnipeg.com