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Reverse leg lifts.

Description: From having a 90 degree bend at the waist, raise the legs against gravity

Motions trained: Torso extension

Main muscles used: Hamstrings
   Other muscles: lower back


How to do it: Lie on a bench with your legs over the end. Using your butt and lower back, raise your legs. Keep your legs straight. Do not swing your legs but use your muscles.

How to work up to it: Stiff-legged deadlifts are a good way to work up to these. Also, start far enough forward so that not too much of your lower body is hanging over the edge. The more of you is off the bench, the higher the load and a couple of inches can make a huge difference.

Ramping it up: Have more of you off the bench. If you really want to max this out, try the following free-standing version. Be sure you feel comfortable with a headstand first:


Kneel on all fours. Plant the top of your head on the floor. Using your hands for stability, lever your entire lower body straight up, keeping the legs straight, then lower with control.

Do's and don'ts: On the bench exercise, don't swing your lower body since you could hurt your back (if you are prone to back trouble). If you move smoothly and with control, this is a great way to help your lower back. The headstand version is really good, but don't do it if you have neck trouble.

Comments: Your lower back is slow twitch muscle while your hamstrings are fast twitch. When you do this, both have to work together which is why doing this violently is a bad idea – the hamstrings can generate explosive forces the lower back can't handle.