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Strengthen your core, improve your stability with the L-Sit

There are very few exercises that challenge your core muscles and improve your stability as well as the L-Sit. This is how you do it

Move over planks, here comes the L-Sit.
Move over planks, here comes the L-Sit. (Istockphoto)

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Move aside planks, here comes the L-sit! Exponentially more difficult to do, but certainly more effective, the L-sit is a move that challenges the core and stabilizes your body unlike few other exercises. With an exciting progression formula, including help from equipment such as parallettes and boxes and even yoga blocks, the L-sit, once mastered, will become your favourite core exercise. It works the hip flexors, and activates the abdominal and lower back muscles together while also strengthening the shoulders and improving stability.

An L-sit is quite literally about holding pose where your body makes an L-shape. But here’s what makes it tricky to master: you have to raise your feet a few inches off the ground using the strength from multiple muscles to aid your stability. The benefits are incredible. “A strong core helps take the load off the spine and provides a brace to lift heavier weight and prevent back injuries. It also helps to shift effort from the upper body to the lower body and vice versa. The L-sit can be used as an accessory exercise for movements like the squat and deadlift or perform a few sets and turn them into a workout,” states a article on the move.

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Learning the L-sit from scratch will take time, especially to graduate to a level where you can do it without any elevation on any equipment, and raise your feet with your palms on the ground. But there are many levels of progression. A good starting point is doing the tuck-sit, in which the legs are not straight and ahead of you, but tucked in, knees-to-chest style. The above video from More Than Lifting shows a tuck L-sit on the palms, but start with the same exercise on parallettes, or blocks, and it will work as an even lower level of progression, which is perfect for beginners. Those who have no experience with core training should work on leg-raises and their variations while lying down, before trying the tuck L-sit.

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It might be difficult at even intermediate level to generate strength with the arms locked to the side. This is where the pull-up bar can help, with an overhead position allowing one to focus on bringing the legs up to a ninety degree angle and holding for a few second. This will allow you to understand which muscles get activated when the body is bracing for an L-sit. Since the hanging leg-raise is a skill in itself, you can work up to it doing hanging half-tucks and hanging knee-tucks.

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Up next are the parallel bar or parallette L-sits, with the former being slightly easier than the latter because of the height of the bars. The formula for the L-sit is simple: it is harder to execute the closer you are to the floor. Once you master the parallettes, the next step would be to do the L-sit using dumbbells, which offer you only an inch or two of elevation above the floor.

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Following a progression routine which takes you a step closer to the L-sit is how you will eventually be able to perform one on the floor. Chris Heria, who has nearly 4 million subscribers on YouTube, has posted an L-sit progression video which also involves boxes and some home seating equipment to help you train. Most trainers also make sure that you do not suffer from tight hamstrings before attempting the move. He also adds single-leg L-sits to the progression chart of exercises.

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My progression towards an L-sit was to do leg raises on a pull-up bar, learn strict dips, attempt knee-tucks on parallettes, before finally thinking of performing one on the floor. It takes time, but doing just three or four L-sit holds at the end of a workout on any equipment will add to your progress. For a tiny movement of a couple of inches, the exercise is remarkably difficult but equally difficult.

Some things to take care of form-wise are to not let your head sink while performing the L-sit. Another cue is that your shoulders shouldn’t be near your ears. Instead, focus on pushing down on the floor or the equipment of choice downward, and protract your scapula to bring in the back and shoulder muscles into the exercise. Try to keep your chest up and spine straight. This is similar to the kind of movement you need to perform a tricep dip. In fact, dips are a great way to build the strength for an L-sit.For all the ab and core exercises out there, there is hardly one as unique as an isometric hold as the L-sit.

Pulasta Dhar is a football commentator and writer.

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