Exercises You Should Be Doing: Core Engaged Active Straight Leg Raise

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Many people are familiar with the active straight leg raise. For those who aren’t, it’s exactly as it sounds.

You know how when you look at someone’s last name, it’s spelled weird, and in your head you’re all like “nope, not even going to try to pronounce that,” and then the person looks at you and says, “it sounds exactly how it looks.”

Come on, use your big words, try it. S.M.I.T.H. 

That’s the active straight leg raise. Try not to overthink it. You’re actively raising your leg. It’s science.

Conventional wisdom will tell you that the active straight leg raise is a great way to test for hamstring length and to see whether or not someone is stiff or short in that area.

And you’d be correct.

Conventional wisdom will also tell you that sticking your finger in an electrical socket “just to see what happens,” is pretty dumb. And you’d be right in that context too. People still do it, though.

The active straight leg raise IS NOT (technically) a test for hamstring length.


While I understand why most people would opt to graze on that side of the fence, it’s overlooking the big picture. That, and as the saying goes…“the grass is always greener on the other side.”

The active straight leg raise is really a way to test one’s ability to control their pelvis. Can they flex one hip (the leg raise) while maintaining hip extension on the non-moving side? And can they do so without any major compensations and/or asymmetrical measurements (I.e., one leg is far better than the other)?

The active straight leg raise is actually one of the “Big 7” of the Functional Movement Screen, and it’s the first one that will be attacked if someone either scores a “1” or an asymmetrical “2/3 – right vs. left” on it.

Long story (20 course hours) short: if you can clean up someone’s ASLR, chances are you’ll be able to clean up many of the prominent movement patterns up the functional chain.

Core Engaged Active Straight Leg Raise


What Does It Do: this is an excellent drill to help “groove” the active straight leg raise and to teach people to extend/flex their hip while simultaneously dissociating hip movement from lumbar movement.

Moreover, adding in the band for additional core engagement helps “stiffen” things up and get the anterior core to fire to better place the body in alignment. This is especially helpful for those who live in a more extended (anterior pelvic tilt) posture.

Key Coaching Cues: lie supine with your feet together and toes pointing up while grabbing a band placed over your head. It’s important to NOT pull the band too far towards the floor. The idea here is to maintain tension and to keep everything “engaged” throughout the set; if you pull the band too far you lose this advantage.

From there it’s all about pacing: pull, leg up, leg down, reset, pull, leg up, leg down, etc. Get the motion through your hips and learn to dissociate from the lumbar spine.


This isn’t a race and it’s crucial to do this drill correctly in order to reap the benefits.

This would be an excellent drill to include as part of an extended warm-up prior to training, or as a “filler” exercise within the training session itself.

Reps of 6-8 PER SIDE would suffice.

Now I’m just going to sit back and wait to see how long it takes for someone from CrossFit to put this into some kind of METCON finisher where the active leg is dragging a Prowler or something.

Just kidding.

But I’m not.

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

I don’t share email information. Ever. Because I’m not a jerk.

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