How To Do The Straight Leg Raise

A Common Physical Therapy Exercise

Straight Leg Raise. Courtesy of Laura Klappenbach

If you have a lower extremity injury or have had hip, knee, or ankle surgery, you may benefit from physical therapy to help you fully recover. Exercises may be prescribed to improve mobility of your leg. The straight leg raise exercise is one of the physical therapy staples that can help improve your lower extremity strength and help improve your function related to walking.

The straight leg raise is an excellent exercise to strengthen the muscles of the hip. It is one of the first exercises done after hip or knee replacement surgery. It is effective and easy, and the straight leg raise is a great rehabilitation technique.

The Exercise

  1. Sit or lie down on your back with your legs straight out in front of you.
  2. Bend the knee of your non-operated leg to a 90-degree angle keeping your foot flat on the floor.
  3. Tighten the muscles on your straight leg by trying to contract your quadriceps.
  4. Keep your quad tightened, and then slowly lift the operated leg six inches off the floor (by contracting the front thigh muscles.)
  5. Hold for three seconds.
  6. Slowly lower your leg to the floor.
  7. Relax and repeat 10 more times.

This exercise may be challenging, but it should not cause pain in your hip or knee. If it does, you must see your physical therapist or doctor.


  • Continue to inhale and exhale throughout the exercise.
  • Concentrate on contracting the muscles on the front of the thigh.

If you are performing the straight leg raise exercise and you are unable to keep your knee fully straight, your quadriceps muscles may not be strong enough to perform this exercise. You may have to consider doing a different exercise, like the quad set or short arc quad, before attempting the straight leg raise.

To make the straight leg raise more challenging, you can add a small cuff weight to your leg. Start by placing the weight on your thigh, and lower the weight down to your ankle as you get stronger over the course of a few days. This helps to decrease torque around your hip and knee, protecting it as it heals from injury. Your physical therapist can help determine the right weight for you to use.

You can also perform the straight leg raise exercise to strengthen other areas of your hips. Lie on one side and lift your top let up while keeping it straight to strengthen your gluteus medius, or try the prone straight leg raise to improve your hip extension strength and to gently contract you low back muscles.

Performing the straight leg raise properly can help you fully recover after lower extremity injury or surgery. Check in with your doctor and physical therapist, and then get started on the straight leg raise to improve lower extremity strength and function.

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