How to Perform the Prone Straight Leg Raise Exercise

If you have back pain or hip pain, you may benefit from physical therapy to help improve your mobility and manage your symptoms. One component of your rehab may include performing exercises to help improve the strength of your low back muscles and your hips. This can help improve the way you walk or may aid in attaining and maintain proper posture.

woman lying prone on the floor
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One important exercise that may be a part of your spine, hip, or lower extremity rehab is the prone straight leg raise (SLR) exercise. This exercise, also known as prone leg lifts or prone hip extension, is simple to perform at home as a part of your home exercise program. It is a strengthening exercise that works the gluteal muscles of your hips and your low back muscles.

Benefits of Prone SLR Exercise

Some common problems where you may benefit from performing the prone hip SLR exercise during your rehab include:

  • Low back pain
  • After lumbar surgery
  • Hip pain
  • After total hip replacement
  • As part of an SLR progression after knee surgery
  • As part of an injury prevention program to help improve hip and back strength and stability.

The prone SLR exercise also helps to improve your hip extension active range of motion (ROM).

Performing the prone straight leg raise exercise is simple to do. Just be sure to check in with your physical therapist or doctor before starting this, or any other exercise.

Correctly Performing a Prone Straight Leg Raise Exercise

To perform the prone SLR exercise, start by finding a suitable place to lie down that is free from obstructions.

  1. Lie face down (prone) on the floor.
  2. Gently tighten your core muscles by keeping your abdominal muscles engaged. You should still be able to breathe while doing this.
  3. Keeping your abs engaged and your knees straight, slowly lift one leg up backward. You should keep your knee straight as your thigh lifts from the floor.
  4. Hold your straight leg up in the air for two seconds, and then slowly lower your leg back to the floor. Be sure you do not rotate your back or your pelvis while lifting your leg.
  5. Perform the exercise slowly for 10 to 15 repetitions, and then repeat the exercise for the opposite leg.

Prone SLR Exercise Tips and Modifications

Some people like to alternate their leg raising during the prone SLR, especially when performing the exercise as part of a lower back rehab exercise program.

Performing the exercise may cause a slight increase in low back discomfort. If the exercise causes any acute or sharp increase in the low back, hip, or leg pain, stop performing it and check in with your healthcare provider or physical therapist.

You can perform this exercise once or twice daily, and it is a good idea to check with your PT to check on the frequency of the exercise for your specific condition.

You can also add more challenge to the prone SLR by adding a one or two-pound cuff weight to your ankle to increase the amount of resistance when performing the exercise. A resistance band, such as a Theraband, can also be used to provide resistance and increase the challenge with prone leg lifts.

If you want to try an even more challenging progression of the prone SLR, try performing it while on all fours, like in a crawling position. Performing leg lifts in a plank position will increase the challenge even more.

A Word from Verywell

Low back, hip or leg pain may be caused by many different factors. If your physical therapist determines that you may benefit from strengthening your gluteal muscles and low back muscles, he or she may prescribe the prone straight leg raise exercise to help you improve the strength of your hips and the stability of your lumbar spine.

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  • Kisner, C., & Colby, L. A. (1996). Therapeutic Exercise: Foundations and Techniques, 3rd Edition. Philadelphia: FA Davis

  • Smith, B, Littlewood, C., and May, S. An Update of Stabilisation Exercises for Low Back Pain: A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders: 2014: 15; 416 ​

By Brett Sears, PT
Brett Sears, PT, MDT, is a physical therapist with over 20 years of experience in orthopedic and hospital-based therapy.