The L-Sit is a great core exercise, but it’s also an exercise in humility—an ego gut-check, if you will. More than once I’ve been asked by a red-faced member who is struggling with the movement how they can get better at the L-Sit.
My first response is always to reassure them that the L-Sit may seem simple but it’s an incredibly demanding movement. No one should be beating themselves up for not mastering it on their first attempt. The L-Sit not only requires strength through the chest, shoulders, arms, core and hip flexors but also enough flexibility to get into the movement. If you can’t do an L-Sit then do an H-Sit, the scaled version of the exercise and a great progression movement. But that’s not all you can do. Here are some other ways to build up your ability to perform the L-Sit.
Warm-up your hamstrings
As I mentioned, it takes some flexibility to get into the pose so start by warming up with a forward fold, which will prep your hamstrings so you can keep your knees locked and point your toes. Hanging out in a forward fold for two minutes before and after your workouts will, over time, help get you to the full expression of the position.
Do front scales
Front scales are a great way to figure out where you are at in terms of strength, balance, and flexibility. Balancing on the left foot you are going to raise your right leg, toes pointed. Keep both legs locked. Keep your core tight and think about lengthening your torso (avoid leaning back). Here’s a good video that takes you through the movement.
Build your strength
Here are three exercises you can do to build the strength needed to do an L-Sit.
1. Straight arm support
This can be done on the rings or dip bars. Focus on keeping the arms locked out and the shoulders depressed (down your back and away from your ears). Work on doing three sets of static 10-15 second holds in this position and add 5 seconds to your hold each day you do them until you build up to your max. This will strengthen your triceps and chest, but most importantly all of the muscles that depress your scapula (shoulder blade) including your lats, low trap and pec minor.
2. Hanging knee/leg raises
These are awesome exercises for building core strength and strong hip flexors and as a bonus they will help with shoulder stability as well. To start, hang from a bar with your legs extended below you and your toes pointed. Raise your knees towards your chest in a tucked position for three sets of 10 reps. When this becomes less challenging, straighten your legs.
3. Seated leg raises
This is a great tool for building the strength in the hip flexors and core for that end range of motion. Start by sitting on the ground with your legs straight out in front of you, toes pointed, and hands on the ground beside your hips. You can begin working on this movement by raising one leg at a time for three sets of 15 reps per leg. If that’s easy, try the same rep scheme but with both legs together. To increase difficulty, move your hands forward towards your knees.
Don’t forget: practice makes progress! So have fun and be consistent with your effort.
Duncan McNeill is a co-owner and coach at Alchemy CrossFit.