How to Get a Really Strong Core With L-Sits

L-sits for a strong core

L-sits are one of those exercises that if you’ve never actually tried them before, look pretty, well, doable.

All you have to do is hold yourself up with your arms, straighten your legs and BAM—you’re in an L-sit. But in reality, they’re much more difficult than they sound.

I can clearly remember my first time trying an L-sit—I was at a bar in New York City with a few other trainer friends of mine, and the guys were demonstrating their L-sit skills off of a pool table (yeah, showoffs). I hadn’t been a trainer for very long at that point and hadn’t really ever seen one done, but I gave it a shot and completely failed.

I remember making up some excuse that my arms were too long or something like that—but looking back, there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that I simply wasn’t strong enough to do them.

Since then, I’ve gotten way stronger and can now hold an L-sit for about 15 seconds, though my goal is 30 seconds. L-sits really are one of those exercises that anybody can do with the right progressions and practice—so don’t give up hope yet.

First, here’s some really good reasons why you should do L-sits regularly:

  • They’ll help you build a seriously strong core
  • They’ll strengthen your triceps muscles to help you with other exercises like dips, pull ups, diamond push ups, etc.
  • They’ll test your willpower… holding them is tough!

Equipment needed to do L-sits

While it’s possible to do L-sits on the ground, a lot of people have a tough time doing L-sits on the floor because of their body structure or lack of shoulder strength. That’s why I typically recommend to start practicing using a pair of parallettes or a dip bar.

You can even use rings, but this will be the most challenging because of the extra stability you’ll need to hold yourself up.

However you choose to do them, don’t use lack of equipment as an excuse not to practice your L-sits. Get creative—even two chairs next to each other works pretty well (just make sure they’re sturdy)!

Getting started with L-sits

The following exercises will help anyone, no matter your current fitness level, build up to doing a full L-sit. Start wherever is most appropriate for your current strength level, then try and work on your L-sits at least three times a week.

You can easily add your L-sit practice before or after your regular HIIT workout without adding too much time to your actual workout (you’ll see them added as a workout bonus fairly often).

Aim to do three to five sets of L-sit holds to failure (aka hold it as long as you can), ideally timing yourself so you’ll know when you’re making progress. Eventually, you’ll want to work up to five 15-30 second L-sit holds.

Here are the progressions you should follow to do an L-sit:

Tuck with feet on the floor

L-sits for a strong core

If you’re just starting out, you’ll want to make sure you can lift yourself up off of the parallettes first. Grab your paralettes with both hands, then use your arms to lift yourself up, keeping your feet on the ground.

Try and keep your chest out and your core tight as you do so.

Tuck with one foot up

L-sits for a strong core
If the tuck with both your feet on the floor is doable, try doing the same thing but lifting one leg at a time towards your chest to increase the difficulty. Make sure to switch legs.

Full tuck

L-sits for a strong core

Once you can do the tuck with one foot up without too much of a problem, you’re ready to move on to the full tuck. With the parallette bars on either side of you, grip them with both hands and lift yourself off the ground in a tucked position, making sure to keep everything tight.

If this is a struggle for you, continue to work on this position until you can hold it for at least 10-15 seconds.

Tuck with one leg extended

L-sits for a strong core

Once you can hold the tucked position for at least 10 seconds, try and extend one leg at a time. Think about keeping your body completely tight while each leg is extended, and don’t let yourself tip one way or the other.

Once you can hold each leg out for about 5 seconds at a time, you’re ready to try the full thing.

Full L-sit

L-sits for a strong core

The full L-sit requires you to extend both legs, keeping them as straight as possible. Make sure to push through your shoulders, keep your core tight and chest out as you hold the position.

If you can work up to holding an L-sit for 30 seconds at a time, you should feel pretty proud of yourself—you’re a total badass!

Here are a few points to keep in mind when you get up to the full L-sit:

  • Make sure your shoulders are pulled back and down (not up to your ears)
  • Keep your chest up and out (so you’re not hunched over)
  • Keep your knees locked out (if this isn’t possible at first, don’t worry—you’ll get there)
  • Make sure your legs are straight with your toes pointed

Now that you know how to do an L-sit, go and practice!

10 thoughts on “How to Get a Really Strong Core With L-Sits”

  1. “look pretty, well, doable” was my exact thought… until I tried to extend my legs. I decided to try them at work when no one was watching. I get between a couple desks, hold myself up, all good so far, try to extend my legs remembering to point my toes… then I see my legs aren’t cooperating. This is tough… time top practice!

    • Haha! They’re much harder than they look, right? I had a very similar experience to you when I first started trying to do them. If you practice them regularly though you’ll build up strength pretty quickly.

  2. This looks like a good one. I bought the dip bars (or push up grips here in Australia – it was the closest I could find). Any chance of a video of these exercises so we get to see the proper sequence of events ? Thanks for all your inspiration…

  3. Thanks for posting this! I’ve been learning the benefits of training hip flexion as core stabilty training, and have been getting ready to try the L-sit.

    How would this compare to hanging leg raises in terms of difficulty? I would figure hanging leg raises would be hard given it’s a dynamic movement, but is it more complicated?

  4. First time I tried doing L-Sits i managed about 16 secs – with good angled form and straight legs 😀 But those are the perks of being a dancer into cross training, you get a pretty functional body worked up from all angles. Now i’m at 36 secs…Aiming for 40 and more 🙂

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