I tried the 2-minute L-Sit exercise every day for one week — here are my results

Woman outdoors performing L-sit hold on metal bars
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The L-sit is a functional bodyweight exercise that strengthens several major muscle groups, including your core. I decided to accumulate a two-minute L-sit every day for one week to see if I could upskill my abilities with the advanced move.

It’s worth noting that holding the L-sit for two minutes is seriously impressive, even if you’re well-seasoned with the calisthenics exercise, so it’s not a spoiler to say I didn’t manage two minutes in one sitting. 

That said, I learned a few useful lessons about core exercise and my body, so here’s what happened during the seven-day fitness challenge. 

How to do the L-sit hold

Man outside on the beach performing an L-sit using two bars

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Learning how to do the L-sit will help you build the foundational strength required to keep your form in check, which also translates to other exercises requiring core and hip strength.

Here’s how:

  • Start sitting on the ground or one of the best yoga mats and place your hands down next to your hips.
  • Extend your legs in front of you, and sit up nice and tall to keep your spine neutral without leaning forward or backward.
  • Keep your arms locked out, then pull your shoulders back and down to set them in place.
  • Brace your stomach, then as you exhale, push through your hands and lift your bum and legs into the air.
  • Keep your legs straight and point your toes, creating an L-shape with your body.
  • Hold the position, then slowly lower down to the floor.

If you prefer, you could elevate your hands onto bars, blocks, benches, or boxes to give your body some space.

I tried a 2-minute L-sit every day for one week — here's what happened to my body 

Here’s what I learned. 

I went in conservatively

I’ve had some experience with the L-sit during CrossFit workouts, and in these classes, we’re taught to accumulate time in the hold position. You can do this in several ways: try and hold for as long as possible, rest and repeat, or adopt Tabata-style timing, working for 20 seconds and resting for 10. 

I opted for the latter hoping that consistency would help me build up, eventually. One week won’t make huge changes to my ability or body, but this at least allowed me to measure any progress across the seven days. Besides, 20 seconds turned out to be more than enough. 

It’s one of the hardest bodyweight exercises I’ve tried

Even 20 seconds was a push, and I only just managed to stick to it throughout the week. But seriously, my muscles were on fire, and I felt a deep burn in my stomach by the third day.

The L-sit targets your quads, hamstrings, hip flexors, back, arms and shoulders, plus various core muscles like your abs, lower abs, obliques and deeper core stabilizers called the transversus abdominis. 

It’s also an isometric exercise, which means your muscles won’t lengthen or shorten because you’re not moving, just like a plank or squat hold. It’s low-impact, but that doesn’t make the gymnastics move any less fiery — there’s a reason that gymnastics are some of the fittest, strongest athletes around.

Breath is crucial

The move is commonly used in CrossFit, gymnastics, and calisthenics programs, teaching core stability, muscular strength, balance, control and coordination.

But your breath matters. I found myself holding mine during each working set, which is normal when our bodies experience tension, yet unhelpful in an exercise setting — it can raise blood pressure.

Any time I caught myself holding my breath, I practiced diaphragmatic breathing. If you haven’t heard of it before, the breathing method means “belly breathing.” Rather than breathing into the restrictive part of your chest, you expansively direct the breath toward your belly instead. Some studies have found the method can have a mind-body response, potentially reducing cortisol levels. 

I kept collapsing forward

Your hip flexor muscles are doing a lot of work to keep your legs lifted, and the move requires a degree of lower body flexibility, particularly in the hamstrings, to maintain posture. Although I have pretty decent hip mobility and flexibility, my hip flexor strength isn’t that great at times, and my heels kept dropping to the floor, sending me forward. 

If you try the exercise and find yourself throwing your legs up and down, it could indicate a lack of flexibility or strength. To do the L-sit properly, it takes control on the way up and down, and if you suffer from tight hips, hamstrings, or weak shoulders. Specifically, trouble lifting the legs could indicate tight hips, and struggling to extend the legs could be down to tight hamstrings.      

Man in home performing knee tucks with hands by his sides and knees bent in the air

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Whenever the move proved too much, I practiced a few variations — lifting one leg at a time or performing the sit with my knees tucked toward my chest and my toes pointing toward the floor. Adjustments like these can help support your body if needed (I certainly did). I also used a set of push-up bars to help elevate my body and lift my feet away from the floor while taking pressure off my wrists.

Verdict

How did I feel about the challenge? Across the week, it helped me dial into my form and take note of what my body was doing in space — something called proprioception. Over time, this is an exercise for developing muscular mind-body connections and building self-awareness of the body. 

My technique didn’t drastically improve over one week, but I felt more comfortable with the cue points I needed to focus on and my areas of weakness — my hip flexor strength. My upper body is stronger than I realized, but I need to go away and work on hip flexor mobility exercises over the next few months. 

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Sam Hopes
Senior Staff Writer - Fitness

Sam Hopes is a level III qualified fitness trainer, level II reiki practitioner, and senior fitness writer at Future PLC, the publisher of Tom's Guide. She is also about to undertake her Yoga For Athletes training course. Having trained to work with mind and body, Sam is a big advocate of using mindfulness techniques in sport and fitness, and their impact on performance. She’s also passionate about the fundamentals of training and building sustainable training methods.  When she's not writing up her experiences with the latest fitness tech and workouts, you’ll find her writing about nutrition, sleep, recovery, and wellness.