Hanging Leg Raises – Everything You Need To Know



There’s no better feeling than taking off your shirt and having the full confidence of a six-pack. There’s just something about it. No matter big your shoulders are or how powerful your backside is, the look of muscular, well toned abs is unlike anything else.

Of course, as you well know it takes training and determination to develop your abs. It isn’t just cardio. It isn’t just diet. It isn’t just ab workouts. It’s all three put together. It’s the true definition of having an incredible body.

But as you begin working your abs out, you’re probably going to discover one thing: your abs become resistant to your workouts.

Your body’s core is constantly engaged. You use this area of your body more than anywhere else. That’s because you use your abs, lower back and other mid-section muscles of your body to hold your torso up, which means even when your legs and arms are relaxed while sitting, your core is engaged.

To keep your abs strong you need to continually tweak and evolve your abdominal workout.

One of the best ways to do this is with hanging leg raises. However, before you begin moving from crunches and planks to hanging leg raises you need to know a bit about the move and how to carry the move out to maximize the effort.

Thankfully, we’ve got everything you need to know about the move, right here.

How to Perform a Hanging Leg Raise

As one of the best ab moves you can possibly do, it’s a relatively straightforward move. This is a move you need to be in good shape to perform. This is because it not only puts additional strain on your abs but it also will work your shoulders, back, forearms and your grip.

If you haven’t been to the gym in a while it’s best to focus on the more traditional floor abdominal workouts first and then move out from there. If you are in good shape though and you’re reading to take your ab workout to the next level, here is how to perform the move.

To start, you want to grab a pull-up bar. Start with an overhand grip. You’ll want your arms straight and your feet off of the ground. If your feet can touch the ground while hanging you need to lift the pullup bar.

Now, lift your legs off of the ground. Don’t just stop when your legs reach parallel with the floor. Continue to lift your legs up toward your shoulders. Hold when your thighs are at chest level.

Now, return slowly back to the starting position. This is a single set. This is a difficult ab move to do, so try to squeeze out as many as you can.

Some prefer to stop the leg raise at the parallel to the floor point. This effectively becomes a crunch. It works the midsection of your abdominal muscles but it doesn’t fully engage your entire core.

By continuing the lift higher, you’ll not only work your upper abs but your lower back as well.

Your lower back becomes engages because your legs are pulling further away and your gluteus have to stretch further.

This will create additional tension on the lower back, which is an important building block to strengthening your body.

While it doesn’t receive as much of the face time as the front abs, it’s still an important area of the body to work. This particular move is also referred to as a hanging pike.

Challenges When Doing A Hanging Leg Raise

Hanging leg raises are some of the most straightforward moves you’ll ever do. However, as is often the case, the most straight forward move is also one of the most incorrectly done moves. That’s because it’s so easy to cheat on this move. It’s very important for you to do the hanging leg raises correctly.

After all, you are adding this into your core workout because you want to challenge your abdominal muscles.

Now, most people who “cheat” when they perform the hanging leg raises don’t even realize they are cheating. It’s why it’s important to slowly focus on performing the move and, when possible, to watch yourself in the gym mirrors when performing it.

While everyone else is taking a selfie in the gym with the mirrors, you can use the mirrors as intended: to focus on proper form.

One of the biggest cheats is using momentum.

There will be people who you see at the gym who swing their legs up. By doing this it becomes a leg movement more than anything else.

You need to use your core to lift your legs, not just swing your legs.

If at any point in time you don’t feel in control of your movements, it’s because momentum has taken control.

With leg raises gravity will naturally try to take over. You need to fight it. If you find this to happen one of the best ways to correct the issue is to move slowly. Slowly lift your legs up, then slowly lift your legs back down to the starting position. This becomes a very slow, intense, abdominal crunch.

The next cheat some may find themselves doing is allowing their body to relax at the bottom of the leg raise. This can actually throw off what is known as the posterior pelvic tilt. Your abs connect to the pelvis, which then connects to your legs.

So, to keep your abs engaged you need to keep your pelvis engaged. If you relax at the bottom of the move you are allowing your pelvic tilt to push out of position. So keep your abs engaged and don’t just relax at the bottom. You need to stay fully engaged the entire time.

The last major cheat you might run into (or see other people performing at the gym) is just hanging from the bar. Basically you hold onto the bar and dangle.

Instead, you want to engage your upper body.

After all, you’re using your upper body, you might as well get as much out of the move as possible.

So activate your lats by pulling the blades of your shoulder down while you hold onto the bar. It is important to maintain a grip that doesn’t bend your elbows.

Instead, you want your elbows to lock into position as you perform the lift.

All of these cheats are so easy to fall into. You may not even realize you’re doing any. So whether you’re just considering the move or you’ve been doing it for a while, watch yourself closely in the mirror the next time you do it. It’s extremely important to iron out any little wrinkles.

This way, you’ll get the full extent of the benefits of the move.

Hanging Leg Raise Variations

The beauty of the hanging leg raise is there are various options available for this particular move. It is also possible to perform the move if you have a less than stellar back.

If you suffer from back pain but still want to maximize your ab workout, you can look into using parallel bars with a vertical back support. This allows you to reduce the amount of tension placed on your back while you still engage your core.

While this method does not put as much direct attention on your core as the parallel bars do reduce some of gravitational pull on your body, it is an excellent option when you don’t want to deal with the strain on your back.

The traditional hanging leg raises will focus on your central abdominal muscles. When using the up and down movement you will not touch on the obliques.

However, it is possible to hit your obliques with a slight variation in the movement.

Instead of lifting your legs straight, you can lift your legs 45 degree to one side and then 45 degrees to the other side. This will allow you to crunch your abdominal muscles on each side.

Again, it is important for you to not allow momentum to take over this move as it will reduce the amount you get out of it. Always perform the move slowly and deliberately.

You’ll also want to focus on your abs lifting your legs up.

When you squeeze your abdominal muscles you’ll feel your legs begin to rise as your core muscles tighten.

Weight Warnings

It’s possible to take this move up to the next level by making it a weighted move. There are a number of ways to add weight to your leg lift, depending on how you want to alter the resistance.

Some choose to place weights on their body through the aid of weight vests, or they drape chains over their shoulders.

Others wear ankle weights. The weight around the chest, whether it is in chain or vest form, adds additional resistance onto the shoulders, arms and forearms, but it doesn’t do all that much in terms of increasing the amount of tension placed on your abs.

The ankle weight option does (there are a few other ankle attachments designed to work in a similar way). It forces your legs to work more and it increases the crunch. While adding weights will increase the amount of tension placed on your abs, it’s important to focus on improving your posture and to perform the hanging leg raise correctly.

This needs to be the first priority.

If, eventually, your upper body is strong enough to support the increase of weight and you want to take the move to the next level, then yes, try out this move with the weighs.

Does Your Back and Neck Hurt During Traditional Ab Workouts?

When you perform traditional ab work, does your back and neck hurt?

If so, it’s not uncommon. A good number of people experience pain in these areas of the body. It may stem from another condition, or it may just tweak muscles in the area.

Whatever it is, these kinds of pains do make performing traditional ab lifts and crunches painful.

If this is the case, the hanging leg raise is one of the best ab moves you can do.

The hanging ab raise does require a strong upper body to perform, but it also takes the strain off of your spine. In fact, this lift can help aid in decompressing your spine.

Over the course of the day, gravity pulls down on your spin. Because you have the weight of your body pushing down along with it, it causes the discs within your spine to push down against the cartilage and ligaments in between, compressing the area.

This is one reason you feel still. It can also lead to a pinched nerve and other, more serious issues. Spinal decompression helps elongate the spine and return the separation of the discs.

By hanging like this, your spine will naturally pull down. It may not fully decompress your spine, but it will help in reducing the tension on a sore back and neck, adding to the benefit of the move.


In Conclusion

There’s really nothing like hanging leg raises for your abdominal muscles. Most ab moves are done on the floor. This is a great way to train your core, but you still have the benefit of the floor aiding your moves in some shape or form.

The less assistance you have when training your abs the stronger and more defined these muscles become. The hanging leg raises do just that.

You not only are avoiding the floor you’re fighting gravity, which maximizes your efforts.

On top of it all, you help reduce the strain placed on your back while helping the spine and your neck decompress.

So, take in account everything we went over here and implement it into your own core workout. You’ll begin to see strength, definition and size improvements in no time.

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Terry Asher

Owner & Founder at Gym Junkies LLC
After changing his best friend’s life by helping him lose over 70lbs, dropping him down to an amazing 7% body fat, Terry was inspired to be a full-time internet trainer knowing he could do the same for many more. In 2010, Terry published his own diet and fitness e-book that can be purchased on this website. Let Terry help you change your body for the better!
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