Hanging Leg Raises: The Best Lower Ab Exercise, Learn The Correct Form

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What are Hanging Leg Raises? 

Hanging Leg Raise is an awesome calisthenics core exercise that targets the lower abs. It involves you hanging from the bar, and using the weight of your legs as resistance. It’ll not only give you rock solid abs, and an incredible core strength, but also improve your grip strength. Beginners are welcomed to try this out as long as you are able to hold your bodyweight. You won’t know unless you try!

What muscles do Hanging Leg Raises work?

Primary muscles worked are rectus abdominis, obliques, and hip flexors. The secondary muscles worked are forearms and quadriceps.

What level is the Leg Raises?

This exercise is for those who are at intermediate to advanced level because you will require grip strength to hold your bodyweight whilst hanging on the bar. It also requires you to have strong hip flexor muscles to be able to stabilise the body during the motion.

How to do Hanging Leg Raises? 

1. Hang From The Bar

Grip a pull up bar tightly with your hands shoulders-width apart, using a pronated grip. Your thumb should wrap under and around the bar. Keep your feet together, and engage your core to keep your body stable. This is your starting position.

2. Lift Your Legs Up

Exhale, and slowly raise your ups up, keeping them straight with toes pointed, until they’re at a 90 degrees angle with your torso. Feel the engagement in your abdominals and your hip flexors as you raise up. You want to maintain passive shoulders and scapular involvement during this exercise so that you can isolate the rectus abdominis contraction.

3. Slowly Lower Your Legs Down

Inhale, and slowly lower your legs down until you are back to the starting position. Keep your core engaged. Maintain the posterior pelvic tilt even at the bottom of the movement. If you find yourself swinging when performing this, you would need to put more emphasis on squeezing your core as you lower your legs down to reduce the swing.

4. Repeat

Repeat this for a desired number of repetitions. See all the recommended reps and sets range for all levels in the below section.

Hanging Leg Raises Workout

Those who are new to hanging leg raises should perform 5-8 reps with good form for 4 sets, 3 times a week.

Intermediate level should perform 9-12 reps for 4 sets, 3 times a week.

Advanced level should perform 13-16 reps for 4 sets, 3 times a week. Add 1-2 reps into your workout every 2-3 weeks to ensure progressive overload. Also, you can challenge yourself by trying harder variations such as toe touches.

Hanging Leg Raises benefits

Abdominal Development

This exercise targets the rectus abdominis (especially your lower abs), obliques and hip flexors. Like any muscles, it can be targeted, trained, and grown in muscular size and strength. It will help you to build a more robust foundation for more challenging demands in everyday life and sporting activities such as walking, running, and jumping through improved balance and stability. 

Improve Grip Strength

Hanging from the will keep your feet off the ground. You will use nothing more than your hands, wrists and forearms strengths. If you are struggling with pull-ups or performing heavier lifts, it could very well be due to weak grip. Therefore, hanging leg raises could help you to improve you pull ups or lifting game.

Reduce Back Pain

If you do nothing other than sitting down at your desk all day, or you perform exercises such as squats, it will create spinal compression which can cause back pain in your lower back and hips. Hanging is an excellent way to decompress the spine which will allow your muscles, tendons, ligaments, and disc in your spine to lengthen and relax, therefore taking the pressure off your back. This is called spinal decompression as your lats will stretch, and slightly decompresses your spine to alleviate pressure on your lower spine, along with lubricating and nurturing your intervertebral disks. 

Develops Your Hip Flexors

Hip flexors are the source of all efficient movement. Standing, jumping, or running will require appropriate stabilization and flexion of the hip flexors. Tight and weak hip flexors could lead to bad posture, and lower back pain because your body compensates for the tightness in the hip flexors by overarching your lower back. 

Variations of Hanging Leg Raises

Lying Leg raises

Lying Leg Raises are similar to Hanging Leg raises, but here you are lying on your back instead of hanging from the bar, which makes it a beginners exercise.  This variation is a great way to condition your core and hip flexors muscles for the Hanging Leg Raises. To do these properly, you would lie down on your back with your hands pressing down by your sides. Then simply raise your legs up until they’re at a 90 degrees angle with your torso. Your legs should be straight and toes pointed. Perform them in a slow and controlled manner. Aim to do it for 3 sets of 10 reps.

Hanging Knee Raises

Hanging knee raises is a regression exercise to the hanging leg raises, it also targets your lower abs. This movement is easier when you bend your legs. To perform this, you will bend your knees when you raise your legs up. You would lift up your knees until they’re in line with your hips, make sure to engage your core all throughout this movement, especially when lowering down as this will reduce body swing. The slower you perform this exercise, the better because of increased time under tension, which will give you a stronger and sculpted core. Aim to do this for 4 sets of 12 reps.

Toes To Bar

This is the most advanced variation demonstrated in this video because you will require strong shoulders and lats to maintain an active hang, moreover, you will require good hamstring mobility to be able to keep your legs straight. To perform toes-to-bar you will hang from the bar with a tight grip, followed by leaning back and raising both legs simultaneously straight forward and up to touch the bar, with your arms locked out with as little swinging as possible. Lastly, lower your legs down slowly back to starting position. Aim to do this for 3 sets of 10 reps.


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