Hanging Leg Raise & Hanging Knee Raise
As the abs become stronger, you may want an additional challenge. The hanging leg raise (also called “hanging leg lift”) is a uniquely effective ab exercise, but it is also very difficult to complete for a beginner, so it can be easy to use bad form and make the exercise a waste of time. It is hard to keep your body vertical at all times and stop it from swinging. It’s more difficult because you’re hanging freely without any back support to push yourself up. This exercise is harder if you try to keep your legs straight. The more you bend your knees, the easier the exercise becomes.
STARTING POSITION: Grab an overhead bar—the type used for chin-ups—with an overhand grip and with your hands a little more than shoulder-width apart. Let your body hang straight down (fully extended). Your palms should face out, and your feet should lightly touch the floor.
MOVEMENT: You can choose between:
(A) Hanging Leg Raise (Straight-Leg Hanging Leg Raise). Keeping your feet together, bend your knees slightly (or without slightly bending your knees) and extend your legs straight out until they are parallel to the floor and even with your waist (your body forming an “L”.). Your hip (pelvis) will naturally move forward slightly, but don’t let the momentum swing your body. Keep your lower legs slightly in front of your body as you end each rep, so that your torso and legs aren’t in a straight line. This helps prevent you from rocking backward, which puts stress on your lower back.
(B) Hanging Knee Raise (Hanging Leg Raise With Bent Knees). Hang from a bar with your knees slightly bent and feet together. Simultaneously bend your knees, raise your hips, and curl your lower back underneath you as you lift your thighs toward your chest in a smooth, controlled movement. Raise your knees together as high as you can toward your chest (roll up the spine and bring the pubis toward the sternum). Try to make your knees touch your chest. At the same time, curl your shoulders slightly forward. You’ll feel as if you’re rolling up into a ball.
Once you have reached the fully contracted position, hold this position for a count of two, and then lower your legs slowly and under control back to the starting position. Repeat.
Important Tips & Key Points
- Keep your upper body stationary so that you don’t swing your legs up.
- If swaying remains a problem, have a partner gently hold your hips as you raise and lower your legs.
- Common mistakes: moving the legs but not the pelvis as you lift.
Muscles Involved in Hanging Leg (Knee) Raise
The hanging leg raise (hanging knee raise) is multipurpose abdominal exercise that strengthens the upper, lower, and oblique (side) abdominal muscles, as well as muscles in the front hip (hip flexors).
Main muscles: rectus abdominis
Secondary muscles: external and internal obliques, iliopsoas, front quadriceps, transverse abdominal, (pyramidal)
Antagonists: spinal erectors, longissimus dorsi and other muscles along the spinal column, and lower back muscles
Hanging Leg Raise Variations
How to make this exercise easier?
Hang from your arms with your back against the wall ladder or similar apparatus. The advantage of the ladder is that it stops your body from swinging, which can easily happen if you use a bar. You can also use a vertical bench that makes the exercise easier by supporting your upper back in place and by allowing you to hold yourself by placing your elbows and arms on the side pads.
How to make this exercise even harder?
As with most abdominal exercises, you can simply twist your torso to one side and target the sides of your abs. You can perform a set raising your knees straight up. You can perform another set alternating sides. Or you can mix them all in one set. It’s up to you. This gut-buster will work not only your lower and upper abs, but also your oblique (side) muscles.
Twisting hanging knee raise. Slowly lift your knees toward one shoulder. Go as high as you can. Thrust your pelvis slightly forward, but don’t rock or sway for momentum. Hold for a second at the top then slowly lower your knees. Repeat on other side.
Twisting hanging leg raise. Lift your legs instead of just your knees toward one shoulder. Go as high as you can. You’ll need to tilt your pelvis slightly forward to complete the movement. Hold for a second at the top then slowly lower your legs. Repeat on other side.
In conclusion, the hanging abdominal leg raise is one of the most challenging abdominal exercises that someone can do. It combines your upper body strength with your core strength and also uses some of your leg strength as well.