If you want to strengthen your core, and you’ve been solely focused on crunches up till now, I welcome you to the hanging leg raise.
If you’ve ever seen real calisthenics in actions, you would have noticed how sculpted their muscles are, especially the muscles in their midsection. This is because they work their abs consistently, through constant application of the hanging leg raise.
The basic choice for most people wanted to strengthen their core is the good old ab crunch. Now, while ab crunches can be a great foundation to your core workout, it’s definitely not the best idea to only do ab crunches – you need to supplement your crunches with a workout that can strengthen your entire midsection.
The hanging leg raise is an extremely effective exercise when used right. What’s more, they can be performed anywhere that there is a bar. Heck, hanging leg raises can even be performed using tree branches.
At the end of this article, I’ve included a section that will teach you how to incorporate things other than the bar in your workout, such as the captain’s chair and the hanging ab straps. These will help you to shake things up a bit.
Now, let’s begin by learning which areas the hanging leg raises actually target.
What Areas Does a Hanging Leg Raise Target?
The reason why the hanging leg raises make for such an effective exercise is because they target your entire abdominal region, the Rectus Abdominus.
When performing the hanging leg raises, the Rectus Abdominus not only contracts, but fully contracts. This is just simply not true when executing other ab exercises, like sit-ups, crunches, and even cycling crunches. These will only target specific muscles, instead of the whole midsection.
What’s more, if you’re using a bar, and if you perform the hanging leg raises on a consistent basis, you will find that you will begin to strengthen your hands, too. This is because your hands will have to constantly squeeze when you grip the bar in order to support your weight.
And finally, hanging leg raises will also improve your flexibility, as the exercise will force your body to utilize its full range of motion every time you do each rep up and down. Oh, and the hanging leg raises will also increase the strength in your lower back.
How To Perform A Hanging leg Raise
Getting started doing the hanging leg raise is easy. I’ve included a step by step guide for you below.
Step 1: Grab the bar gently with your hands, and then get into a hanging position.
Step 2: You want to be hanging until your body is calmly still.
Step 3: Try slowly raising your feet up towards the bar. Make sure you remember to keep your legs straight. If this is to difficult, start off with the knees bent as shown in the video and work your way up.
Step 4: Slowly lower your legs, and then repeat from step 1. In this exercise, you should always be making sure that you are raising and lowering your legs slowly. From personal experience, I suggest you spend 6 seconds rising, and 6 seconds lowering.
Finding it too easy?
Well, then it looks like you’re ready to progress.
To add extra difficulty to this amazing exercise, you can start by adding weight. You can add weight by using a weight belt. When you have your weight belt, try this exercise again with the varying weights in order to find which weight is best for you at your current ability.
One other thing that you can do to increase the difficulty of the exercise is to lengthen your legs and push your thighs together. This will increase the tension, further strengthening the muscles in your core.
Machines that are typically used for hanging leg raises
Hanging Leg Raise Machine: the Captain’s Chair
Now, if you’re looking to add extra variation to your workouts by using machines, give the Captains chair a shot. It can add an interesting variation that many people just don’t yet know about.
Here are some steps for doing the hanging leg raises with the Captain’s Chair:
Step 1: Start by gripping each o the handles, aiming to still your body.
Step 2: Rest your back on the pad behind you, and raise your legs, lifting your knees up, too.
Step 3: Bring your legs closer to your midsection, making sure to execute properly. You should also be breathing freely as you do this.
Step 4: Slowly lower your legs again, making sure not to jolt them down too quickly.
Step 5: Finally, when your legs are bag down again and you are in the starting position, repeat the exercise again from step 1. I recommend that you do 3 sets of 8 reps. If you can do more, go for it, and even try increasing the difficulty of the exercise by using a weighted vest. You can even use ankle weights. Try both and see what works for you.
Hanging Ab Straps
If you’re having trouble supporting your bodyweight for the duration of the exercise, I recommend that you use a tool called the Hanging Ab Straps.
These can be found online, and while not technically a machine, the hanging ab straps can provide another amazing variation for people who are having difficulty using the bar, or the Captains Chair.
In order to use the Hanging Ab Straps, you’ll first need a support that you can hang them from. Once you’ve got a support, you will then just need to insert your arms into the arm holes.
When you have your arms in the wholes, your next step is to just pull yourself up by holding the upper end of the strap from the top, and then repeating the exercise as if you were using a bar.
This should decrease the pressure in your hands by distributing the weight across your upper body, allowing you to enjoy the full effectiveness of the hanging leg raises and strengthening your core.