Hanging Leg Raise Exercise Guide

Hanging leg raises or hanging leg lifts offer many benefits that it’s no wonder they're such a popular exercise. It helps you improve your core strength and hip flexor mobility while also building shoulder stability. The movements involved in this exercise require more than just core strength making it a difficult, advanced-level exercise to use if you want to take your ab workouts to the next level.

How to Do a Hanging Leg Raise

Setting Up

Before starting, make sure that you have sturdy overhead handholds - either a set of pull-up bar or railing. Hold on tightly with an overhand grip. This is your starting position. 

Exercise

Engage your upper back and keep your chest up. Next, tilt your pelvis slightly back while engaging your abs and hip flexors to bring your legs up. While keeping your leg straight, raise them to parallel with the ground, or a little higher if you can.

Finally, while still keeping straight legs, lower them back down slowly until they return to the starting position, inhaling on the way down. Maintaining a posterior pelvic tilt will help to keep your abs engaged and your glutes activated for a more effective crunch.

Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Tips

Don't use momentum in order to complete the lift - use slow and small controlled movements instead to avoid swaying or swinging. This also helps avoid sudden or jarring movements that could injure your spine.

Maintain proper form by keeping your head up and facing forward, and making sure that your legs are together with toes pointed. Exhale and actively contract your core when raising them.

Make sure to tighten your core as you lift your legs, ensuring that all of the muscle fibers in your abdominals and thighs are working together to move you up and down. 

Benefits

  • Builds and strengthens the upper body 
  • Helps improve grip by building hand, wrist, and forearm strength
  • Helps reduce lower back pain and improve mobility
  • Improves overall fitness level

Illustrated Guide

How To Do Hanging Leg Raise

Muscles Worked

Primary Muscles

  • Iliopsoas

Secondary Muscles

  • Rectus abdominis
  • Internal and external obliques

Hanging Leg Raise Variations

Weighted Hanging Leg Raise

Weights are a great way to add resistance if you are ready to progress with your exercise. Secure a dumbbell between your legs or wear ankle weights as you do your raises. 

Keep in mind that heavier weights will make it harder to complete the repetition count so start with lighter weights first and gradually increase as you become more comfortable with the movement.

Bent-Leg Hanging Raise

If you find it difficult to bring your legs up straight, try the bent leg hanging raise. Similar to knee raises, this technique uses abs and hip flexors to bring your knees up to waist level, making them bent at 90 degrees.

As your strength increases, work on extending the legs when they reach waist level then lowering them back down again.

Captain's Chair Leg Raise

Captain's chair is a fantastic piece of equipment that features back and arm pads to help keep you in position. 

To do this variation, place your forearms on the armrests of the captain's chair and grasp the handles. Lift your extended legs in front of you before lowering them back down to the ground.

Hanging Leg Raise Alternatives

Farmer's Carry

Farmer's Carry is a simple yet highly effective exercise for working the upper and lower body that involves carrying weights, usually kettlebells or dumbbells.

To perform it all you need to do is grab a heavy set of weights in each of your hands. With your chest out, and your shoulders retracted, you will then want to start walking forward.

You can then either walk for a certain amount of time or distance depending on your preferences. We recommend walking for around 30 seconds and extending this period after due practice. 

Hollow Body Hold

The hollow body hold is a popular calisthenics exercise that strengthens core muscles, making it a great alternative to hanging leg raises.

To do a hollow body hold, lie down flat on your back on a comfortable surface. With your feet together (toes pointed) and your hands extended behind your head, elevate your legs and upper back so that only your bottom and lower back are touching the floor. Squeeze your core and hold this position for as long as possible.

You can also increase the difficulty by holding a weight plate behind your head, or wearing ankle weights.

Dragon Flag

The dragon flag is one of the most well-known core and abdominal exercises around, due to the fact that it was developed, and subsequently dubbed after Bruce Lee. That is also why it is regarded as one of the most difficult ab workouts to perform and master.

The dragon flag requires significant core power as it involves raising and lowering your entire body in a straight up and down movement with only your upper back touching the floor while you hold on to a bar or bench, behind your head.

Kevin Harris
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