If you’re looking to develop and show off a six-pack you need to put the work in – mostly outside the gym. You need to be following a structured diet that will help you reduce your body fat percentage. You’ll also need to rest and recover appropriately, especially when you consider that negatively-impacted sleep is correlated with weight gain.
But back in the gym, you need to stimulate your abdominal muscles with a careful selection of targeted exercises. You will commonly find sit-ups, crunches and their variants in many people’s programmes, but these moves tend to focus mainly on the upper abs. You neglect the lower portion at your peril. That’s where the hanging leg raise comes in.
When performed correctly, this is one of the finest abdominal exercises around. Here’s how you can include it in your routine.
How To Do A Hanging Leg Raise
Grasp a pull-up bar with your hands shoulder-width apart, using an overhand (pronated) grip. Engage your abdominal muscles and while keeping your torso stable, slowly raise your legs, keeping them straight and driving through your glutes, until they’re at 90° with your torso. Slowly lower and return to the start position.
Take extra care to keep your torso and hips still. A trembling torso reduces the level of stress placed on the abs, while unstable hips take the pressure off the core and place it on your hip flexors.
Hanging Leg Raise Variations
The hanging leg raise is a tough exercise, so if you’re struggling with the full version you can make it a little easier by bending your knees as you lift your legs. You can also switch to this variation halfway through a set if the full hanging leg raise starts to become too difficult. It’s far better to bend the knees and carry on than have to stop mid-set.
Hanging knee twist
For this variation you start in the top position of the hanging knee raise, with your knees tucked up towards your chest. Then twist your knees to the side slowly, bring them back to the centre and take them out to the other side, then return to the centre. You can then lower your legs before bringing them up for another rep, but if possible keep your knees raised throughout to maintain tension on your abs. The twisting motion targets the obliques, which will be neglected if you stick to up-and-down motions with your abs workouts.
In the event that you start finding the regular hanging leg raise too easy, there’s nothing stopping you from taking your legs higher for greater abs-building benefits. Keeping your legs straight, raise them to the bar you’re hanging from, then slowly lower them. Hell, if you’re able to do that why not throw in a pull-up before each rep too, superstar.
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Joe Warner is a highly experienced journalist and editor who began working in fitness media in 2008. He has featured on the cover of Men’s Fitness UK twice and has co-authored Amazon best-sellers including 12-Week Body Plan. He was the editor of Men’s Fitness UK magazine between 2016 and 2019, when that title shared a website with Coach.