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The hanging leg raise is one of the best ab, oblique and core exercises you can do. Today, I’m going to show you how to do a hanging leg lift exercise and the best ways to modify the movement for beginners and advanced trainees. We are also going to cover some alterations that can be made to make the exercise target more the abs, obliques or even hip flexors if desired.
The hanging leg raise is definitely one of the more difficult ab exercises you can perform. This is because the external resistance that you are forced to lift is substantial because the weight of the legs is significant. That does not mean that you cannot make the exercise easier and possible for even beginners however. This is done by lifting the legs bent as opposed to straight. The shortening of the moment arm makes it less work for the abs to have to lift the weight of the legs.
To perform the exercise, grasp a bar with an overhand grip and hang straight down. Depending on which area of the core you wish to focus on, you will initiate the upward motion of the lower body accordingly. For instance, if you want to develop more hip flexor strength then you would want to hinge at the hip socket and aim to keep your legs in a position at or above parallel to the ground throughout.
Some people are confused as to why you would want to strengthen the hip flexors. If you are someone that incurs repeated quad strains then likely the reason is that your deep hip flexors like your psoas and iliacus are weak muscles. Strengthening them with direct lifts here will go a long way to fortifying you against recurrent strains of your quadriceps.
Next, the hanging leg lift is a tremendous lower abs exercise. This is best hit by focusing on the initiation of the move from the pelvis rather than the hips. Here your goal is to lift the pelvis and curl it up as you raise your legs. Ideally, you want to be able to curl your hips so much that your rear end is facing out in front of you at the top of the lift. Going too far and trying to touch your toes to the bar actually takes the work off of the abs and negates the effectiveness of the exercise in end range.
Back off a bit at the top and go no higher than shoulder height with your feet for the best impact on your abs. Finally, you can hit your obliques hard by initiating the lift from the ribcage. Watch as the obliques are activated throughout every rep simply by focusing less on the pelvis and legs and more on bending the body at the bottom of the rib cage and getting a slight twist to activate the obliques.
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