If you’ve ever tried to lift and maneuver your body on a hanging bar or trapeze, you know how much upper-body strength and endurance it takes.
The hanging leg raise is a strength training move that targets the anterior hip flexors and is traditionally performed in a gymnastic capacity on a hanging overhead bar. This move can also be done on a stable pull-up bar or captain’s chair. The hanging bar allows the instability that provides an added balance and control challenge.
In this bodyweight resistance exercise, the muscles are used isometrically, affectively working to stabilize the body throughout the motion. Leg raises are also used to strengthen the internal and external obliques as well as the rectus abdominis.
History of the Gymnastics
While we don’t know much about who specifically invented hanging leg raises, we do know the movement has origins in gymnastics, as it was traditionally performed on a hanging overhead bar.
The concept of gymnastics was first documented in Early Greek civilization as a means to develop the body through running, swimming, throwing, jumping, weight lifting, and wrestling.
The Greek work gymnazein literally means “to exercise naked,” which is apparently how it was done in those days. A powerful human physique was both highly prized and an important priority in ancient Grecian culture.
After the Romans conquered Greece, they developed their primitive form of gymnastics into a formal sport, using gymnasiums to prepare soldiers for battle. When Rome fell, however, the practice of Gymnastics died out with it.
Cut to the late 1700s when German Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, known as “the father of modern gymnastics” invented the horizontal bar, the side bar, the parallel bars, jumping events, and the balance beam.
How to Perform a Hanging Leg Raise
Step 1: Utilizing a wide grip or a medium grip, allow your body to hang down from a hanging overhead bar with your legs straight down and your pelvis slightly rolled backwards. Inhale.
Step 2: Exhale as you straighten and Raise your legs to form a 90-degree angle through the torso and legs, maintaining stability throughout the core.
Step 3: Hold the contraction for 2 seconds
Step 4: Slowly lower your legs back down in a controlled motion as you inhale. Avoid swinging your torso.
Step 5: Repeat until your desired number of reps has been achieved.
- Effectively trains the abdominals, hip flexors, and external obliques
- Stabilizes the core
- Improves balance
- Increases flexibility
- Enhances control
- Increases functional fitness
- Helps identify and correct areas of weakness
- Improves total body coordination
- Enhances performance in various sports and workouts
When just starting out with leg raises, they can be performed lying down or seated. As you begin to master these you can move on to performing them in a captain’s chair before moving to hanging from an overhead bar, and finally to performing them on an unstable swinging bar.
Here are some additional hanging leg raise variations you can perform:
- Weighted Leg Raises
- Hanging Knee Raises
- Pull-Up Leg Lifts
- Captains Chair Flutter Kicks
- Captain’s Chair Twists
Hanging Leg Raises are Not for the Weak
Even the strongest athletes among us will be thoroughly exhausted after performing an overhead hanging bar routine, and what’s more, these people who spend hours a day at the gym will be sore in places they didn’t know existed for days.
We highly recommend you up your functional fitness came by performing hanging leg raises from a swinging overhead bar.