Can You Perform a Perfect Hanging Leg Raise?

The Hanging Leg Raise (HLR) is one of the most difficult abdominal exercises. It requires tremendous lower abdominal strength mixed with hamstring flexibility and grip strength. Most people that I see attempt the HLR cheat the movement by only firing their #hipflexors while pulling their torso up with their #lats.

When I start with new clients, I take them through an assessment and exercises like the lower abdominal coordination drill, and TVA (transversus abdominus) coordination drill. Many clients do not pass due to improper core strength, gut inflammation, or lack of coordination.

If your goal is to perform the HLR, start with these steps:

1. Deadbug – Ensure that your lower back stays completely flat against the ground. You should actively push the spine underneath the belly button into the mat as your leg and alternate arm drop to the floor. Perform 3×10/s until you can easily management the movement.
2. Lower Abdominal Curl – one of the most underrated lower abdominal exercises is the lower abdominal curl. This exercise can be performed on a decline bench with varying degrees of incline for added difficult. Ensure that the lower back starts in a flat position and does not arch away from the bench. Roll the vertabrae one at a time until the knees come into the face. Perform 3×12 until the lower abs feel like they’re firing.
3. Hanging Knee Raise – by itself, this exercise is a fantastic way to condition the lower abs. I like to add a light medicine ball to the movement to ensure that I’m firing the adductors. When the adductors are firing, the lower abdominals will have an easier time finding the coordination necessary for a strong movement. Start the knees at 90 degrees to eliminate the hip flexors from firing.
4. Hanging Leg Raise – I recommend using the previous exercises to feel how the lower abdominals should feel when firing. Start the HLR with your toes pointed and quads engaged. Keep the torso upright and legs straight while imagining curling the low back up until your feet touch the bar. This movement requires tension from beginning to end. Aim for 3 sets of 5-8 HLRs. If you can accomplish this, your abs are likely very strong.

I hope these tips for mastering the HLR help you out in your fitness journey. The core bridges the body together. To be strong in any sport, movement, or activity, work your core often and from varying position.

Remember, the lower abs are typically the weakest in most trainees. Train the abs daily, alternating, lower abs, obliques, and then upper abs. You may need to work the inner unit muscles with exercises like tummy vacuums as well.