Exercise Spotlight: Hanging Leg Raise 2.0

Take your core game up a notch by getting the upper body more involved


Core training can become redundant if you’re simply sticking to the classic versions of a given lift. We’ve all heard of leg raises, but they’re not a movement that many people enjoy doing for a number of reasons:

  • Leg raises can start engaging the hips more than the abs, and that’s a common complaint among people I’ve come into contact with.
  • Leg raises are hard to control; since you’re starting from the hang, it usually only takes a couple of reps before many people start to swing.
  • Leg raises are just plain hard, and grip strength can be a limiting factor over anything else.

Among other reasons, these are the three most common issues I’ve personally seen with the hanging leg raise – and I’ll be honest and up front: Number 3 isn’t something I can help with. That’s a matter of getting stronger, trusting the process, and continuing to make gains. However, solving the other two problems can be a way to get the most out of an intermediate movement and light your abs on fire. What’s most important is to first understand how to use the abs from this position.

A Quick Science Lesson

It’s important to understand the role of different muscles that connect to the pelvis. The hip flexors contract upward, tilting the pelvis forward, in harmony with the lower back on the opposite side. The lower abdominals contract downward, tilting the pelvis backward. This works in harmony with the glutes on the opposite side. To really hit the core, that downward contraction and backward pelvic tilt is what to look for. That really needs to be the aim when performing a hanging leg raise.  Often times, the hips stay too flexed and the low back remains arched. In truth, the idea of “good posture” needs to be killed; the back should round into a stretched position in order to promote the proper posterior pelvic tilt and abdominal recruitment.  I’ve found that keeping straight arms while hanging can make this much more difficult to achieve, which is why I prefer the variation this article’s all about.

Enter the Hanging Leg Raise 2.0

Simply getting the upper body more involved by the tension you create is the true answer to making the issue in the above paragraph resolve itself – and it comes with more benefits also. Doing a half-pull up before and during your set means recruitment of the lat and biceps tissue, and the active “pulling down” with the elbows helps recruit intercostal muscle tissue (between the ribs). The bracing you’ve created through the entire body makes it much harder to move quickly or start swinging. To add to this, it beats simpler trunk flexion movements like sit ups or crunches since the thoracic and cervical spine don’t enter flexion from the top down. Check the video for the execution.


Hanging Leg Raise 2.0 – Coaching Cues

  • Hang off of a pull up bar using an overhand or neutral grip. Pull to about the halfway point of a pull up so the elbows are flexed around 90 degrees.
  • Dorsiflex the feet so your toes point upward. It’s going to help with the bracing. In one smooth motion, bring the knees up to the elbows. Your legs should be bent, not straight.
  • This should happen as the body pivots around the shoulder joint. At the time your knees touch your elbows, your body should be facing the roof. Remember to pull down as much as you can through your arms also.
  • Stay braced, and slowly lower yourself down to your starting position. It’s ok if you want to restart the pull up pattern between reps also, but it’s not required.
  • This is harder than typical leg raises, so focus on fewer, good quality reps. Sets of 6-10 should suffice, depending on your skill and strength levels.


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