Hanging Straight Leg Raises

Hanging Straight Leg Raises (How To & Benefits)

Hanging Straight Leg Raises are a great, often overlooked, core exercise that provides a ton of benefits.

In this guide, I’m going to teach you how to do a proper Hanging Straight Leg Raise, what its benefits are and a few alternatives in case you need a substitution.

How To Do Hanging Straight Leg Raises

Equipment Needed

  • Pull-Up Bar – Ideally a stand-alone pull-up bar or one connected to a squat rack although any sturdy object you can hang from will technically work.

Muscles Worked

  • Abdominal Core Muscles (Rectus Femoris, Obliques Externus Abdominus)
  • Quadriceps, Rectus Femoris
  • Tensor Fasciae Latae (TFL)
  • Back and Forearms

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Find yourself a pull-up bar and grip the bar with an overhand grip.
  • Engage your lats so your body doesn’t go limp once you begin to hang.
  • Now hang from the bar and keeping your legs straight, drive them up to hip height (or slightly above hip height).
  • Finally, actively lower your legs back to the starting position – don’t allow the legs to just swing down.
  • Repeat until all reps are completed.

Coaching Points

The biggest issue that most of my athletes run into when doing Hanging Straight Leg Raises (or any hanging ab exercise for that matter) is how to keep from swinging out of control.

To keep from swinging, you have to actively lower your legs back down. If you ‘let your legs go’ and just allow gravity to take over you’ll completely lose control of the movement. Timing and rhythm are also both important for Leg Raises and you can’t achieve either if you’re not in control of your legs throughout the movement.

Hanging Straight Leg Raise Benefits

The most obvious benefit of Hanging Straight Leg Raises is that they are a great core exercise.

Specifically, they target the lower abs (and hip flexors). The majority of core exercises – situps, crunches, etc – involve flexing the shoulders toward the core. Far fewer involve driving the legs toward the core and Hanging Knee Raises are a great example of one of those movements.

The benefits of Hanging Straight Leg Raises extend beyond just the abs though.

They are a great way to sneak grip training into your routine. A set of 15 to 20 Knee Raises will take most lifters 20 to 30 seconds. 3 sets can account for about 90 seconds of Bar Hang time. And don’t forget about the back and shoulders as well. Having to stabilize the position of the upper body can be a workout in itself.

Now you can see why Hanging Straight Leg Raises can be such a powerful addition to your strength training routine. You really do get a whole lot of ‘bang for your buck’ with them.

Hanging Straight Leg Raise Alternatives

If you can’t do Hanging Knee Raises, for whatever reason (lack of equipment, injury, etc), here are a few alternatives that you can try to substitute in their place.

Suitcase Crunches

Suitcase Crunches If you don’t have a pull-up bar or just aren’t ready for Hanging Leg Raises yet, Suitcase Crunches are a great alternative. Suitcase Crunches are pretty close to the same movement, but with your butt on the ground instead of hanging in the air.

Sit on the ground with legs extended straight out, six inches off the ground, and your torso leaned back at about a 45-degree angle. Now, drive your knees and chest together (like closing a suitcase) and then extend back out. Keep your back and feet off the ground throughout the exercise.

Straight Leg Leg Raises

Another core exercise that doesn’t require you to have to hang off a bar are Straight Leg Leg Raises. They also focus on the lower abdominals and require no equipment to do. Lay on your back with your hands out to the side or underneath your low back for support.

Start with your feet six inches off the ground and, while keeping your legs straight, lift them up to 90 degrees from the floor. Lower back down to six inches and repeat.

Knees to Elbows

If you want a little more of a challenge, then give Knees to Elbows a try. Knees to Elbows demands that you not just raise your legs above your waistline, but that you bring your knees all the way up to touch your elbows.

This involves maintaining a greater flexed position in the elbow and slightly rolling the hips forward to get the knees to meet the elbows. They definitely raise the bar from regular Hanging Straight Leg Raises.

More Links and Info

Looking for more Core Exercises? I have a growing collection in my Exercise Library, all with step-by-step instructions and all for free.

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