Hanging leg raises are an excellent way to improve both abdominal and grip strength. A hanging leg raise can be performed anywhere you can hang from, such as a pull-up bar, squat rack, or even a tree branch. This exercise is an integral part of most body-weight training routines, as well as most sport specific training.
To correctly perform a hanging leg raise on a pull-up bar, hold onto the bar and let your legs hang straight down. Wait until all movement of the legs have stopped before starting the movement. With both legs locked at the knees and touching each other, slowly raise them up into the air until a 90° angle is formed with your upper body. Slowly lower both legs back to the original starting position to complete one repetition.
A hanging leg raise does take a considerable amount of abdominal strength and may be difficult for someone who is just starting an exercise routine. If a standard leg raise is too difficult at first, an alternate method of the exercise is available. Instead of locking the legs to form a 90° angle, simply bring the knees up to the chest, bending at the knees. This method works most of the same muscles as the standard version, but is easier to start with because much of the muscle strength in a traditional hanging leg raise comes from the slow motion required to get the knees into the 90° position.
The hanging leg raise works a large portion of the muscles in the human body including, but not limited to: the abdominals, lats, quads, and a combination of forearm and hand flexors. The main muscles used in the performance of the exercise are the abdominals, as they function to pull the pelvis and legs up toward the torso. The farther up toward the bar the legs are raised, the more the top abdominal muscles are recruited, resulting in an even muscle development. It is important to note that this exercise should be performed slowly, both during the concentric and eccentric stages of the exercise.
The hanging leg raise requires no equipment and can be performed almost anywhere, making it an ideal body-weight training exercise. The nature of the hanging leg raise makes it an ideal exercise for developing the musculature of the entire body with a single exercise. As with any form of exercise, be sure to follow strict form with every repetition to prevent injury.