Unique bodyweight exercises difficulty rating for the hanging leg raise – 6 out of 10
Average time needed to master 2 to 3 months.
The hanging leg raise is without doubt one of the best abdominal exercises you can do and if the six pack look is one of your goals you cannot go wrong by taking the time needed to nail this bodyweight exercise.
Let me point out first that we are not talking about the 90 degree version that is common among trainers but one done from a straight hang position all the way up until your feet touch the bar you are hanging on.
If it sounds difficult relax because although it requires a good deal of abdominal strength and a degree of flexibility it is by no means one of the hardest bodyweight exercises and most people can easily nail it in 2 to 3 months of training.
Once mastered the hanging leg raise will give you a great deal of control over your body, improved flexibility and amazingly strong lower abs which will soon help you obtain the six pack if that is your goal.
Method of progression
The method of progression is simple enough; the first stage is the hanging leg tuck or put simply slowly bending your legs and lifting them so that your thighs are at 90 degrees and then holding the position for a couple of seconds before slowly lowering them back down. Build up your strength with this exercise until you can do at least 10 solid reps and then move on to the next stage.
Note, make sure you hold each repetition for a couple of seconds and control the exercise so you do not use momentum to swing up.
The next stage is to do a hanging straight leg raise which as the name suggests means keeping your legs straight as you slowly lift them up to 90 degrees and hold the position for a second or two before slowly bringing them back down. Again build up to 10 solid repetitions before you move on to the next phase.
The progression from this exercise done to 90 degrees with straight legs to one that goes all the way up until your feet touch the bar is the one that a lot of people find difficult which is way most trainers only do the 90 degree version, however, it can be quit straight forward if you do the following.
Do the hanging leg raise with legs straight until you reach 90 degrees and once at that position bend you legs as you did for the leg tuck and continue the movement until your feet touch the bar you are hanging on.
You should find that keeping your legs bent for the more difficult second part of the rep helps enough to do a full repetition and then it is a case of practicing until you can do 10 good reps.
Note, if you find you still cannot touch the bar with your feet then just go as high as possible and build up gradually until you can.
Once you have cracked the previous stage it is just a case of making progress slowly by extending you legs further and further over a period of time until you can finally do a complete repetition with your legs straight.
A lack of Flexibility can hinder your progress in this exercise and you may want to consider some stretching exercises to compliment your training.
Our six week guide to the front splits has some good advice on stretching exercises if you want to add these to your training, however, I found that the progressions of the hanging leg raise described are enough to gain the flexibility required. As Bruce Lee once said, if you want to learn to kick then you should practice kicking or in our case the best way to learn to do a complete hanging leg raise is to practice hanging leg raises.
Always make sure that only your legs move and keep the rest of your body as still as possible so that you only use your abs to perform the exercise and do not develop the habit of swinging up to the bar.
The six weeks to front splits guide can help your hanging leg raise