Hanging Leg Raise

Start Position
End Position

Starting position:

  1. Position yourself in a vertical bench (captain’s chair) with back against the vertical pad, elbows and forearms resting on the horizontal pads, and hands gripping the handles.
  2. Hang your leg straight down.

Upward movement/concentric phase:

  1. Looking straight ahead, flex the hips, bringing straightened legs (with a slight bend in the knees) upward.
  2. As your legs reach the level of your hips begin to begin tilt your hips upward causing your lower/mid back region to lift off of the vertical bench.
  3. Raise your legs as high as you can, attempting to get feet pointing towards ceiling at the end of the upward phase.
  4. Beginners may do this exercise with knees bent, instead, and flexing hips upward in a similar fashion.

Downward movement/eccentric phase:

    1. In a controlled fashion, slowly return legs back to starting position.
Do not allow the legs to drop. Do not swing legs back at the bottom of the movement. Do not hold your breath. Exhale during the concentric phase and inhale during the eccentric phase.


Exercise Data

  • Primary Muscles: Rectus abdominis, rectus femoris, iliopsoas
  • Synergists: Sartorius, external oblique, internal oblique
  • Stabilizers: Transverse abdominis
  • Type: Strength, hypertrophy, muscular endurance
  • Mechanics: Hip and trunk flexion
  • Equipment: Floor mat
  • Lever: 3rd class lever
  • Level: Intermediate to advanced
  • FAQ'S & FACTS ABOUT Hanging Leg Raise

    What Is A Hanging Leg Raise?

    A hanging leg raise is an exercise, which involves the abdominal muscles and hip flexors. This exercise is performed on a vertical bench (captain’s chair) or on a pull-up bar (holding bar with hands or placing arms in ab straps). The concentric portion of the exercise is hip and trunk flexion. The eccentric portion is hip and trunk extension.

    The purpose of hanging leg raises is to strengthen the abdominal muscles and hip flexors while promoting the hypertrophy (increases in size) of these muscle groups.

    Why Do A Hanging Leg Raise?

    Hanging leg raises stress the fibers of the lower region of the rectus abdominis as it raises the legs upward. Therefore, hanging leg raises contribute to improving the aesthetics of the lower abdominal area. Once the legs pass hip height on the upward phase, the trunk also begins to flex, further activating the rectus abdominis.
    Promoting overall hypertrophy of the abdominal muscles helps define the “6-pack” of the rectus abdominis. Strengthening the abdominal muscles offers protective effects for the lower back as the abdominals play a role in stabilizing the torso. Stronger abdominals and hip flexors also complement exercise and sports performance as they can contribute to biomechanical efficiency during physical activity and exercise.

    Anatomy Of A Hanging Leg Raise

    The abdominal wall is made up of broad, flat sheet-like muscles that are layered. The rectus abdominis is a vertical muscle that extends from the pubic crest and symphysis (at the pelvis) to the rib cage (xiphoid process and costal cartilages of ribs 5-7). The rectus abdominis is segmented by three tendinous intersections that run horizontally across the rectus abdominis. This tendon outlines the “6-pack” of the rectus abdominis along with the linea alba, a tendinous seam that runs down vertically, dividing the “6-pack” in half.

    The iliopsoas is a primary hip flexor. It is made up of two muscles, the iliacus and the psoas major. Its origin is located at the iliac fossa of the pelvis and the ala of the sacrum. Its insertion is located at the lesser trochanter of the femur.

    The rectus femoris is a superficial quadriceps muscle located at the anterior thigh. It is the only quadriceps muscle that crosses the hip joint. The rectus femoris extends at the knee and flexes the thigh at the hip (as with the hip flexion in V-Ups). Its origin is located at the pelvis bone (at the anterior inferior iliac spine and superior margin of the acetabulum). Its insertion is located at the patella (knee cap) and tibial tuberosity (just below the knee cap on the tibia bone) via the patellar ligament.

    The sartorius is a superficial muscle of the anterior thigh that runs diagonally across the thigh – from the hip to the knee. It flexes, abducts and laterally rotates the thigh (as with checking the bottom of your shoe). Its origin is at the anterior iliac spine of the pelvis and its insertion is at the upper, inner portion of the tibia bone.

    The oblique muscles assist the rectus abdominis with flexion of the vertebral column. The external oblique muscle runs downward and medially and forms the inguinal ligament of the groin area. Its origin is at the outer surfaces of the lower eight ribs and it inserts into the linea alba via a broad aponeurosis. Some of the fibers of the external oblique insert into the pubic crest and iliac crest.

    The internal oblique, as its name suggests, is located below the superficial external oblique. Its fibers run in an upward and medial direction. Its origin is located at lumbar fascia, iliac crest and inguinal ligament. Its insertion is located at the linea alba, the pubic crest and the last three or four ribs.

    The transverse abdominis is the deepest muscle of the abdominal wall with fibers running horizontally. This stabilizing muscle compresses the abdominal contents. Its origin is located at the inguinal ligament, lumbar fascia, iliac crest and the cartilage of the last six ribs. It inserts at the linea alba and the pubic crest.

    Variations Of A Hanging Leg Raise

    Bent-knee hanging leg raises, hanging leg raises with ab straps, hanging leg raises hanging from a pull-up bar.

    How To Improve Your Hanging Leg Raises

    The abdominal muscles are working all day, every day, when you are physically active. Therefore, a greater overload stimulus is required to stimulate growth of the abdominals when isolating them during exercise. Hanging leg raises provide your rectus abdominis with overload stimulus as the exercise is ranked higher in difficulty.

    After mastering the technique for this exercise on the vertical bench, you may advance to executing hanging leg raises with your abs in ab straps or hanging from a pull-up bar.

    Emphasis on eccentric contractions, prolonging the descent phase of the legs lowering, may also be incorporated with an abdominal training program focused on increasing strength. This should be implemented accordingly and with adequate muscle recovery as eccentric contractions cause substantial damage to muscle tissue and/or delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

    Strategically varying your intensity, rest times and volume (number of repetitions in a set) will optimize abdominal development with time.

    Common Mistakes When Doing Hanging Leg Raises

    Dropping your legs on the eccentric/downward phase removes an important component of this exercise’s potential to activate the rectus abdominis. Swinging the legs at the bottom of the movement before the next concentric/upward phase also minimizes the activation of the abdominals. Therefore, it is important to lower the legs slowly on the downward phase until the legs are hanging straight down, pausing briefly before the next concentric/upward phase.

    Do not lower your head/tuck your chin during this exercise. Keep looking straight ahead throughout the entire movement.

    When incorporating abdominal training into your exercise regimen it is important to evaluate what other exercises you are doing in that training session. For example, it may not be best to train abdominals on the same day as performing deadlifts and squats as those exercises fatigue the abdominals substantially. Training abdominals before or after a training session that involves smaller muscle groups (e.g. calves, biceps, triceps) may be suitable, as it will not interfere with the quality of the overall training session.

    Injuries Or Ailments & Their Effects Regarding Hanging Leg Raises

    Performing hanging leg raises without being accustomed and/or with added resistance beyond the lifter’s capacity can result in injury to the abdominal tissue.