How to Do the Hanging Leg Raise

man doing hanging leg raises in gym
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The hanging leg raise is an expert-level isolation exercise for the abdominal muscles. While the traditional crunch and its variants give a top-down approach, the hanging leg raise is a bottom-up approach. It is a pull exercise that works the abs in a slightly different way. Include both types in your training for best effect. A similar exercise is leg raises in the ​Captain's chair.

Find out more about weight training terminology and exercise description if you need background information before you try this exercise.

Equipment Needed 

You need a high bar that you can grasp at a height above your head. It must be stable and able to support your full body weight as well as withstand the stresses added as you raise and lower your legs. A chin-up bar is a good choice while using a random door frame or ledge could result in damage to it as well as yourself. A round bar would be more comfortable than a squared-off bar or square wooden beam. It can have hooks or rings attached to grasp, or you can grasp the bar itself.  Some exercise frames may have ab straps attached, supporting your upper arms while you grasp with your hands.

How to Perform the Hanging Leg Raise

  • Grasp a bar or hooks or rings above your head. You don't have to necessarily be hanging at this stage, but ideally, the grip does have to be well above your head. An overhand grip with your thumb around the bar will be the most stable.
  • Pull up off the ground and swing your legs outward, keeping them straight. Feel the abdominal muscles working hard as you do this.
  • Alternatively, and a little easier: bring your knees up to your waist and then straighten them again.
  • With each of these movements, you are 'hanging' by the overhead grips during the exercise.
  • Do ten repetitions in a set — or as many as you can manage. Try to do 30 repetitions in total.
  • Concentrate the motion in the abs and hip flexors, don't swing to raise your legs with body momentum. Avoid swinging or swaying.
  • Keep your shoulders pulled down to help protect them during this exercise.


  • Keeping your knees extended through the leg raise is the more intense move.
  • Bent knees during this exercise is an easier move.
  • Extending and bending your knees while in a raised position
  • Adding ankle weights or holding a dumbbell weight between your ankles
  • Continue raising knees up to your shoulders to exercise the rectus abdominis.
  • One-arm hanging leg raise, with straight leg or bent knee.

Muscles Targeted 

The abdominal muscle most worked in the hanging leg raise is the iliopsoas, the hip flexors. The iliopsoas flexes the hip and rotates the spine. It connects the spine and hip to the top of the femur and acts to pull them towards each other.

The synergistic muscles that work during the hanging leg raise are the tensor fasciae latae, pectineus, sartorius, the adductor longus, and adductor brevis. The stabilizing muscles during this exercise are the rectus abdominus and the obliques.

Similar Exercises

  • Captain's chair
  • Easier variations are the incline leg raise and the lying leg raise.
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