We have had many different methodologies on what's best for training the core muscles. While some believe that crunches and basic spine flexion exercises are best, others have found great success with planking exercises. Regardless of what you believe is the most effective, research has shown that when it comes to activating muscle development, hanging leg raises are best.
In this two-part article, we are going to break down how you can master the hanging leg raise and why it is so important for your overall strength.
Why Hanging Leg Raises?
Plenty of us have been shown traditional crunches by all of our high-school phys ed teachers - so why should this not be the staple in your fitness and training?
Well, the reality is, although crunches are a super effective exercise for developing the core muscles, they can also put a huge amount of stress on the spine.
Heres why switching to hanging leg raises will be better for your strength and overall physique:
1. Greater Muscle Activation
Hanging leg raises make it so that you cannot use your hip flexors to assist you as much as other lying core exercises. This means you will activate more muscle development and build a stronger core.
2. Greater Progressive Abilities
In other words, basic hanging leg raises can lead to much more difficult exercises. Whereas the crunch is more or less, restricted to its exercise in isolation, training the hanging leg raise means you can progress into more difficult exercises like toes to bar, skin the cats and much more.
3. Protects Your Spine
Crunches can be harmful to the integrity of your spine. On the other hand, exercises like hanging leg raise actually benefit the structural integrity of your spine and allow for a more complete training approach.
Hanging Leg Raise Form
This might seem completely redundant, but the hanging leg raise is not as simple as just hanging off a pull-up bar and bringing your knees to your stomach.
There are some movement cues that will help you to improve your form and limit back pain.
At the end of the day, we must not forget one of the main reasons we are doing hanging leg raises is to avoid back pain from traditional crunches.
Cue 1: Active Hang
Many people start their hanging core exercises in a passive hang - that is, relaxed. Instead, we recommend that you start your hanging exercises in an active hang. This means you need to retract and depress your scapula, anteriorly tilt your pelvis and tighten your grip.
Cue 2: Practice Slow Movement
Far too many people get on the bar and swing into their range of motion. In some cases, this could be applicable to a competition setting, but if you are simply trying to improve muscle activation, slow and controlled repetitions will always be best.
Cue 3: Hold and Contract at the Top
This is the biggest movement cue that will help you develop more strength over time. Nearly every exercises should end with a slight pause at the end range of motion - but especially a hanging leg raise. Not only will this help to built end-range strength, but it will also help to improve your ability to isometrically contain your muscles in a set exercise - which makes progressions much easier.
Mastering the Hanging Leg Raise is not an easy thing to do. This exercise takes time and ample dedication to perfect - but the hard work will be well worth the struggle.
In part 2 we will discuss how you should start training with this exercise and what specific reps/set schemes will work best to improve your strength over time.