I wanted to introduce an exercise that I have recommended to a number of students recently.  It is the hanging knee/leg raise.  This is a great way to increase abdominal strength while improving trunk stabilization and grip strength.

First, I want to spend some time discussing why leg raises on the floor are improper and can lead to postural and muscular problems.  In the first half of the leg raise, the hips will lose contact with the ground as the legs are raised in the air.  When the legs begin their descent back towards the floor, the hips regain contact with the ground.  This forces the hips to shift into an improper pelvic alignment.  You can see what I’m talking about here.   For this reason, it is best to perform the leg raise without the anchor of the floor; thus allowing you to complete risk-free range of motion.

A number of options exist to execute the hanging leg curl.  The first is the “captain’s chair,” which you anchor your arms to maintain an elevated position.   The fitness industry has improved upon this model by providing some stability in the form of a bosu.  The newer model, shown here  is available for use at the Columbus gym.  The bosu increases the stability of your back without shifting your pelvic alignment.   The other option is a true hanging leg raise, utilizing the pull up bar.  This exercise will cause great improvements in grip strength, which can improve your pull-ups and all barbell exercises.

I want to explain proper form during execution of this exercise.  You should begin with the hanging knee raise , the simplest progression.  You simply start with your legs straight and then bring the knees up to your chest.  You can progress to a straight leg raise .  This is more difficult because the legs have more leverage when they are further from your body.  Either of these can be performed one leg at a time to challenge your stability.  Be sure to limit how much your body rocks back and forth.  Keep the movement concentrated on the abdominal muscles.

Add the knee raise and leg raise progressions to your workout and notice the difference.

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