What Happens When You Raise Your Feet Higher?
The hanging leg raise is a great lower-ab exercise, but what happens when you bring your feet well above the horizontal plane?
By Jimmy Peña MS, CSCS
A QUESTION OF HEIGHT
The most common way to perform the hanging leg raise is to stop when your legs reach parallel to the floor. Even though the entire sheath of muscle called the rectus abdominis is highly at work, because you’re bringing your legs toward your torso, the lower abs will be stressed and fatigued first and to a greater degree. But is that high enough?
HANGING LEG RAISE
The hanging leg raise is a phenomenal abs exercise that helps target the lower portion of the abs as well as the innermost core. You can do the hanging leg raise from a vertical bench or from a pull-up bar using your hands or elbow straps. Try to keep your legs as straight as possible throughout the set. The less advanced version is with your knees bent.
MAKE THIS CHANGE: TAKE IT TO THE TOP
Rather than stop at parallel, raise your legs as high as possible toward the ceiling. Your lower abs, upper abs and the innermost transverse abdominis are engaged to a greater degree above and beyond the parallel point. In fact, if you stop at parallel, you can consider that angle the halfway point along the range of motion. You’ll stress your core (transverse abdominis) more when using a pull-up bar than when using a vertical bench, simply because of the low-back support provided by the bench.
GET THE BENEFITS FROM BOTH
A great way to use both versions of the hanging leg raise is to do an extended set. Begin your set by taking your legs as high as possible. Be sure to lower them slowly to effectively innervate all the muscle fibers in play. Then when you can’t raise your legs to the ceiling, rather than ending your set extend it by bringing them to the parallel point (a partial rep). For even greater stimulus, when you can’t reach parallel with your straight legs, begin the bent-knee raise and continue repping to parallel until you reach exhaustion.
Excerpted from the July 2012 issue of MuscleMag – now on sale!