The hanging leg raise is an excellent core exercise. While not for everyone, particularly those who present with significant shoulder stability issues, or those who have not reached this level of core strength progression, hanging leg raises are a very effective exercise that strengthens the core. Keep in mind that the core is basically everything from the nose to the toes and this is very true when attempting to master this exercise.
Either all or a portion of the body is suspended vertically. The inner core unit muscles stabilize the spine and the shoulder stabilizers keep the shoulder girdle in neutral while the hip flexors pull the knees straight up toward the hip joint, creating a displacement challenge. Then, the legs are lowered back to the vertical position with as little extraneous body motion as possible.
There are three variations of this exercise highlighted this week from least to most intense. Therefore, the recommended method of progression is to master the VKR variation first, then progress to the hanging leg raises with the slings for support and finally the extended arm variation when you are ready for the challenge. Perform 1-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions, to a point of momentary muscle failure, two-three non-consecutive days/week. Take your time and concentrate on precise form and technique throughout each repetition as it is easy to allow the body to begin swinging, becoming out of control defeating the major purpose of the exercise which is stabilization. As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.
The VKR or “Captain’s Chair” as some of you may know it, allows you to rest your upper body into the “chair” with the back supported and the shoulders fixed and the lower body vertically suspended. The hips flex moving the knees toward the hip joint and back to the suspended position.
During the hanging leg raises, the body is suspended from a horizontal bar and the arms are placed into “slings” (anchored to the bar) on each side from the arm pits to above the elbow joint, then the hands grip the ends of the slings close to the anchor point while you pull the knees toward the hip joint. This requires more shoulder and core stabilization than the VKR version as there is potential movement at the anchor site of the slings. This movement at the anchor point strongly challenges the core to minimize movement in the suspended segment of the body.
EXTENDED ARM HOLD
During the hanging leg raises, the body is suspended from a horizontal bar with the arms extended, the body completely vertical from knuckles to toes, and is probably one of the most challenging versions of this exercise. With no support other than holding on with your hands at the bar, the knees raise to the hip joint and then lower back to the suspended position. As the knees lift and lower, momentum may build and this requires greater stabilization from the core and the shoulder joint to prevent swinging of the body. Additionally, you are bearing your vertical body weight from the hands, consequently, your grip strength will be a determining factor in the duration of this exercise.