It might seem a little primitive to hang from a pullup bar like an orangutan and twist and lift your legs to build your core muscles, but the twisting hanging leg raise exercise is more than just challenging to say. While you can target your abs through several exercises, this challenging workout uses your body weight as resistance. Quit monkeying around -- find an empty pullup bar at the gym and see what you can do.
Basic Hanging Leg Raise
Before you add a twist to this exercise, focus on mastering the basic hanging leg raise. Grab a pullup bar with an overhand grip with your hands a couple of inches wider than the width of your shoulders. Allow your body to hang straight, and then bend your knees and hips to lift your knees as high as you can. Lower your legs back to the starting position to complete one rep.
Twisting Hanging Leg Raise
Performing a twisting hanging leg raise provides a challenging variation to the basic exercise. The hand grip and starting position of your body remain the same, but instead of raising your knees straight in front of your torso, twist at the waist and raise your knees to one side. Return to the original hanging position and then lift and twist your knees to the other side. The muscle involvement in the basic exercise versus the twisting variation is similar, but the twist provides more work for your obliques.
Although people often use the hanging leg raise as an exercise for their abdominal muscles, this exercise's target muscle is actually your iliopsoas, commonly called your hip flexors. However, proper execution of the exercise requires the contraction of your abdominals and obliques, which are found in the front and sides of your torso, respectively. Synergist muscles, which help you complete the movement, include muscles in your legs and hips.
It will likely take some time before you can perform a set of twisting hanging leg raises with ease, but if you reach the point at which you want to increase the challenge of the workout, consider adding extra weight to your body. If you have access to a weight plate, hold it between your ankles or thighs. Ankle weights, which strap to your ankles, can also boost the challenge of this exercise.
Toronto-based journalist William McCoy has been writing since 1997, specializing in topics such as sports, nutrition and health. He serves as the Studio's sports and recreation section expert. McCoy is a journalism graduate of Ryerson University.