They’re one of the most dynamic moves you can do for your abs. But if you’ve got back troubles or shoulder problems, or if you simply have trouble holding yourself up for that long, you may struggle with hanging leg raises. That’s OK. You don’t have to force yourself into the machine anymore -- not if you know a few alternative exercises that work your abs and give you excellent results.
Hanging Leg Raises Outlined
Hanging leg raises are incredible moves for developing strong abs. By hanging from a chinup bar and lifting your knees toward your chest, you force your abs to work against the strong pull of gravity and the weight of your lower body. These lifts also develop your entire core and total body strength as you work to control your body and keep yourself from swinging with momentum. Hanging leg raises can also be done with a dumbbell between your feet if you’re at a higher fitness level, but you should always be cautious about doing too much. If you’re not careful, you can work yourself right into a hernia.
Vertical Bench Option
Because hanging leg raises are advanced-level weightlifting moves, you have to work up to them if you’re just starting out. If you’re not quite ready for the full hanging leg raises, you can do essentially the same move from a supported position by climbing into a vertical bench that has arm rests and handles. Doing leg raises from this position takes some of the burden off your upper back and takes away your ability to swing when you crunch, which takes away from the effectiveness of the move.
If you’re looking to replicate the hanging leg raise without hanging at all, one of your best options is reverse crunches. These moves work both the upper and lower abs in a similar way but can be done either on a flat bench, decline bench or the floor. And for a bit of an extra challenge, you can also try reverse crunches from suspended straps. Simply get down in a plank position, put your ankles in suspended straps about a foot off the ground and curl your legs toward your chest. Just be sure to keep your core engaged and your back straight to avoid pain and injury.
If you want to stick to the basics, you can get a workout comparable to hanging leg raises by doing specific kinds of situps. Try incline situps on an incline bench or do jackknife situps from the floor. Or, try what Bodybuilding.com calls one of the best exercises for your abs: the surrender situp. Also known as the hands overhead crunch, the surrender situp doesn’t take you through the full situp motion, but it works the abs by adding the extra challenge of raising your arms, which are extended over your head.
After graduating from the University of Kansas with a bachelor's degree in sports information, Jill Lee served for 10 years as a magazine editor for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). Also a published author, Lee now works as a professional writer and editor focusing on fitness, sports and careers.