This hanging leg raise variation is an absolutely BRUTAL abdominal exercise even though it LOOKS like it should be easier.
It's a hanging leg raise exercise that allows NO release in tension at the bottom of the movement. It's a real eye-opener the first time you try it! The first time I did it, I thought it was going to be easy and I could only do 2 reps. It was towards the end of an ab workout and I was trying to find a way to extend the set on hanging leg raises - I was in for a shock.
First off, you'll need an incline bench.
An adjustable one is good but not totally necessary. This bench is going to turn this exercise into what looks like a Preacher Curl for your abs (remember how those tend to throw tension on the lower biceps? The same goes here for lower abs).
Second, you'll need a chin-up bar, Smith machine bar or other thing to grab onto that is about 7 feet off the ground (the top cross-beam of a rack will work just fine, too).
Set the incline bench to about 50 to 60 degrees then place it in front of the chin bar. The top end of the bench should be close to right under the chin bar but a little forward of it will be best - when you learn the exercise, play with the spot a bit to get the best feel. Your upper body should be at an angle when you're doing the exercise, not straight up and down.
Set a weight plate on the seat of the bench. This will keep the bench from moving when you're doing the exercise.
Once you're set up, straddle the bench with your back towards the chin-up bar.
Now set your feet on the bench seat and place your lower back on the very top end of the bench.
Reach up with one arm and grab the chin bar, then reach up with other hand and grab on.
Lift your feet up off the bench. Your lower back should be in contact with the bench here.
Now start performing the leg raise. Your lower back stays braced against the bench up until about the mid-way point of the exercise.
Continue the movement until you bring your legs up as high as you can get them. As you pass the halfway point, your lower back will roll over the top edge of the bench. Your body will be using THAT as the new pivot point of the exercise.
It's at THIS point that the weight plate on the bench seat is necessary. Without the plate, the other end of the bench will start to lift off the ground as you place more weight on the top edge of the bench. The weight plate stops that - I'm using a 45 lb plate.
Keep squeezing HARD all the way to the top then lower down slowly. When you come to the bottom, don't let your hips unlock completely so that you're lower body is straight - this is the KEY to making this exercise work. Keep a small angle there and stop the movement while maintaining the tension in the lower abs.
Hold for a second, THEN perform another rep. It's the angle of your body in the exercise and the bench bracing it (especially at the bottom) that make this exercise BRUTAL on the abs.
Keep going for as many as you can get and don't forget to curse me when you're done...
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