The Hanging Leg Raise Progression is one of my favorite core progressions. In fact, I like it so much, I detailed it here- A Must Have Core Exercise.
Because I’ve already written about it more thoroughly, I’ll just do a quick list of the benefits:
1. It’s a great way to strengthen the hip flexors. I know, I’ve written a ton about why tight/over-developed hip flexors resist hip extension. I’ve also written about why hip extension is one of the top qualities wrestlers must develop. However, you need strength on both sides of the hip to create balance.
If you don’t have adequate strength in your hip flexors, you may experience pain, especially during squats and other lower body movements. This issue is actually what got me to realize some hip flexor strength is needed for balance and pain management.
Not only did I, at one point, have a lot of pain in the hip flexor area, but a number of the wrestlers I trained did as well. After reviewing the various programs we were all doing, I noticed that the hip flexors didn’t get any work.
As a result, I elected to add them in to see if it helped. Fortunately, it did. Since then the Hanging Leg Raise Progression has been part of pretty much every program I design.
2. It’s the best “knees to chest” core exercise. If you’re going to train a movement, it may as well be the best, right?
3. You can get some grip work in if you perform these hanging from a bar. This isn’t going to be life changing grip strength, but it’s a little extra work. And a little here and there is what adds up to big improvements over time.
Ok, that was a little more thorough than expected. Let’s get into the progressions.
The first progression is mastering the bodyweight version.
The big focus at this stage, and all of the others is to demonstrate proper control while achieving a full range of motion.
Too often I see this exercise performed using momentum. To the untrained eye, it appears like the person is using proper technique. However, all they’re really doing is swinging around and letting momentum do the work. The tension on the abs and hip flexors is minimal to none. Ultimately this defeats the purpose of the exercise, don’t you agree?
Here’s a video of a bad Hanging Leg Raise.
Hold yourself to higher standards and constantly be honest with your assessment of your performance. Do not do crap like this. You’re not doing anything that’s going to improve your performance. And this is why you’re lifting in the first place, right?
Once you’re comfortable with the first progression, you can move on to this one.
All you add at this progression is a hold.
Here’s an example.
This isn’t a super challenging progression, but it’s an easy way to add an extra degree of difficulty. Additionally, it will help you add an additional element of control to your reps.
This next section has a couple of my preferred progressions. They are in no particular order.
The first is to perform the 2 progressions above, only with straight legs.
Here’s what I mean.
The second option is to add weight. You can do this with old school 80s ankle weights, by holding a dumbbell between your feet, or, my preferred way, holding a med ball between your knees.
Here’s an example.