Beginner.Many people are drawn to the idea of hanging upside down to relieve back pain or improve posture, which it can. Always, however, ease into hanging upside down. Use an inversion table, which allows you to control the degree to which you invert. You can lie horizontally, at zero degrees, or go all the way upside down at 90 degrees. If you feel any uncomfortable side effects, such as headaches, invert yourself at a lower angle or discontinue use of the inversion table. The first time you use the table, invert yourself between 20 and 30 degrees to get accustomed to these angles for a few weeks. You should feel completely at ease before proceeding to a greater angle of inversion. A total body stretch, increased blood circulation and more oxygen getting to the head are positive effects from hanging at even this mild angle.
Hanging Stretches Benefits Tips
After you become used to being inverted at about 30 degrees, you can proceed to 60 degrees. Hanging upside down is healthy for your spine, as it allows gravity to gently pull and create traction. Traction is a process chiropractors perform to decompress their clients' spines and create space between the vertebrae. When a person lies on the inversion table and is two-thirds of the way upside down, gravity can naturally allow the spine to decompress, provided you relax your body. Inverted traction has been shown to be an "effective means of achieving pelvic traction at home," according to a study published in "Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation." As you're inverted, your vertebrae in the lumbar or lower region are pulled away from each other.
The Most Effective Abdominal Exercises: Hanging Leg Raises
Before we delve into my pick for one of the most effective exercises for abs and sing praises for hanging leg raises, I would like to preface the article with three important points. Firstly, exercises that greatly engage your abdominal muscles are often exceptionally difficult and thus tend to require some degree of base strength or pre-training before being able to execute them correctly and effectively. Secondly, there really is no such thing as a ‘best exercise’- hanging leg raises may stimulate your abdominal muscles more than crunches, planks and leg raises but they are not your best choice if you can’t do them properly. Thirdly, the most effective abdominal exercise, executed perfectly on a regular basis still won’t give you a 6 pack. A sleek midsection, rippling with muscle comes more from your diet and what you do to reduce body fat in terms of energy expenditure, but you won’t burn much of anything training the relatively small abdominal muscles, regardless of how intensely you train them (See my article- Getting The 6 Pack- It’s More About What You Eat Than What You Do). That being said, abdominal strength is an important component to the execution of almost every athletic movement and strong abdominals play a stabilizing role in just about every physical activity we undertake. Strong abdominals are also key to proper posture and the prevention of back injury, aspects of physical fitness that far outweigh the cosmetic and relatively superficial pursuit of having washboard abs- which, by the way are no indication that your abdominal muscles are necessarily strong. Top Olympic lifters and powerlifters have some of the strongest human abdominal muscles on the planet, but due to their body fat distribution they seldom have anything even remotely resembling a 6 pack. In this article we take a look at my recommendation for the most effective abdominal exercise- the hanging leg raise- and discuss why I picked it, how to do it correctly and how to work up to it if you aren’t able to do them at this point. It’s a difficult movement to say the least, but if you work up to it you will be rewarded by ultra-strong abdominals. Thanks as always for reading and do be sure to share the article with anyone you think might benefit from it.
 Muscle Stretching
Benefits of Muscle Stretching
Perhaps the greatest benefit of stretching is that it increases your ability to be in the gym and stay healthy by reducing the risk of suffering long-term injuries. While most of us would like to believe that we are immune to injuries, the fact is that stretching reduces the risk of injury, which has the added benefit of keeping you at the gym regularly and hence it helps you to reach your fitness goals more soon.
However, there are other important basic benefits of stretching which includes muscle elongation, which will give you a more elongated and slender appearance. It also improves your posture, something that any professional bodybuilder can tell you, which helps you a lot to boast your physique.
Finally, stretching also reduces the accumulation of lactic acid in your muscles to avoid stiffness.
Perform Muscle Stretching Like Pros
If you really want your body to have the best shape of your life you must to apply my stretching tips so you get the same benefits as a professional. Let me tell you this, professional bodybuilders add a stretching regimen after their activity to their workouts every week to receive the following benefits:
It naturally increases blood flow to the joints and muscles, this keeps the muscles flexible.
It increases the range of motion, this helps you to do better certain exercises. Think how much more effective will be your squats if you could go down as much as humanly possible when you perform it. The better you do your exercises, the more effective will they be to gain muscle without fat.
It decreases the late-onset of muscle soreness, this means you won’t have much more pain after doing an exercise than you have now at this very moment.
It improves your muscle recovery time, this means that you will see results sooner.
You’ll have a better physical functioning, so you will be able to move better and more smoothly.
Muscle Stretching Tips
Muscle stretching tips that I have for today lesson are based on the most common questions that I get regarding stretching. This lack of knowledge is the reason why many people at the gym ignore stretching or perform them very poorly. As they don’t know when to stretch or how to stretch, they ignore it and hope it disappears.
But it will not. Follow these tips and you’ll see immediate improvements in your muscle development.
Stretch after training for better results, after finishing your exercise routine your muscles are warm, eliminating microscopic tears in your muscles associated with cold stretching. This is a common mistake, but you must try to avoid it. Take the stretch as part of your “cooling”.
Many people want to know: how long do I have to stretch? This is easy to answer. Most of professionals use a 2 to 1 ratio, i.e., they stretch half of the time that they have been training. However, if you exercise 2 hours is not realistic that you must to spend an hour stretch.
You should begin with a session of 20 minutes of stretching after each workout. After a few weeks you can start to increase the time until you get that 2 to 1 ratio.
The key to an effective muscle stretching is to do it well. If you don’t stretch properly, then you are wasting your time. Choose any muscle or stretching and follow these guidelines:
First take the position of choice and hold the stretch for 15 seconds.
Then loosen the body and make it down again 15 seconds.
Repeat the stretch again, hang in there and hold it for 15 seconds.
This will give you more than enough for each particular muscle stretch.
Also, when I tell you to hang a little more, I mean that your pain level must be at a 4 on the scale of 10. If your pain level is higher than 5 you have to reduce the stretch time because otherwise you will cause more harm than good to your muscles.
When done properly, stretching can do more than just increase flexibility. According to M. Alter, benefits of stretching include:
enhanced physical fitness
enhanced ability to learn and perform skilled movements
increased mental and physical relaxation
enhanced development of body awareness
reduced risk of injury to joints, muscles, and tendons
reduced muscular soreness
reduced muscular tension
increased suppleness due to stimulation of the production of chemicals which lubricate connective tissues (see section Connective Tissue)
reduced severity of painful menstruation (dysmenorrhea) in females
Unfortunately, even those who stretch do not always stretch properly and hence do not reap some or all of these benefits. Some of the most common mistakes made when stretching are:
improper warm-up
inadequate rest between workouts
performing the wrong exercises
performing exercises in the wrong (or sub-optimal) sequence
In this chapter, we will try to show you how to avoid these problems, and others, and present some of the most effective methods for realizing all the benefits of stretching.

Warming Up
Cooling Down
Elements of a Good Stretch
Some Risky Stretches
Breathing During Stretching
Exercise Order
When to Stretch
Stretching With a Partner
Stretching to Increase Flexibility
Pain and Discomfort
Performing Splits
Warming Up

How to Stretch: (beginning of chapter)
Stretching is not warming up! It is, however, a very important part of warming up. Warming up is quite literally the process of "warming up" (i.e., raising your core body temperature). A proper warm-up should raise your body temperature by one or two degrees Celsius (1.4 to 2.8 degrees Fahrenheit) and is divided into three phases:
general warm-up
sport-specific activity
It is very important that you perform the general warm-up before you stretch. It is not a good idea to attempt to stretch before your muscles are warm (something which the general warm-up accomplishes).
Warming up can do more than just loosen stiff muscles; when done properly, it can actually improve performance. On the other hand, an improper warm-up, or no warm-up at all, can greatly increase your risk of injury from engaging in athletic activities.
It is important to note that active stretches and isometric stretches should not be part of your warm-up because they are often counterproductive. The goals of the warm-up are (according to Kurz): "an increased awareness, improved coordination, improved elasticity and contractibility of muscles, and a greater efficiency of the respiratory and cardiovascular systems." Active stretches and isometric stretches do not help achieve these goals because they are likely to cause the stretched muscles to be too tired to properly perform the athletic activity for which you are preparing your body.
Basic anatomy of the abdominal muscles
When choosing an exercise it’s always best practice to first understand how a muscle works in real life and its basic anatomy. Most abdominal exercise recommendations focus on movements that isolate the abdominal muscles as much as possible- a practice that I generally tend to disagree with since isolation movements not only confer the least amount of stress on the abdominal muscles but also are the furthest removed from what we would do in real life. Abdominal muscles are designed to be used in conjunction with other muscles in our body and so for the best results in terms of increasing strength and muscular development the muscles, it’s best to do more inclusive compound movements, rather than isolating ones.
Along with their role in breathing and protecting our organs, it is useful to think of the abdominal muscles as an extension of the spine and consider the two as part of a whole. When we think about ‘abs’ or a six pack the muscles that first come to mind are the rectus abdominus- a slender muscle that runs across the abdominal wall and originates (starts) on the crest of the pubis bone and inserts (ends) on the cartilage of the fifth through seventh ribs. Muscle fibers in the rectus abdominus run parallel to each other and the left and right pairs are separated by a strip of tendon called the linea alba. The muscle fibers are further separated crosswise by three tendons called linea transversae. Separations that create the blocks or six pack that is readily apparent in someone with well-developed abdominal muscles and minimal body fat in their mid-section. While not directly connected to spinal movement, deep behind the rectus abdominus is another layer of muscle called the transversus abdominus, originating from the outer inguinal ligament, the iliac crest and the cartilage of the lower sixth rib and lumbar fascia and inserting on the pubic crest, iliopectineal line and the linea alba. The transversus abdominus serves to hold in the viscera and protect our inner organs and is a responsible for helping you maintain a flat looking stomach and in breathing out forcefully. The transversus abdominus, also play a role in spinal stabilization and posture.
On the sides of the rectus abdominus are the external and internal obliques. The external obliques start in the lower ribs and the front half of the ilium and end at the lower end of the linea alba. The internal obliques are found under the external obliques, originating in the lumbar fascia, the frontal crest of the ilium and the outer half of the inguinal ligament and inserting in the cartilage of the ribs and linea alba. As we mentioned before- it helps to think of the abdominal muscles as a part of the spinal system as the rectus abdominus allows for spinal flexion (bending forward) by contracting and moving the ribcage down or by pulling the pelvis up. The external and internal obliques also play a part in spinal flexion as well as in rotating the upper and lower trunk and lateral flexion (bending sideways to the left or to the right.) All of the aforementioned muscles also help maintain proper posture.
Selecting The Most Effective Abdominal Strengthening Exercises
If we understand the way a muscle works, its origins and insertions it becomes relatively easy to determine which movement would be best of increasing overall strength and development. It is always interesting to me that many experts in the field recommend using compound movements over isolation type exercises when it comes to strength training and muscle development but somehow forget these basic principles when it comes to training abdominal muscles. A deadlift for example, is an ultra effective strength building exercise and overall recommendation for muscle development because it engages so many muscles at the same time- much in the way an individual would doing a real life movement. A bent leg deadlift works the hamstrings, gluteus maximus, erector spinae, the quadriceps, as well as the abdominals, forearm and upper arm muscles- a synergistic movement that gives you the most bang for you buck (so to speak) by allowing you to not only work several muscles at the same time, but also place a significant degree of overload in a safe and controlled manner. That being said, as deadlifts and squats are considered standard compound movements that should be done by anyone serious about maximizing overall muscle strength and development (providing injury or structural limitations don’t present any restrictions) the hanging leg raise is recommendation as the best bang for your buck exercise for your abdominals.
For an exercise to be considered a compound movement, it must engage as many muscles as possible being targeted in a way that allows for muscular overload to take place safely. Within the realm of high intensity training, the philosophy has always been about selecting not only the most effective exercises with regards to strength and muscle development, but also the ones that increase flexibility and offer the most in terms of real world strength application. Weight lifting has often been criticized as being somewhat 180 degrees away from flexibility promotion and while several poorly trained and chemically enhanced over muscled individuals may stand as living testaments to this myth- proper exercise selection can do wonders in terms of increasing overall flexibility. Weight training, by it’s very nature, places significant stress on your spinal column and thus it is important that there are exercises in your routine that allow you to stretch the spine and the muscles surrounding it- and hanging leg raises is just the ticket.
Now there are many variations to the hanging leg raise- some involve straps or a specially designed chair?? For the purposes of this article we will focus on the hanging leg raise in its purest form where you are holding on to a high bar and bringing your toes to your hands. It’s a basic movement that can be done anywhere- the gym, a playground or anywhere there is a bar you can hang from and offers tremendous benefits in terms of strengthening not only the abdominals but all the several supportive muscles as well.

Hanging leg raises- abdominal exercise
Holding on to a high bar with palms facing forward and with enough clearance so that you are suspended high enough that your feet are off the floor, inhale deeply, then while holding your breath rotate your hips upwards (without swinging or using momentum) and raise your legs up and in towards your body while keeping your knees either straight or slightly bent until your feet are at the same level as your fingers. Pause at the top of the movement, then exhale and lower your legs slowly and under control until they return to the beginning position.
 Compression fatigue 
Too much downward load on the body by activities such as jogging, aerobics, weight lifting, bicycling, and by prolonged sitting on chairs.
Rotational fatigue  
Comes from one-sided activities such as golf, tennis, ping pong (unless you use 2 rackets like me), bowling, and playing one-sided instruments like the violin, guitar, cello etc.
Both compression and rotational fatigue occur in activities such as working at cash-registers, driving a car and working at a computer. Help!
The answer is simple: reverse the process, hang upside down!
Relax upside down
Spending time relaxing upside down is much more than a healing and preventative measure for bad backs. Yoga Swings and Inversion tables are types of fitness equipment that prevent compression of the vertebrae and can be used to stretch and tone the whole body in the most pleasant ways.
When your weight is balanced horizontally on a gravity inversion table you can achieve the incredible feeling of near weightlessness.
Is Hanging Upside Down Bad for you?
Is your back killing you again? Not enough hours in a day to get some decent sleep? Then ask yourself the question: "What is the one most difficult hurdle to overcome when trying to get fit and healthy?" A lack of Motivation? Willpower? Time? Confidence? None of those.The answer is more simple than you think. The one most difficult hurdle to overcome to get fit is ... GRAVITY!
The good news is that Gravity can be used to the body's advantage rather than its detriment. Gravity inversion was originally designed to cure bad backs and relieve spinal pressure. More importantly, when you are fluent with a Gravity Inversion Table or a Yoga Swing your body moves in many mysterious new ways, and you feel as agile as when you were a child again. Sounds impossible?
How Does it Work?
If your body was a pencil balancing horizontally on your finger, the point of pivot would be your pelvis. A Gravity Inversion Table is as sensitive as an old fashioned scale. As you can see on the video, you gently tip around the center of gravity (the pelvis) and, with subtle movement of the arms, you can gradually go deeper and control the depth of inversion to any desired angle, and eventually to the full upside down position.

Why do we Need to Hang Upside Down?
Most actions we engage in focus downwards, towards the front of the body, using mostly the hands and the eyes. We very rarely reach high up, or bend backwards (counter moves). Constant imbalanced movements require the body to compensate by unnecessarily using many antagonistic muscles just to keep us upright. When body movements focus predominantly forward and down, something needs to happen to redress the balance and prevent deepening the lumbar and cervical vertebral curves.
Straightening Up in a Passive way
All you need to do to avoid "shrinking" in old age is to allow gentle upside down traction.
All you need to do to avoid "shrinking" in old age is to allow gentle upside down traction.
Source: Sue Adams
Kids Love Hanging Upside Down

We Don't Have to 'Shrink' with Age
Rather like an accordion, older people appear to become shorter because the inter-vertebral disks get compressed and poor movement habits have gradually 'folded' them down and created an over-curvature in the spinal column.
The easiest way of preventing this from happening is to spend a little time every few days hanging upside down on a gravity inversion table. "Why not do a head-stand?" some people argue. The answer is that while a head-stand too inverts the body and is great for circulation and balance, it unfortunately puts a lot of pressure on the neck because the entire body weight is pushing down into that area.
Some years ago, before I had ever heard of hanging upside down or Gravity Inversion Tables, I would often end a children's dance class with some frolicking acrobatics. The one thing children most adored was for me to lift them up by their ankles. They loved it so much they would shout: "Again, again!". That was great fun but it was also extremely exhausting for me, the teacher.
I often wished some giant could pick me up by my ankles and return the favor. So one day after work I sat down and drew a sketch of a design for a wooden contraption that I was determined to make.
My invention would allow me to hang upside down. And then lo and behold, a few days later, I was exploring the "Innovations" shop in Bayswater Road and YES! There it was, the Gravity Inversion Table.
Luck comes in mysterious ways I thought, and immediately ordered one. I have never looked back since.

How to Teach a Child to Walk on their Hands
Face the child and say: "Put your hands on my feet". Then pick up their ankles until they are upside down and walk. As a long term fan of hanging upside down I now understand why the children always wanted me to pick them up by their ankles again and again. Hanging upside down releases tension and helps them grow.
Giant Bolster
For Beginners
Before seriously thinking about getting your very own Gravity Inversion Table, try relaxing back off a giant bolster or off the side of your bed.
Treat your spine to the opposite of what it does normally in every day life. It feels great, relaxes you, and improves circulation.
Ever Heard of Gravity Inversion?
 No, I had never heard of Gravity Inversion
 I knew about it but wasn't sure how it worked
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Alternative to Giant Bolster
Alternative to Giant Bolster
Following a request in the comments section for where to buy the giant bolster illustrated above I had to confess that I don't know because I made the giant bolster myself as follows:
The solid inside part is a wide (8 to 10 inches diameter) plastic drainage tubing. 2 inches thick foam is stuck on the inside of the tube and 4 inches thick foam on the outside Then the entire bolster is covered with washable and removable cotton fabric.
As an alternative to the giant bolster you may use the "Peanut Ball" advertised here, which is a good alternative for relaxing the spine in a curved supine position.
Benefits of Hanging Upside Down
Decompresses and realigns the vertebrae
Maintains your height
Improves posture
Adds to flexibility
Strengthens abdomen
Relieves stress
Relaxes tensed muscles
Improves circulation
Heightens mental awareness
Improves productivity
Improves your mood
Combats depression
Makes you need less sleep
Some of you believe that it's bad for you to get a red face with blood flowing into your head. On the contrary; more blood supply and oxygen to the brain is, up to a point, a good thing. Go slowly and not all the way down at first. If you get a head rush, slowly come back up until you can control the degree of inversion that you are comfortable with.
How long how often?
Five or ten minutes, 3 times a week, or when ever you feel tired, sad, angry, upset or depressed. A short "hang" can help resolve many problems. With a more positive attitude, solutions to problems are easier to find.
Source: Teeter Inversion Tables
Relax and Grow Taller
On the Gravity Inversion Table you can relax at any angle to decompress spinal discs. Or you hang completely upside down for a new perspective. Gravity Inversion Tables come in many different price ranges. I use a simple one which cost me 200 euros. If you are very tall or heavy you might need something stronger.
Why Not In Gyms?
Gravity Inversion Tables are rarely seen in gyms. Gyms are not prepared to adjust the height for individual customers. If you are contemplating getting one, read the instructions carefully. It only takes a few minutes to learn how to use it properly but you do need to adjust the machine to your own height. Watch the Juliette Kando video on this page to get an idea of the subtlety of your balance when it pivots around your center of gravity, the pelvis.
Advanced Gravity Inversion
Yoga Swing
A Yoga Swing is even more versatile than a Gravity Inversion Table as you can see in the next video. Start slowly and you can have tremendous fun experimenting to your own abilities. You'll soon discover how much your body enjoys the element of surprise when you achieve great new moves that you never thought you could do. The pleasure you get from a yoga swing is very much like moving when you were a child but with more awareness.
When you are familiar with hanging upside down, either with a Gravity Inversion Table or a Yoga Swing, or both, you can do and invent so many exercises to further loosen and strengthen your body.
Hanging upside down is so much fun because it is unusual to 'invert' your body, to relax and play with the many new sensations that you experience. When you come off, you feel very tall, supple, as light as a feather, and you are in a very good mood indeed!
Learn how to properly perform Hanging Leg Raises, the holy grail of core training and an awesome bodyweight abs exercise.
You will:
- Gain Gruesome Grip Strength
- Upgrade Your Upper Body
- Bulletproof Your Back
- Develop Freakish Flexibility
- Sculpt the Six-Pack of a Super Hero
One of the most amazing benefits of this exercise is that it trains all of the muscles that support your spine while simultaneously unloading and decompressing your spine. This is a stark contrast to a lot of other abdominal movements like crunches and sit-ups – and even core-intensive whole body exercises like squats, deadlifts, and swings that compress your spine.
Follow these five tips to master this midsection move today:
1.Use a Hook Grip: A hook grip involves gripping the bar with a slightly flexed wrist and wrapping your thumb over your index or middle finger. This allows you to create more external rotation torque in your shoulders making you stronger and more stable throughout the movement. It will also help your keep your ribs down (see below).
2.Pack your shoulders down: Almost every exercise tells you to keep your shoulder blades down (called scapular depression) but here we just want you to keep your shoulders down (called glenohumeral depression). In fact, your upper back should be slightly rounded and your chest slightly tucked. This will put your shoulders in the safest position (avoiding unwanted impingement, strains or tears) while also allowing you to best be able to push down against the bar (see below).
3.Keep your ribs down: If your ribcage elevates as you raise your legs it will create an anterior pelvic tilt that hyperextends your lumbar spine causing strain in your lower back. Keep your ribs down and directly aligned over your pelvis and then brace your core (like if you were about to get punched in the gut) to set this position. This will ensure that most of motion occurs at your hips and not your lower back like it’s supposed to.
4.Push down against the bar: This is a high-tension tactic that helps engage all of the big and strong muscles under your arms and along your ribcage. This will accomplish two key things. One, it will make it easier to raise your legs and compress your upper and lower body together. Two, since your lats attach to your spine and the opposite hip they are actually core muscles that help stabilize your spine when properly fired.
5. Exhale at the top of the movement: Breathe through your belly, not your ribcage. Breathing through your ribs causes your ribs to rise thus creating the hyperextended lower back position we discussed in tip #3. In addition, forcefully exhale at the top of the movement when you’ve raised your legs as high as you can without leaning back too much. This will fully compress your abdomen and cause the greatest muscular contraction. Inhale on the way down.
Bonus Tip: After you smoothly raise your legs to max height, engage your glutes before lowering them back down. This nifty little trick unloads your spine and takes pressure off of your lower back.
Here’s a brief instructional video of how to perform the hanging leg raise:
It’s critical to note that before you embark on this stomach-shredder, you need to prep your body with a slew of corrective exercises including self-massage drills and targeted stretches and mobilizations that will:
- Open up your hips and hamstrings
- Make your lower back more supple
- Improve overhead positioning and posture for the hanging component
That’s why I’ve put together 2 unique corrective exercise videos that you can instantly start streaming today. These will get you ready to safely hammer your mid-section like never before.
Corrective Exercises for Hanging Leg Raises: Self-Massage Drills
Here’s an outline of the exercise list:
- Hamstrings: Seated on Lacrosse Ball on Box, Seated Toe Touches on Lacrosse Ball
- Lower Back: Foam Roll, Single Ball on Low Back to Upper Glute, and Double Lacrosse Ball (Pelvis to Ribcage)
- Quad/Hip-Flexors: Foam Roll and Lacrosse Ball
- T-Spine: Foam Roll and Double Lacrosse Ball (Overhead Reaches)
- Lats/Rib Cage: Foam Roll (Overhead Reaches)
- Armpit/Posterior Shoulder: Lacrosse Ball (Overhead Reaches)
Corrective Exercises for Hanging Leg Raises: Stretches and Mobilizations
Here’s an outline of the exercise list:
-High Hamstrings:Lying Leg Raises/Swings, Standing Leg Raises/Swings, Lying or Standing Hamstring Mobilizations with Band Distractions
-Hip Capsule Mobilization for “Flexion Wall”: Double Kneel - Single Knee with ER (add band distraction)
-Hip Flexion: 2-Leg: Lying or Deep Squat, 1-Leg: Lying or Standing with Foot on Step/Box
- Hip Extension: 2-Leg- Cobra -1-Leg- Kneeling Quad/Hip-Flexor Stretch (add band distraction)
- Overhead Positioning: T-Spine Wrap on Med Ball, Wall Lat/Triceps (Facing/Side Facing), Band Shoulder Flexion with ER Bias
- Global Flexion/Compression Stretches: Seated Toe Touches, Seated Leg Raises (Wall), Lying Back Bend
- Pelvic Reset: Push-Pull with Hands –Ball Squeeze (5 s squeezes)
Now that you know how to properly perform and prep your body for this killer core exercise, here’s an unmatched 10-step exercise progression system to follow. It even includes ground zero and super hero options to accommodate newbies, veterans, and everyone else in between.
Lying Leg Raises
Start at ground zero with floor-based leg raise variations to ensure that you have the adequate hip mobility and core stability for the hanging leg raise. Only progress to Level I once you can perform these drills pain-free and through a full range of motion. These equipment-free variations also make for a great anytime, anywhere equipment-free substitute for when you don’t have access to a bar to hang from.
Level 1- Alternating Bent-Knee Hanging Leg Raises
Alternating Bent-Knee Hanging Leg Raises
Learn how to perform the alternating bent-knee hanging leg raise to start building a six-pack from hell! Alternating legs makes it easier to raise your legs and also provides some much needed hip mobility work. Plus, it helps even out strength or flexibility imbalances between sides. This drill can also be regressed further by keeping one foot on the ground while still hanging onto the bar.
Perform 3-5 sets/side of 3-5 reps/side at a slow, controlled tempo with full rest between sets to build strength. You can also perform isometric holds for up to 30-60 seconds/side at a time. Once you can do 10 total reps/side or hold the L-position for 60 seconds/side, progress to the next level.
Level 2- Alternating Straight-Leg Hanging Leg Raises
Alternating Straight-Leg Hanging Leg Raises
Now straighten your legs to increase the resistance and get some serious hamstring flexibility work going. If your hamstrings are really tight, you’ll tend to feel your lower back straining when your raise both legs simultaneously. However, raising each leg separately makes it easier on your lumbar spine with the added benefit of stretching your hamstring with the opposite leg hanging in full hip extension. This has a great carryover to walking and running.
Perform 3-5 sets/side of 3-5 reps/side at a slow, controlled tempo with full rest between sets to build strength. You can also perform isometric holds for up to 30-60 seconds/side at a time. Once you can do 10 total reps/side or hold the L-position for 60 seconds/side, progress to the next level.
Level 3- Bent-Knee Hanging Leg Raises
Bent-Knee Hanging Leg Raises
Amp up the abdominal intensity with the bent-knee hanging leg raise. This is the classic variation that most people think of when it comes to hanging leg raises. The true challenge here comes with raising your knees above hip-level which fully activates all of your hip flexor and abdominal muscles. Focus on getting a little more range of motion every session while keeping the reps low. Every extra inch counts and makes all of the difference as you progress through this series.
Perform 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps at a slow, controlled tempo with full rest between sets to build strength. You can also perform isometric holds for up to 30-60 seconds at a time. Once you can do 10 total reps or hold the L-position for 60 seconds, progress to the next level.
Level 4- Straight-Leg Hanging Leg Raises
Straight-Leg Hanging Leg Raises
Lengthen the lever and crush your core with this intermediate exercise variation. This progression builds on the strength and flexibility you’ve gained in the previous levels. Since the focus is first on getting your legs parallel to the floor and next on getting your toes or shins all the way to the bar with minimal trunk lean back, you’ll probably spend more time at this stage than any other on this list. Take the time and own this move to lay the foundation for the serious tummy twerkers to come.
Perform 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps at a slow, controlled tempo with full rest between sets to build strength. You can also perform isometric holds for up to 30-60 seconds at a time. Once you can do 10 total reps or hold the L-position for 60 seconds, progress to the next level.
Level 5- Close-Grip Bent-Knee Hanging Leg Raises

Close-Grip Bent-Knee Hanging Leg Raises
Now test your shoulder mobility and core stability with the close-grip bent-knee hanging leg raise. This progression begins to bridge the gap between performing hanging leg raises on two arms versus one arm. You shouldn’t be too challenged from leg raise standpoint so focus on gradually narrowing your grip from session to session until ideally your thumbs are touching.
Perform 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps at a slow, controlled tempo with full rest between sets to build strength. You can also perform isometric holds for up to 30-60 seconds at a time. Once you can do 10 total reps or hold the L-position for 60 seconds, progress to the next level.
Level 6- Close-Grip Straight-Leg Hanging Leg Raises
Close-Grip Straight-Leg Hanging Leg Raises
Once you’ve locked-in the overhead positioning with your hands close together, it’s time to straighten your legs to really challenge your entire upper body. You’ll really have to focus on pushing down on the bar with your arms to compress your upper and lower body together. Again, take your time and focus on getting full range-of-motion above all else.
Perform 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps at a slow, controlled tempo with full rest between sets to build strength. You can also perform isometric holds for up to 30-60 seconds at a time. Once you can do 10 total reps or hold the L-position for 60 seconds, progress to the next level.
Level 7- Uneven-Grip Bent-Knee Hanging Leg Raises
Uneven-Grip Bent-Knee Hanging Leg Raises
The uneven-grip gets you one step closer to the cornerstone exercise performed on one arm only. The concept here is that the arm holding the bar does the vast majority of the work while the arm holding the towel provides just enough assistance and stability to get the job done. Seek to use less and less assistance from the towel arm over time and be sure to take enough rest between sets since both arms are involved on every set.
Perform 3-5 sets/side of 3-5 reps/side at a slow, controlled tempo with full rest between sets to build strength. You can also perform isometric holds for up to 30-60 seconds/side at a time. Once you can do 10 total reps/side or hold the L-position for 60 seconds/side, progress to the next level.
Level 8- Uneven-Grip Straight-Leg Hanging Leg Raises
Uneven-Grip Straight-Leg Hanging Leg Raises
Just like before we straighten your legs to make it harder. You’ll instantly see how much more difficult it is to raise your fully extended legs without full contribution from both arms. Pay close attention to tightening up your whole body to fight the rotational forces around you. This will keep you from swaying and spinning all over the place.
Perform 3-5 sets/side of 3-5 reps/side at a slow, controlled tempo with full rest between sets to build strength. You can also perform isometric holds for up to 30-60 seconds/side at a time. Once you can do 10 total reps/side or hold the L-position for 60 seconds/side, progress to the next level.
Level 9- One-Arm Bent-Knee Hanging Leg Raises
Single-Arm Straight-Leg Hanging Leg Raises
There are few things as challenging to the average adult as hanging from one arm at a time. Now couple that with raising your legs and you have what might be one of the most challenging fitness feats in existence. Really pack that shoulder of your hang arm into the socket, get your ribs down, and squeeze your legs together to assume a suspended plank position. If holding onto the bar is the limiting factor, incorporate some one-arm hangs throughout your training week to build up your grip strength.
Perform 3-5 sets/side of 3-5 reps/side at a slow, controlled tempo with full rest between sets to build strength. You can also perform isometric holds for up to 30-60 seconds/side at a time. Once you can do 10 total reps/side or hold the L-position for 60 seconds/side, progress to the next level.
Level 10- One-Arm Straight-Leg Hanging Leg Raises
Single-Arm Straight-Leg Hanging Leg Raises
Everything you’ve worked for up until this point has prepared you for this task. It’s going to be really, really hard to get your extended legs parallel to the floor at hip level. It’s going to be even harder to raise them above hip level and towards the bar. Advanced trainees may spend as much as 6-12 months at this level as they try to do on one arm what they could do on two arms in the previous levels. Focus on owning the movement and gradually inching your way up towards the bar without using any momentum. Congrats, you can now do something that 99.9% of the population could only dream of!
Perform 3-5 sets/side of 3-5 reps/side at a slow, controlled tempo with full rest between sets to build strength. You can also perform isometric holds for up to 30-60 seconds/side at a time. Once you can do 10 total reps/side or hold the L-position for 60 seconds/side, progress to the next level.
Advanced Hanging Leg Raise Exercise Variations
Here are some elite-level hanging leg raise variations to keep your body working and your abs twerking once you’ve mastered all 10 levels of the exercise progression system. Options include:
- Holding a med ball between your legs
- Changing tempo and range of motion
- Moving your legs/knees from side to side
- And much more!
Well, there you go- a tried and proven step-by-step system to take you from ground zero to super hero with the single best abs exercise there is.
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1. Square Breathing: Shake off anxiety and clear your head.
There is no aspect of relaxation more important than breathing. When I get particularly hyper-focused at work, my breathing becomes quite shallow. If you’re anything like me, deep breathing alone can have a huge impact on your state of mind. It’s like hitting restart to restore calm, clear thinking.
To begin square breathing, sit in a comfortable, upright position on the floor or in a chair. Inhale through your nose for four counts (1, 2, 3, 4). Hold that breath in for four counts. Exhale through your nose for four counts. Hold that breath out for four counts. That’s one cycle.
Repeat 10 times, going at your own pace: Inhale 2, 3, 4. Hold 2, 3, 4. Exhale, 2, 3 4. Hold, 2, 3, 4.
2. Shoulder stretch: Release neck and shoulder tension.
Interlace your fingers, and raise your arms above your head, with your palms facing upwards. Try to keep your arms in line with your ears, while you look straight ahead and relax your shoulder blades down your back (don’t shrug them up!) Hold for five full breaths in and out through your nose.Let your arms fall down to your sides, roll your shoulders backwards and forwards a few times, then repeat the stretch, holding for five full breaths.
3. Eagle arms: Ease the deep-seated shoulder knots.
Stand with your feet hip-distance apart. Hold your arms straight out from your sides, parallel to the floor.  Swing your arms toward each other, bringing your left elbow over your right. Then bend your elbows, so the backs of your hands are touching. Now, hook one hand over the other so that your palms are facing each other. For a visual of this complicated explanation, watch this video.
Once you have the arm wrap going, look straight ahead and try to keep your elbows lifted. Press your palms into each other, while you try to pull your elbows apart. Keep your shoulders relaxed. You should feel a powerful stretch in your neck and between your shoulder blades. Hold for five breaths.
Unwrap your arms and hold them out to the side again. Swing them back toward each other, this time bringing the opposite elbow on top. Repeat the pose in the opposite position, holding for five breaths.
4. Heart opener: Counteract the concave chest of computer hunching.
Still standing with your feet hip-distance apart, reach your hands behind you, clasping them together in a fist at the base of your back. Looking straight ahead, lift your clasped hands as high as you can behind you, pulling your shoulder blades together. (If you want more of a stretch, you can fold over your legs, and let gravity pull your clasped hands toward the floor.) Hold for five full breaths.
5. Standing forward bend: Let back and neck tension melt away.
Keeping your feet hip-distance apart, fold over your legs. If your hamstrings are tight, bend your knees. Try to relax into the pose for five full breaths. (If you want a little help from gravity, grab opposite elbows and let your head hang down.)
Then stand up, take a few breaths, and fold over your legs again. This time shaking your head “no” and nodding your head “yes” as you hang over your legs for another breath cycle.
6. IT Band Stretch: Loosen up after hours of monotonous chair-sitting.
OK, so this last stretch is not the most office-friendly. You have to lay down on the floor, and your jeans can’t be that tight. But if you meet these qualifications, I highly recommend it. You will probably discover some crazy hip tension you didn’t even know you had.
Lie down on your back. Bend your left leg, keeping your left foot flat on the ground. Now put your right ankle on top of your left knee. Then, reach down and clasp your hands around your left thigh, pulling it in towards you. Ultimately, your lower left leg will be parallel to the ground. Keep both feet flexed and breath there.
You should feel the stretch in your hip and buttocks on your right side. If you want a little more stretch, you can push your right elbow into your right knee.
After you’ve held for a few breaths, switch sides. Bend your right leg, and cross your left angle on to the right knee. Clasp your hands behind your right thigh and pull the leg in as before. Hold for five full breaths.
The most important thing to keep in mind as you’re stretching is continual breathing, and not trying too hard. If something hurts, ease off the stretch a little bit, and keep breathing. You’ll get there eventually.
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