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There is a difference between simply training your abs for aesthetics reasons and training them for functionality and true power at the same time. If your goal is hypertrophy so that you simply have a visible 6-pack when you look at yourself in the mirror, then standard abdominal crunches and sit-ups will absolutely get the job done.
The Problem With Crunches & Sit-Ups
So, why can’t these exercises be functional as well? Well, it’s simple really. Human beings are not really designed to be lying on the ground all that much. We are designed to move around, jump, run and live on unstable surfaces for better part of every single day.
As a result, crunches and sit-ups will only get you so far when it comes to developing functional core strength and power. In fact, ANY abdominal exercise you perform on the floor will be great for starting out but eventually you WILL HAVE to progress to something a bit more advanced and functional.
So, here comes the solution; Hanging Leg Raises. All you need to perform this exercise is your bodyweight and a pull-up bar or something that you can hang from. Now, it goes without saying that the lighter you are, the easier it becomes to perform this exercise. Not only will you be able to hang for longer but your lower body will also be much lighter, making it easier to move in space.
How NOT To Hanging Leg Raise
Before we get to proper form, here is what you DON’T want to be doing when attempting this exercise. You DON’T want to be driving your knees directly towards your chest while your hips stay back. In fact, the further behind your hips stay, the more of your hip flexors you will be recruiting. The truth is that if you perform the exercise this way, you will almost SOLELY be activating your hip flexors without getting any significant ab activation. And that’s because the abs are responsible for flexing your spine while your hip flexors will be flexing your hips.
Therefore, if you want to engage your abs throughout this movement, you want to bend at the lower and mid back!
How To Hanging Leg Raise – Proper Form Explained
Now that we know what NOT to do, here’s what you need to be doing. Start by bending your knees. It will be easier to do this with your knees bent rather than straight. So, all you have to do is think about driving your hips in front of your body and curling your pelvis towards your chest. It’s almost a circular motion rather than an up-and-down motion. Of course your hip flexors will still be activated but they will be doing so in synergy with your abs and obliques.
After all, that’s how your body prefers to work; synergistically.
Taking Your Leg Raises To The Next Level
Your core is comprised of many different muscles and interestingly enough, they are all pretty powerful. In fact, your abs are much more powerful than your forearm muscles which is why your grip will quickly become an issue after your first set of hanging leg raises.
In fact, you will find that your grip gives out way before your abs do. So, what can you do?
The solution is called Hanging Ab Straps and it’s exactly what most athletes use to focus solely on their abs without having to worry about their grip. Remember, this is not the time to worry about training your grip. This is the time to concentrate on your core and mastering the Hanging Ab Raise.
Using these ab straps is simple enough. Just slide one arm through each strap, bend at the elbow, and place your hands on top of the strap for support. More than that, these straps introduce an additional element of instability which helps fire that core even more!
Progressing With The Hanging Ab Raise
We’ve already covered the standard form for this exercise. Simply let your body hang in the air with your legs extended, then lift your knees towards your chest while contracting your abs!
But if you want to maximize the exercise even more and start progressing with it as well, you can simply use a weight belt or even ankle weights. In truth, you don’t have to be that fancy, as you can simply hold on to a dumbbell between your feet!
Try to increase that resistance over time but DON’T do that by sacrificing proper form. If you find that you are no longer able to curl your hips in front of your body and that your hip flexors start to take over, STOP, lower the resistance and try again. Increasing the resistance has no meaning if other muscles are activated to complete the movement.
All that’s left for you to do is get those Hanging Ab Straps, start progressing with the Hanging Ab Raise and as always…get your mind right.
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