Mastering Stability: Tips to Prevent Swinging During Hanging Leg Raises

Spread the love

The main reason for swinging during hanging leg raises is due to the use of momentum. Avoid swinging your legs up and then allowing them to drop back down. The legs should be both raised and lowered in a slow and controlled manner, which is best achieved through contracting your core and engaging your entire body.

Avoid Using Momentum

A Man Doing Hanging Leg Raises

The number one reason for swinging hanging leg raises is momentum.

There is a tendency to swing the legs up and then simply allow them to drop back down.

I guess the exercise is tough enough as it is, so in order to complete an “acceptable” number of reps many of us turn to using momentum.

However, in my mind this is a complete waste, and does little to activate the abs and core.

I would much rather complete 2 perfect form hanging leg raises than 10 wildly swinging leg kicks.

So, the next time you perform hanging leg raises really concentrate on using your core to lift your legs, and keep your core engaged as you lower the legs.

Contract The Core

Stuart McGill (Biomechanics Expert):"The core should be the initiator of all movement."

This may seem like an extremely obvious thing to say when performing an ab or core exercise.

However, you’d be surprised at how many of us don’t actually contract the core.

I’m a great believer in the mind-muscle connection.

So, whenever I perform an exercise, irrespective of body part, I really try to contract the target muscles first.

I find that by contracting the core prior to doing hanging leg raises I seem to have a far greater sense of control over the exercise.

In fact, that initial contraction usually makes me do the hanging leg raise with great form, while avoiding leg swinging and leg dropping.

So, regardless of how obvious it sounds, make sure you contract your core beforehand.

Slow it Down

I guess the pace at which you perform hanging leg raises ties in quite well with the use of momentum and not contracting the core.

I’ve already mentioned that the exercise is tough enough as it is, without making it harder by having an unrealistic expectation of reps.

It’s important to reiterate that I’d much rather do a couple of great reps, as opposed to tens or scores of crappy reps.

If you spend 30 seconds doing just two reps of hanging leg raises, while maintaining core contraction throughout, you’ll get a much better core workout.

Okay, you may be able to do more reps, and that’s fine.

Just ensure that you maintain a slow and controlled tempo throughout.

Another way to achieve this is to take a pause at the top and at the bottom.

I typically count 1-2-3 in my head at the top before slowly lowering my legs.

Then I’ll count to three again before slowly raising my legs.

Once again, this does increase time on the bar, which will typically reduce the number of reps you perform.

But if they’re high quality reps that really activate and work those core muscles, then it’s all good.

Here’s Al Kavadlo using the perfect tempo and control required for hanging leg raises.

Granted, he’s not “pausing” at the top and bottom as I have mentioned, but these are still done with very strict form (and no swinging)

Engage Your Entire Body

Even though the hanging leg raise is predominantly an ab exercise, you will work other muscles in the body too.

Just performing a dead-hang will work the lats, shoulders, arms and grip as well.

So, what I like to do is engage these muscles prior to doing hanging leg raises.

This simply means that I will contract these various upper body muscles prior to starting the movement.

I find that really contracting these muscles and keeping them tight I seem to have far better control over hanging leg raises.

Furthermore, I also engage the glutes as well by really squeezing them tight.

Plus, I also like to contract and squeeze my quads (btw, make sure to check out my article about feeling sit ups in your thighs).

In effect, all these separate muscle contractions will make the exercise harder.

But, you will pretty much turn the hanging leg raise into a full-body exercise.

Let’s face facts, the more muscles you’re working, the better the exercise.

By simply engaging the various muscles of the body you’ll find you have far better control over the movement.

You’re more likely to perform the exercise with a slow tempo and under greater control.

The result – you stop swinging during hanging leg raises.

Dominic D'Agostino (Physiotherapist & Strength Coach): "Abs are like any other muscle; you need to train them progressively in a way that challenges them to grow."

Maintain Posterior Pelvic Tilt

In order to keep tension in your abs throughout the movement it’s important to maintain a posterior pelvic tilt.

The abs are connected to the pelvis, so using the pelvis correctly can help to activate the abs better.

I think the best way I can describe posterior pelvis tilt is when the front of the pelvis rises and the back of the pelvis drops.

So, the complete opposite to sticking your backside out.

In effect, you are tucking your backside in.

This is why it helps to keep the glutes activated and tight throughout the movement.

You should maintain posterior pelvic tilt throughout the entire range of motion.

There is a tendency when you lower the legs to the bottom portion of the hanging leg raise that you’ll completely relax the body.

If you do this you release tension from the working muscles.

I know posterior pelvic tilt is typically viewed as terrible when performing many other exercises, but it’s required for hanging leg raises.

Pull Yourself Up Slightly

I’ll be honest and say that it’s best to keep your arms completely straight when doing hanging leg raises.

However, if you find that you are swinging wildly you may be better off having a slight bend in the elbows.

If you pull yourself up by an inch or two you’ll immediately activate the lats, shoulders and arms.

This goes back to contracting various muscles in the body to ensure you have better control over the movement.

I really do believe that when you contract as many “working” muscles as possible when doing hanging leg raises that you’ll be far less likely to swing.

Try Hanging Knee Raises First

Arnold Schwarzenegger:"I believe that the truth of the matter is that partial reps are better than no reps at all."

It could just be the case that your core muscles aren’t strong enough yet to perform hanging leg raises.

Okay, this is the eventual aim, but for now you may need to revert to a regression, or easier version.

Hanging knee raises still work the abs and core to great effect, so, I see nothing wrong with performing them.

You can still follow all the advice above and do hanging knee raises.

So, keep your core tight, activate other muscles of the body, slow the tempo down, and maintain a posterior pelvic tilt.

As your core muscles get stronger, you’ll eventually be able to move onto hanging leg raises.

And by the time you do, swinging will definitely not be an issue.

Key Learning Points

  • Don’t use momentum to raise your legs and then drop them back down. Hanging leg raise should be performed with a slow, controlled tempo.
  • Ensure that you contract your core, and not just for hanging leg raises, but ALL exercises.
  • Engage the muscles of your entire body, upper and lower. Keeping “tight” will help you perform the movement with more control.
  • Hanging leg raises are best performed with “posterior pelvic tilt”, which will also help you keep your glutes engaged.
  • Have a slight bend in your elbows and pull yourself up a little bit. Once more, this helps to engage the body and will provide more control.
  • If you’re struggling with hanging leg raises it could simply be that your abs aren’t strong enough yet. In this case perform hanging knee raises, an easier variation, but one that still targets the abs effectively.

You can also check out my article which covers another ab-related issues, namely why you have upper abs but lower belly fat.

2 thoughts on “Mastering Stability: Tips to Prevent Swinging During Hanging Leg Raises”

    • Hey Steve,

      I still think knee raises are awesome anyway.

      For me, it’s not so much about the exercises, the level of difficulty, but more is the core being properly activated?

      As long as the abs and core are working, and there’s no swinging going on, it’s all good in my book.



Leave a Comment