I am a huge fan of hanging core exercises for athletes and bodybuilders alike. The benefits of hanging while performing these exercises include: increased latisimus dorsi stability, improved grip and forearm strength, quality rotational training, and less stress on the lower back. Sadly enough, I’ll admit that less than a year ago, I could barely do a set of 8 straight quality leg raises. I barely trained the core while hanging, and I was suffering because of it!
Now that I have included hanging core exercises into my regimen, I have seen drastic improvements in the aspects of strength that I mentioned above. Not only is my core stronger but I am performing more chin and pull-ups with my improved grip and back strength. Of course, once I started doing more hanging leg raises I had to learn some variations and then create some of my own. With all of these exercises, the athlete must control the negative portion of the lift so swinging doesn’t occur. Here are examples of the core exercises I find most beneficial!
Exercise 1 – Knee Raises, Straight Leg Raises, and Ceiling Kicks
These are the most basic hanging core exercises, but everyone has to start somewhere. For knee raises, hang from a pull-up bar or other object and bring your knees up towards your chest. Straight leg raises are similar, but instead of bending the legs, keep them straight. Try to achieve an angle of less than 90 degrees with your body (feet closer to the ceiling than the floor). In order to perform a ceiling kick, continue the straight leg raise under control until your feet hit the bar you are hanging on.
Exercise 2 – Straight Leg Over Objects
This exercise will require slightly more rotational strength and stability. Place something directly in front of you that is about waist height (measure while hanging and the higher the harder). Perform a straight leg raise on one side, travel over the object, and finish on the other side. Repeat in order to return your feet to the original location.
Exercise 3 – Windshield Wipers
The windshield wiper is a combination of ceiling kicks and straight leg raises over objects. Perform a ceiling kick and hold that position until stable. Next, rotate your feet down to one side, and then back across the middle to the other side. Essentially, you are doing the same motion as a windshield wiper on a car. Variations include switching up the object you are gripping, such as using towels instead of the pull-up bar.
Exercise 4 – Banded Circles
Attach a band to your feet and have either a partner hold it or attach it to a fixed object as it is shown in the video. Start from a dead hang and then perform a large circle. Continue in the same direction for a few reps, then have your partner switch and circle in the other direction. I recommend looping the band around your feet. If you just stick your feet through it (as shown in the video) the band has a tendency to slide off.
Exercise 5 – Passenger Side Wipers
Has anyone had a windshield wiper break in their car? I have, and it is always the driver’s side! For some reason my passengers can always see better than I can. The passenger side phenomenon led to the name for this exercise. Perform half of a windshield wiper, return to the middle, and repeat to the same side. After performing all the repetitions to one side, switch and do the other. Performing this exercise with a band makes it much more difficult.
Exercise 6 – Knee Crosses
Again, start in a hanging position. In the video, I am hanging from some homemade softball grips. Towels or other instruments may also be used. Bring one knee up and attempt to hit the opposite hand with it. Return to a dead hang position and perform the same movement to the other side.
There are many more variations out there and I truly enjoy learning about them. I recommend working hanging core into your workout program weekly. You will see your back, core, and grip strength improve drastically. As always, be creative and make these exercises your own (then come back and tell me about them!)
All the exercises are demonstrated here: