Gym Equipment 101: The Hanging Leg Raise Machine

Woman performing hanging leg raise.
The hanging leg raise strengthens your abs and protects your spine using nothing but your own body weight. Here's why it's the perfect addition to a full-body workout regimen!

by Autumn Jones

Crunches are a tried-and-true fitness staple, but they're not the only way to build a strong core! You can mix up your ab workout by getting off the floor and making friends with your new favorite core builder — hanging leg raises.

Also known as the "captain's chair," the hanging leg raise machine can be found near the weight area at your local Planet Fitness. This piece of equipment allows you to work your mid-section with appropriate support for your back.

How to Use the Hanging Leg Raise Machine

If you're interested in trying this piece of equipment during your next gym visit, following these six steps will help you perform the exercise safely and effectively:

  1. Step onto the machine, placing your feet on the footrests provided.
  2. With your back against the back pad, rest your forearms on the arm pads, and grip the handles with your hands.
  3. Shift your weight to your arms (so you can safely step off the footrests without falling) and allow your legs to hang straight down beneath you.
  4. Using the strength of your abdominal muscles and legs, lift your legs up until they are straight out in front of you and parallel to the floor (or as high as you can). At this point, your body should form a 90-degree angle.
  5. Use control to slowly lower your legs back to the starting position, so they're hanging beneath you once again.
  6. Repeat 10 to 12 times to complete one set.

Variations of the Hanging Leg Raise

Once you've become comfortable with the movement detailed above, you can work additional muscle groups by experimenting with a few different variations! Here are a few exercises to try.

Knee Tuck

If lifting your legs straight out in front of you is too challenging, try this easier variation. Instead of keeping your legs straight, bend your knees toward your chest, so your body resembles a balled-up or tucked position at the height of the exercise.

Twist

To hone in on your oblique muscles, perform the knee tuck variation but twist your knees to a slight angle during each rep (instead of holding them straight out in front of you). Be sure to alternate sides and keep the number of reps on each side even.

Bicycle Kick

You can add some extra sauce to the hanging leg exercise by adding the bicycle kick! As Men's Health explains, once your legs are raised in front of you, hold the position and move your feet in a circular motion (as if you were pedaling a bicycle). This helps work your core muscles to a greater degree.

Making the Hanging Leg Raise Part of Your Workout Routine

You can amp up your hanging leg raise session by adding them to an exercise rotation. Since the movement engages a number of muscle groups, it's the perfect addition to any full-body exercise routine.

For instance, if you're looking to stick with the theme of using only your body weight, you can do a set of five pushupssquats, and Supermans in between your sets of leg raises. Just set a mat down next to the machine, so you have a space to perform these exercises for a full-body workout.

As always, please consult with a physician prior to beginning any exercise program. See full medical disclaimer here.