Thursday, 26 July 2007

Exercise of the Week: Hanging Leg Raises

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With Tuesday almost coming to a close, I have to hurry to get my Exercise of the Week post in on time (or else the Weblogs editor will show me the true meaning of deadline). I'm running somewhat behind schedule because I spent a little while longer than usual at the gym tonight, working my abs with an exercise I'd now like to share with all of you.

It's called the Hanging Leg Raise, and it's arguably the single-best exercise you can do to work your abdominals. Unlike crunches and other popular ab movements that mostly target only the upper abs, Hanging Leg Raises target your whole midsection -- with particular emphasis placed on your lower abs. Now, before we go further, let's talk briefly about those very same lower abs. You know, the part of your tummy that never seems to tone up, no matter how much you diet, how much cardio you do, or how many ab exercises you bang out. You may even have a solid four-pack going on, but for some crazy reason, you can't seem to get a full six. The reality is that to truly get a flat and toned lower abdominal region, you have to reduce your body fat. This is especially true for men, as it is in this area that we collect the most fat.

But, leaving diet and cardio tips out of it for now, let's focus on how we can tone the muscles in your lower abs themselves. This way, when you do lower your body fat, you'll have the rest of your six pack already there waiting for you!! Alright, enough talking...let's get moving.

To perform Hanging Leg Raises, place an overhand grip on a sturdy chin-up bar. Make sure that your feet are at least a few inches off the floor when you are fully extended. Keep your legs straight and your feet touching each other throughout the movement. Next, using the strength of your abdominal muscles, lift your legs straight out in front of you until your feet are about even with your eyes. It's actually best to allow your lower back to "roll" a small bit during this motion, but you do not want to start a swinging motion. In fact, if you find yourself sort of swinging back-and-forth like a kid on monkey bars, just wait in the extended position until your body stops swinging and then resume the leg raise movement.

This is a pretty difficult exercise to do, so don't be discouraged if you can only do a few -- or even none at all -- at first. For beginners, you may want to try doing this movement while using what's known as a Roman Chair (basically, it's the thing in the gym that looks like a tennis judge's seat...only without the seat, if that makes even an iota of sense). Or, if you still find even that to be too difficult (which is very possible. Like I said, it's not an easy exercise to do), you can try lying flat on your back on the floor or thin exercise mat. Place your hands underneath your lower back for stability and perform repetitions of lifting your legs up until your feet point at the ceiling and then lowering them until your feet are about six inches off the ground.

For a good, short video demonstration of Hanging Leg Raises that I found online, click here.

Note: The content presented in this post is for informational purposes only. Please consult your doctor or fitness professional before starting a physical fitness program.

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