How To Do Hanging Ab Curl-Ups

Kelsey Lensman ATC


Hanging Ab Curl-Ups. OH BOY could I go on for days about this one! In my previous article “Upgrade Your Leg Raises” I touched on training abs and why it is SO important to really know HOW and WHY you are doing what you are doing. I remember when I was younger doing so many leg raises and scissor kicks and always wondered why the heck my hip flexors were so dang sore the next day. Well, read my last article and it will tell you why. BUT hanging leg raises are no different. They’re a common ab exercise performed but once again… are you targeting your hip flexors or abs? One small tweak in this and it can make the world of a difference for you.

That is why I call them hanging ab curl-ups. Because we want to focus on curling our torso (abs), NOT just raising our legs (hip flexor).

The Set Up:

  1. Use hanging elbow straps or hang from a bar like you would start a pull-up. Hanging from elbow straps are a bit easier!
  2. Tilt your hips forward and pre-engage your abs (as touched on in previous ab articles). NO huge arch in lower back!
  3. Squeeze your shoulder blades down and back so we are engaging our shoulder blades and setting them in the right position also!

How to Complete:

  1. By tightening your core raise your legs (straight or bent) so that they are parallel with the ground (this is all hip flexor and where MANY people stop)
  2. THIS IS THE KEY!!! Now CURL your entire torso so that you are raising your butt up as high towards the ceiling as possible and curling your entire torso into a ball. Your legs and knees will most likely be in towards your face.
  3. BREATH OUT when curling torso completely up! This is huge. It will increase your oblique activation and actually work your abs more!
  4. SLOWLY lower your hips and hips back down. SLOWLY! This will really hip the eccentric (or negative) portion of the movement. The slower the better!
  5. Begin again by tilting hips forward and go!

How to Modify:

  • The curling part is tough. It took me about 2 years to really have the strength to do so! So, you can have a friend help you by supporting underneath your thighs and assisting you on the curling part.
  • If this is too hard with the hanging, go on the ground but MAKE SURE you are curling your torso completely at the end! Not just raising your legs.

How to Isolate Abs and Increase Difficulty:

  • When curling torso roll into as tight of a ball as you can, BUT when lowering down do NOT return to full stretched out position. Only lower to 90 degrees where you are at a 90 degrees flexion with your hips (like sitting in a chair) and curl back up. This will solely isolate more abs!
  • Extend legs straight instead of bending them.

Breath, breath, breath! Curl, curl, curl! Breath out hard when curling up. Slowly descend. Remember, let’s hit those abs instead of just isolating those hip flexors. This little adjustment can be the game changer for you! Any questions never hesitate to reach out! Let’s train hard, but train smart also!