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Forearm-Supported Leg Raises For Killer Lower Abdominal Training

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This exercise is one of my favorite "quick setup but very BRUTAL" abdominal exercises. You don't need really any setup time at all but how you set your body makes ALL the difference in the world compared to normal supported leg raises and knee raises.

This exercise dramatically increases the tension on the abs as you do the leg raise exercise because it also forces the abs to work to support and stabilize your body on the hanging chair. This increased demand on the abs really increases the effectiveness of the standard hanging chair leg raise exercise.

This exercise generally requires use of a Hanging Leg Raise Chair but it can be adapted to other pieces of equipment. It looks just like a standard leg raise but with an important twist - rather than supporting yourself with your upper arms vertical so that your shoulders support your bodyweight, you will be dropping down and forcing your abs to work to support your bodyweight as well.


Hanging Chair Version

First, set yourself in the chair as you normally would. Now move yourself forward on the forearm pads so that your back is away from the pad and you're resting only on your elbows. Now angle your hands in towards each other rather than having them going straight forward (your fists and knuckles can be touching in the middle or your hands can be free). You'll look like you're punching your fists together.

Now remove your feet from the steps and support yourself only on the bottom-most portions of your forearms down by your elbows. When you first do this exercise, keep your upper arms fairly vertical. This will give you an idea of how it's done. Do a leg raise (with legs almost straight) or knee raise (with knees very bent and in towards your chest) in that position.

Forearm-Supported Leg Raises For Killer Lower Abdominal Training Forearm-Supported Leg Raises For Killer Lower Abdominal Training
Start Finish (Knee Raise)
Forearm-Supported Leg Raises For Killer Lower Abdominal Training
Finish (Legs Straight Out)

The key with the leg raise is to roll the hips up and around, bending from the waist rather than only raising the legs. Since one of the major functions of the abs is to bring the rib cage closer to the pelvis, if you simply raise the legs by bending only at the hip joint, you'll only use the abs isometrically (without moving). By rolling and raising the hips up and around, you will more strongly involve the abs and you'll get a more effective workout.

Now I'm going to show you how to increase the tension on the abs.

Get into the start position as explained above. Now, instead of keeping your upper arms fairly vertical, drop your body down while keeping your elbows where they are on the pads. The drop will happen only at the shoulders. The further down you drop, the more your abs will be forced to take up the tension. Just be sure not to drop down so far that you actually lose tension or let your feet touch the ground.

Notice in the pictures (using the red line as reference) how that instead of the upper arms being vertical, they are now at an angle. The flatter your upper arms are, the harder this exercise will be.

Forearm-Supported Leg Raises For Killer Lower Abdominal Training

Arms Angled Down (harder)

Forearm-Supported Leg Raises For Killer Lower Abdominal Training

Arms Vertical (easier)

This angle at your shoulder causes a great deal of isometric contraction in the abs while you're also using them to raise your legs. This dramatically increases the total tension on the abs, making it a far more effective workout.

 

How to do it without a Hanging Chair - Much Harder!

If you don't have a Hanging Chair available or if you simply want to give an even tougher version a try, here's how it can be done. All you need is a flat railing or bar to support yourself on.

I've used the safety rail on the power rack, set to about chest height for this one and it works quite well (especially if the safety rail has a flat top surface rather than being an actual round rail). Anything that has a straight, flat surface on top and room to get your legs underneath will work for this one, making it a tough ab exercise that can be done in a wide variety of places.

First, set your entire forearms on the top surface with your elbows wide and your fists pressed together. Keep your chest in close to the rail, tighten up your abs and lats then lift your feet off the ground. You'll instantly feel the tension shoot into your abs.

Now do a leg raise or knee raise!

Forearm-Supported Leg Raises For Killer Lower Abdominal TrainingForearm-Supported Leg Raises For Killer Lower Abdominal Training

The tension you will get on the abs when you do this movement is tremendous. It's definitely an advanced exercise and requires good total upper body strength to be able to perform it properly for even a few reps.

By supporting yourself with your forearms in this fashion, you force the abs to take up the task of supporting almost your entire bodyweight. When your arms are at an angle like this, the increased tension is extremely strong - even stronger than the Hanging Chair version.

If you can do more than 2 or 3 reps the first time you try this one, you've got very strong abs!


Common Errors:

1. Swinging your legs up

Like any leg raise movement, you don't want to swing the legs up to do the movement. It should be a deliberate muscle contraction, not a swing. The momentum from swinging decreases the tension and can put stress on the lower back.

2. Not rotating the hips up and around

As explained above, be sure to originate the leg raise at the waist, rotating and rolling your pelvis up and around. If you simply raise your legs by bending at the leg/hip joints, you'll only be working the abs isometrically.

3. Upper arms are too vertical

As you get stronger with it, you'll definitely want to drop your body down. If you keep your upper arms too vertical when you're stronger, you won't get the full effect of the exercise. Experiment with how far you drop down every time you do the exercise so you know exactly what your abs are capable of.


Tricks:

1. Increasing resistance

If dropping down in the chair is not enough, you can also hold a dumbell in between your feet to increase the workload on the abs. Start with a very light weight as it doesn't take much weight at the end of your legs to really increase the resistance on the abs at that point. Adding resistance with a dumbell can be done on both the Hanging Chair version and on the "railing" version.

2. Decreasing-resistance sets

Start with the hardest position of the Forearm Supported Leg Raise (body fully dropped down). As you fatigue with that, gradually lift your body up, decreasing the angle at the shoulders, making the exercise easier (because the abs won't be forced to support as much of your bodyweight). To really finish the abs, sit back into the chair as you normally would for the traditional chair exercise (body fully supported on the forearms with upper arms vertical and back against the pad) and finish with knee raises til failure.

3. Use a towel for padding

When doing the harder version of the forearm-supported leg raise on the flat surface (like a straight bar or safety rail in the rack), you can set a towel on the surface to improve the padding on your forearms and make the exercise more comfortable.

 


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