Trainer, author, and fitness model Kirk Charles, NASM-CPT CES, knows that as you get older, life can get more complicated. But that shouldn’t prevent you from being on top of your game. He’ll help to answer the tough training questions that come with age so you too can be Fit Beyond 40.
If you want a core exercise that challenges you like never before, the hanging leg raise will be right up your alley. This is an exercise I don’t see most older men doing at the gym because it takes lots of core and upper body strength and control to execute properly—so think of this as a challenge. I love to do the hanging leg raise because it lets me know whether I’ve been neglecting my core, something that has happened too many times in the past. If I can’t execute a certain number of reps, it’s time to refocus my training.
To get started, all you need is a bar to hang from. Either find a bar that you can reach without jumping, or use a step to reach up, since you need your grip to be rock solid. You don’t want to hang from your fingertips with this exercise, either, so be sure to get your palms over the bar. Once your grip is set and you're hanging, squeeze your shoulder blades to pull your shoulders down. Lock in your abs by squeezing them, keeping your ribcage tight, and bring your legs slightly forward so they’re in front of your body and hanging at an angle relative to your spine.
From the starting position, bend your knees and curl them up toward your shoulders by flexing your spine. This sounds silly, but when you hit the top of the movement, whoever is watching you from the front should now be able to see your butt. Hold for a second at the top to get maximum squeeze on your abs, then release your legs back down slowly to the starting position.
The beauty of the hanging leg raise is that your abs are always under tension so you will get a great burn without doing lots of reps. With that in mind, do your best to avoid swinging at the bottom or starting position. You’ll lose tension in your core that way. Swinging at the bottom is cheating by using movement instead of core power to get back up for the next rep. You’ll normally see the swinging action from CrossFitters doing an exercise called toes to bar, which is a totally different move that involves your hip flexors and takes focus away from your abs.
There’s also an upper body challenge with the hanging leg raise. Your grip is supporting your body weight, so you will certainly feel your forearms, hands, and even your shoulders working while doing the exercise.
Just don't be surprised or upset if you can’t do many reps with the proper form. Try 3 sets of 5 reps to get going.
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