11 Best Hanging Leg Raise Alternatives (With Videos)

December 27, 2021

The hanging leg raise is a fantastic core exercise. As long as you have somewhere to hang, you can perform the exercise. But what if you lack the strength to hang and raise your legs? Or train at home and don’t have anywhere to hang?

I’ve got you covered with the 11 best hanging leg raise alternatives done with and without equipment.

Hanging Leg Raise Alternatives

Interestingly, you can target the lower or upper abdominals. Exercises like the hanging leg raise preferentially target the lower abs, whereas the crunch targets the upper abs [1]. These hanging leg raise alternatives have been picked to target the lower abdominals, so it is as close to the exercise as possible.

Hanging Knee Raise

Hanging leg raises are an advanced core exercise. The straighter the legs, the longer the lever, and the more strength required to raise them. You reduce the strength requirement by bending the legs and performing a hanging knee raise.

You’ll get a better contraction of the lower abs and be able to perform more reps, especially if you are a beginner. Here is how to do it:

  • Hang from a bar, so your feet are off the floor. A pronated or neutral grip works best for this.
  • Raise your knees while your feet hang underneath.
  • Try to curl your knees to your ribs for maximum contraction.
  • Slowly lower your knees until they are straight. Doing this slowly will ensure you don’t start swinging.

When you start to swing, it is hard to stop. Perform the exercise slowly to remain still and get the most for your abs. If your grip isn’t strong enough to allow you to perform many reps, then the following exercise is one you can use.

Roman Chair Leg Raises

Not everyone can hang from bars like a monkey. It can take some time to develop adequate grip strength. In the meantime, the Roman chair is your best friend and will have you performing leg raises immediately. Here’s how:

  • Place your elbows on the pad and prop yourself up, so you are against the back pad with your legs hanging straight down.
  • With your knees slightly bent, raise your legs and perform a slight crunch at the top by rolling your hips forward.

You don’t need to worry about swinging with the Roman chair as you have back support to keep you still.

Window Wipers

Window wipers are one of the most advanced hanging leg raise alternatives. It involves holding your body horizontally while hanging on a pull-up bar. It’s like you’re a gymnast! But not quite. Here’s how to do it:

  • Hang from a pull-up bar and bring your body as close to parallel with the floor as possible. You will extend your legs vertically.
  • Hold yourself in this position as you drop your legs from side to side, just like a car window wiper.

The window wiper is challenging and should only be attempted by those with a strong training background.

Toes To Bar

Toes to bar is the CrossFit variation of the hanging leg raise. The hanging leg raises either ends when the legs are parallel with the floor or when bringing the feet to the bar. The toes to bar exercise involves a kip to make touching the bar with the toes easier.

While the kip may make the exercise easier, it also means you can perform ultra-high reps. Your abs will burn if you’re doing sets of 20+ reps. Here’s how to do it:

  • Hanging from a pull-up bar, start the kip by arching then hollowing. As you hollow, pull your toes to the bar while maintaining tension in your lats.
  • The rhythm should allow you to perform multiple reps in a row without stopping.

It’s important that you don’t swing the exercise, but you control it with your lats. You should be able to stop your kip at any time as you are controlling the movement, not letting the swing control the exercise.

Decline Leg Raise

The decline leg raise is a bodybuilding staple for the lower abs. I love this variation as it doesn’t require much effort from your upper body as the other alternatives do. The only piece of equipment you’ll need is a decline bench. Most commercial gyms will have one. Here’s how to do it:

  • Lie on your back and grab the handle above your head to keep you on the bench. Raise your legs and perform a reverse crunch by bringing your hips slightly off the bench when your legs are at the top.
  • Slowly lower your legs until your heels are just above the floor. You must keep your lower back pushed into the bench when lowering your legs.

If you swing your legs down quickly without your lower back pushed into the bench, it can cause injury and pain, so control the exercise.

Hanging Leg Raise Alternatives Without Equipment

Suppose you train at home and don’t have access to a pull-up bar or other expensive pieces of equipment. In that case, I have six alternatives to the hanging leg raise you can do to hammer those lower abs.


V-ups are the most versatile hanging leg raise alternative having many variations performed on the floor. You have the traditional v-up, weighted v-up with the load placed in the hands or between the feet, and cross-body v-ups. Here’s how to v-up:

  • Lying on the floor on your back, place your arms straight above your head and your legs straight ahead so your feet are slightly off the floor. You should push your lower back into the ground. This position will look like a hollow hold.
  • Simultaneously raise your legs and arms. Once vertical, perform an extra crunch movement and try to touch your toes with your fingers.
  • Slowly return to the starting position.

To make this exercise truly effective, you must push your lower back into the floor for the entire exercise.

Lying Leg Raise

The lying leg raise is also performed on the floor, but unlike the v-up, it only involves the legs. You can achieve this with straight or bent legs depending on your level. Here’s how:

  • Lying on the floor on your back, place the fingertips of your hands under your lower back. This will provide feedback to keep your lower back pushed into the floor.
  • Raise your legs and perform a reverse crunch motion, so your hips come off the floor to contract your abdominals.
  • Slowly lower your legs until your feet are just off the floor.

Only lower your legs as far as your lower back allows. Meaning, if your lower back starts to rise off the floor, stop and raise the legs again.

Swiss Ball Pikes

While not technically equipment-free, a Swiss ball costs $10 and can be used for more than just a Swiss ball pike. This one requires a fair amount of upper body strength, but if you can handle it, this is how you do it:

  • Get into a push-up position with your hands on the floor and feet on the Swiss ball.
  • While keeping your legs straight, pull the Swiss ball toward your hands by lifting your hips. This position will resemble the downward dog yoga pose.
  • Slowly return to the starting position.

If you struggle with supporting your bodyweight during the pike, this next exercise will be a better choice.

Swiss Ball Knee Tuck

The Swiss ball knee tuck is the regression to the Swiss ball pike. It doesn’t require crazy upper body strength, so it is easier to perform. It will still give your lower abs an epic workout. Here’s how:

  • Get into a push-up position with your hands on the floor and feet on the Swiss ball.
  • Pull your knees to your chest. Slowly extend your legs until you reach the starting position.

If you feel very strong, you can give this a go with one leg. However, you will feel your hip flexors taking the brunt of the load instead of your lower abs.

Reverse Crunch

The reverse crunch is just like the lying leg raise, except you’ll go from straight legs in the beginning immediately to bending your legs and pulling your knees to your chest. This exercise is deceiving! Here’s how to do it:

  • Lie on your back on the floor and hold something sturdy above your head. It could be a pole, power rack, or a heavy bench.
  • Push your lower back into the floor and slightly raise your feet off the floor with straight legs. This is similar to the hollow hold position.
  • Pull your knees towards your chest by bending your legs and curling your hips up. Slowly lower yourself back to the starting position.

If you cannot keep your lower back pushed into the floor as you extend your legs, keep your legs bent throughout the entire movement and gradually straighten your legs as you get stronger.


The deadbug is often prescribed as a postural exercise to reinforce a stacked rib cage in line with the pelvis and breathing mechanics. It also makes a great core exercise that is surprisingly difficult. Here’s how to do it:

  • Lie on your back on the floor with your legs bent to 90° and your arms vertical.
  • While pushing your lower back into the floor, slowly lower the right arm and left leg simultaneously. Once both the arm and leg are just off the floor, return to the starting position. Repeat with the other side.

Only lower your arms and legs until your back starts to come off the floor. If you can keep it pushed down the entire movement, you can use the full range. If not, then stop early.


These hanging leg raise alternatives will give you many options depending on if you are at the gym or training at home. Each of these will target the same muscles as the hanging leg raise, and many don’t even require equipment.


1. Willett, G. M., Hyde, J. E., Uhrlaub, M. B., Wendel, C. L., & Karst, G. M. (2001). Relative activity of abdominal muscles during commonly prescribed strengthening exercises. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research15(4), 480-485.

About the Author

I am a professional strength & conditioning coach that works with professional and international teams and athletes. I am a published scientific researcher and have completed my Masters in Sport & Exercise Science. I've combined my knowledge of research and experience to bring you the most practical bites to be applied to your training.

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