8 Hanging Ab Workouts: Top Essential Exercises For 2024

Well-toned abs indicate that someone is dedicated to a healthy lifestyle and physically capable of several activities. This increased endurance is why abs are something that many physically active people strive to attain.

Although nothing is wrong with using a fat burner to achieve a slim body, putting in the work for well-toned abs by exercising can be more rewarding. However, there is a routine dullness in sticking to crunches, so you may want to consider trying hanging abs workouts to diversify your regimen.

Best Hanging Ab Workouts For A Strong Core

Ready to take your core workout to the next level? Discover the Best Hanging Ab Workout to build a rock-solid core and unlock impressive strength.

Hanging Knee Raises

Hanging Knee Raises target the lower abs. 

Also known as hanging crunches, this exercise is the basis from which most hanging abs exercises derive.

Hanging Knee Raises
Hanging Knee Raises Guide. Photo: Aliaksandr Makatserchyk

How to do:

  1. Grab the pull-up bar/rings overhead to hang. Squeeze your abs and engage your glutes.
  2. Slowly raise your knees towards your chest and hold.
  3. Slowly lower your legs to return to the starting position.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Tips: 

  • Initiate the movement by engaging your core and lifting your knees toward your chest.
  • Avoid using momentum; focus on controlled, deliberate movements for maximum effectiveness.
  • Keep your upper body steady by maintaining a stable grip on the bar.

Optimal Sets and Reps: 3 sets of 12-15 reps.

Hanging Knee Raise Twist

Challenge your obliques with the Hanging Knee Raise Twist.

This exercise sounds nearly identical to the previous one but with a twist. You use your obliques to turn your legs – hence, its other name, oblique crunches.

Hanging Knee Raise Twist
Hanging Knee Raise Twist Guide. Photo: Aliaksandr Makatserchyk

How to do:

  1. Grab the pull-up bar/rings overhead to hang. Squeeze your abs and engage your glutes.
  2. Slowly raise your knees towards your chest, but twist to one side until your knees are at hip length. Then, hold.
  3. Slowly lower your legs to return to the starting position. Repeat for the other side.
  4. Continue for the desired number of totals.

Tips: 

  • Engage your obliques by twisting your knees to the opposite side of your body during the raise.
  • Control the motion to avoid swinging; focus on a slow and deliberate movement.
  • Maintain a stable grip on the bar and keep your upper body still throughout the exercise.

Optimal Sets and Reps: 3 sets of 12-15 reps.

Hanging Leg Raises

Hanging Leg Raises are a classic, effective core exercise.

This exercise is another variation of the hanging knee raise, except you lift your whole legs instead of just your knees. As a result, this one might be slightly harder than the original to pull off.

Hanging Leg Raises
Hanging Leg Raises Guide. Photo: Aliaksandr Makatserchyk

How to do:

  1. Grab the pull-up bar/rings overhead to hang, squeeze your abs, and engage your glutes.
  2. Keeping your legs straight and pressed against each other, raise your feet until they are on the same level as your hips. 
  3. Hold this position using a firm grip strength for a second, then slowly lower your legs to return to the starting position on the pull-up bar.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Tips: 

  • Initiate the lift by engaging your lower abs and lifting your legs while keeping them straight.
  • Control the movement, avoiding any swinging, to maximize the effectiveness of the exercise.
  • Keep your upper body steady by maintaining a firm grip on the bar.

Optimal Sets and Reps: 3 sets of 12-15 reps.

Hanging Bicycles

Try Hanging Bicycles to strengthen your core.

This variation of the traditional double-leg knee raise makes you take a more active role. Instead of holding a position, you constantly move your legs the same way you would when riding a bicycle while holding on to the pull-up bar. 

How to do:

  1. Grab the pull-up bar/rings overhead to hang. Squeeze your abs and engage your glutes.
  2. Bring your left knee towards your chest. Lower it back down afterward, but also bring your right knee towards your chest simultaneously. Likewise, bring your left knee back up while lowering your right knee. 
  3. Continue this motion pattern for the desired number of repetitions, with one rep being movement on each side.

Tips: 

  • Alternate twisting your torso and legs to engage both your obliques and lower abs effectively.
  • Control your movements and avoid swinging for better results.
  • Maintain a firm grip on the bar and keep your upper body stable during the exercise.

Optimal Sets and Reps: 2 sets of 12-15 reps.

Hanging Scissors

The Hanging Scissors engages you in core work.

Just as hanging bicycle kicks are a more active variant of knee raises, scissors are the more active version of leg raises. They’re essentially the straight-leg version of hanging bicycle kicks but are done on the pull-up bar.

How to do:

  1. Grab the pull-up bar or rings overhead to hang and engage your abs and glutes.
  2. Raise one leg in front of you, then lower it back down. At the same time, raise the other leg up. Always keep your legs straight.
  3. Alternate between legs and continue this pattern of motion for the desired number of repetitions. One rep is movement on each side. 

Tips: 

  • Maintain control as you scissor your legs, engaging your core muscles throughout the movement.
  • Avoid swinging or using momentum; focus on a controlled, deliberate motion.
  • Keep your upper body steady with a firm grip on the bar, and breathe steadily.

Optimal Sets and Reps: 2 sets of 15 reps.

Hanging Flutter Kicks

Want to work your entire core? Try Hanging Flutter Kicks.

If hanging scissors catches your interest, then consider including flutter kicks using a pull-up bar into your workout routine as well since they are a smaller version of the former.

Hanging Flutter Kicks
Hanging Flutter Kicks Guide. Photo: Aliaksandr Makatserchyk

How to do:

  1. Grab the pull-up bar/rings overhead to hang. Squeeze your abs and engage your glutes.
  2. Keeping your legs straight, raise your feet until they are on the same level as your hips.
  3. In this position, flutter your legs up and down in small movements. Always keep your legs straight.
  4. Do this for the desired number of repetitions. One rep counts for a kick on each side.

Tips: 

  • Pay attention to your hip and leg alignment to prevent strain on your lower back.
  • If you experience any discomfort in your shoulders or hands, consider using grip aids or padding for better support.
  • Start with shorter sets and gradually increase the duration as your core strength improves to avoid overexertion.

Optimal Sets and Reps: 2 sets of 15 reps.

Hanging Toes To Bar

Hanging Toes To Bar is an advanced ab exercise.

Those who are physically capable of doing this challenging full-body exercise will find improved muscle strength far beyond their core, as it involves almost all of your muscle groups to maintain proper form.

Hanging Toes To Bar
Hanging Toes To Bar Guide. Photo: Aliaksandr Makatserchyk

How to do:

  1. Grab the pull-up bar/rings overhead to hang and tense up your abdominals.
  2. Pull on the bar and lift both legs up until your toes touch the bar. Always keep your legs straight and pressed together.
  3. To maintain control, slowly lower your legs back to the starting position. 
  4. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Tips: 

  • Keep your shoulders engaged and your chest up to avoid straining your upper body.
  • Focus on breathing rhythmically throughout the exercise to maintain control and stability.
  • If you’re new to this exercise, start with knee raises and work your way up to the toes to the bar for gradual progression.

Optimal Sets and Reps: 2 sets of 15 reps.

Hanging Windshield Wipers

Hanging Windshield Wipers work the obliques.

This exercise is arguably the hardest one on this list to pull off, as it is essentially a moving variation of the previous exercise, which is already hard on its own.

How to do:

  1. Grab the pull-up bar/rings overhead to hang. Squeeze your abs and engage your glutes.
  2. Pull on the bar and lift both legs up until your toes touch the bar while keeping your legs straight and together.
  3. Twist to one side at 90 degrees, then twist your hips to the other side in the same way. This is considered one rep. 

Tips: 

  • Keep your core engaged and your legs straight during the entire movement.
  • Control the motion to prevent swinging, focusing on a slow and controlled side-to-side motion.
  • Maintain a firm grip on the bar and ensure your upper body remains stable.

Optimal Sets and Reps: 3 sets of 6-8 reps.

Benefits Of The Hanging Ab Exercises

Benefits Of The Hanging Ab Exercises
Greater core and better grip strength are the noticeable benefits of hanging ab exercises. Photo: Jasminko Ibrakovic/Shutterstock

Greater Core And Lower Abdominal Strength

Maintaining good core strength can provide several health benefits, including improved core stability[1] for better balance and stronger injury prevention. One study has shown that when you work on your core muscles, certain abdominal exercises can even help build core muscles[2] by thickening them. 

Better Grip Strength

Researchers have discovered a strong relationship between aging and progressive loss of muscle strength, and handgrip strength[3] is no exception. This can result in diminished quality of life. 

Since you’ll be grabbing on a pull bar or rings when doing these hanging exercises, this gives you a chance to maintain good grip strength as you grow older. 

Hanging Ab Workouts: Things You Need To Consider

Hanging Ab Workouts: Things You Need To Consider
You always remember to breathe to maintain control and stability. Photo: MDV Edwards/Shutterstock

Whether your ab routine typically consists of seven standing ab exercises, hanging exercises, or floor exercises, it is always best if you push yourself to your limits. Train the muscle group until they begin to ache, and add more reps as you gain endurance. 

When you exercise to strengthen your core, abdominal cramping is sometimes a sign of hard work[4] and leads to progress. Of course, you should never push yourself so hard that you hurt your body or could develop an injury. And remember to breathe,[5] as holding your breath during exercise can cause lactic acid build-up and cramping.

If you exercise regularly, a healthy diet is just as important. Foods high in protein allow your muscles to recuperate and maintain their definition. At the same time, foods high in other vitamins and nutrients can also replenish your body’s stores of nutrients used in metabolism. If you have a nutrient deficiency, supplements are available that can promote both weight loss and increased muscle mass for a properly balanced composition.

The Bottom Line

Well-defined abs are a sought-after trait by many. A hanging abs workout using a pull-up bar is a viable option with various exercises to choose from.

They may not be for everyone, but these workouts are among some of the best types of belly exercises out there. Consider incorporating them into your normal workout routine if you’re hoping to get some well-toned abs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are hanging ab exercises good for abs?

Yes, they are all designed to strengthen your core and abdominal muscles.

What is the hardest ab exercise? 

The hardest ab exercise is the hanging windshield wipers.

How long should I do the hanging exercise?

A general rule of thumb for hanging exercises is to do around 15 reps, which should not take too long.

Can you build muscle by hanging?

Yes, hanging exercises can help with muscle building. However, the muscle groups affected vary depending on the exercises.

Resources

  1. Hsu, S.-L., Oda, H., Saya Shirahata, Watanabe, M. and Sasaki, M. (2018). Effects of core strength training on core stability. [online] 30(8), pp.1014–1018. doi:https://doi.org/10.1589/jpts.30.1014.
  2. da, I., Alonso-Calvete, A., Mercedes Soto González and María, E. (2021). How Do the Abdominal Muscles Change during Hypopressive Exercise? [online] 57(7), pp.702–702. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/medicina57070702.
  3. Hadeel Halaweh (2020). Correlation between Health-Related Quality of Life and Hand Grip Strength among Older Adults. [online] 46(2), pp.178–191. doi:https://doi.org/10.1080/0361073x.2020.1716157.
  4. Morton, D. and Callister, R. (2014). Exercise-Related Transient Abdominal Pain (ETAP). [online] 45(1), pp.23–35. doi:https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-014-0245-z.
  5. Ferretti, G., Nazzareno Fagoni, Taboni, A., Vinetti, G. and Pietro (2022). A century of exercise physiology: key concepts on coupling respiratory oxygen flow to muscle energy demand during exercise. [online] 122(6), pp.1317–1365. doi:https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-022-04901-x.