Who doesn’t want six-pack abs? Not many people that I know…and when you think of working the upper abs to get those six-pack abs, the first thing that pops into your head is probably crunches, right?
Well, crunches are an ok exercise…unfortunately, they don’t provide a whole lot of resistance, which means you won’t get maximum abdominal development (among other issues…repeated flexion of the spine has it’s problems).
That’s where this exercise comes in…it’s a hanging knee raise type of movement only without involving the lower abs (other than isometrically). I’ll explain as I show you the exercise.
The key thing with this exercise is the setup…to do it, you’ll need a way to work with a neutral grip (palms facing in), either on a pull-up bar that has neutral handles or by setting up in a power rack with a couple of Olympic bars (which is the setup I’m using).
If you have the pre-set grips, you can skip the setup instructions here.
Set the safety rails of the rack to the highest point you can then set two Olympic bars on them. Load one end of the bars with a couple of plates (I’m using 2 45-lb plates on both bars – you can load at least that much onto only one end without the bar tipping – I probably would’ve been fine with just one plate on the ends of the bars). How much weight you need to counterbalance will depend on your own bodyweight.
The bars should be about a foot to a foot and a half apart.
Get under the ends of the bars and hold on with your arms in a slightly bent position. Get your feet off the ground and set your hips at 90 degrees.
Now raise your knees up, rotating your body around. Use MUSCLE power, not momentum here. One of the things with this one is that because your knees are already bent 90 degrees, you really can’t even GET much momentum, even if you try.
This is also where the neutral grip comes into play. It allows you to exert force to help raise the knees up with abdominal strength (with some lat involvement, actually).
Come all the way up until your feet are directly up. This is also where the neutral grip comes in handy…there is no bar to get in the way of your feet.
Hold for a second now lower your legs down under control.
Here’s the “money” part of this abdominal exercise …
As you get to the bottom, DO NOT let your hips unflex past 90 degrees. When you get to the bottom start position, reverse the direction using abdominal strength and lat power.
I’ll warn you up front…this is tough. If you find you don’t have the strength to do that just yet, you can set your feet down briefly to give your abs a short break. As you build strength, do try and keep your feet off the ground.
Because your hips never unflex, the lower abdominals aren’t greatly involved in the movement, other than in keeping your hips bent 90 degress and a little when you start the pull back up.
The VAST majority of the tension goes directly into the upper abdominal area…and it’s a LOT of tension. This is a challenging exercise, even for those who are strong with hanging leg raises.
Also, because you’re gripping on the “fat” ends of the bars, it’s also going to work your grip strength…the fun just doesn’t stop :).
Nick Nilsson is known in the fitness industry as the “Mad Scientist of Muscle,” and for good reason! For more than 28 years, Nick has been creating unique, new exercises and training techniques and putting together some of the most innovative muscle-building and fat-loss programs available anywhere.