Floor exercises are not the only way to get a good core workout. Discover how to do hanging crunches and whether they are good.
Hanging crunches are a crunch exercise variation where you start somewhere with your legs hanging freely. After that, you raise your knees towards your chest in a controlled motion.
This movement can work your abs and/or hip flexors depending on how much you move your hips vs your legs.
In turn, hanging crunches can be great for growing and strengthening your abs and hip flexors for people who are already strong in these areas.
You may also find hanging crunches more comfortable on your lower back than core exercises on the floor.
One potential downside is that resistance training beginners may find hanging crunches too hard.
Additionally, you may be unsure what the difference between engaging your lower abs and hip flexors feels like.
In both of these cases, reverse crunches could be a good place to start instead.
Lastly, not everyone has the equipment to do hanging crunches at home or in the gym.
How to do a hanging crunch
Before you can do hanging core exercises like hanging crunches you need the right equipment. A pull-up bar, captain’s chair, and dip bars are examples of suited options.
Of these examples, the captain’s chair is generally the best choice. This way your grip muscles don’t fatigue before your abs. A pull-up bar with the right accessories can offer similar benefits.
As an example, take the following steps to do an ab-focused hanging crunch with a pull-up bar:
- Hang from a pull-up bar in the way that feels most comfortable to you. Raise your upper legs until they are about horizontal but let your lower legs hang down.
- Slowly move your hips toward your chest as far as comfortable. Keep your upper legs at the same angle in relation to your hips.
- Lower your hips in a controlled motion until your upper legs are about horizontal again.
Your abs are the muscle that brings your hips toward your chest. Your hip flexors are the muscles that bring your thighs toward your hips and upper body.
That is why to train your abs, your legs should not move too much relative to your hips after the initial raise.
If you do want to train your hip flexors, you can keep your hips in the same place.
Muscles worked with hanging crunches
The main muscles worked with hanging crunches are your abs and hip flexors. More specifically, the muscle fibers in the lower part of your abs.
As mentioned, exactly how you do the exercise will influence what muscles you focus on.
It is worth noting that you still need to be able to do enough hanging crunches per set to see a lot of muscle growth and strength progress.
That means hanging crunches will be too challenging for many resistance training beginners. These individuals can start with easier variations like reverse crunches.
On the flip side, you may have really strong abs and find hanging crunches too easy.
In that case, you can stretch your legs aka do hanging leg raises.
Another option is clamping weights between your legs and/or wearing ankle weights and/or using resistance bands.
Hanging crunches benefits
Hanging crunches offer both more unique and more standard ab exercise benefits. Some of these include:
- Stronger muscles: If you do hanging crunches in a smart exercise routine, you can grow and strengthen your abs and potentially hip flexors.
- You could find it more comfortable: Some people find lying core exercises uncomfortable on their spines. If that applies to you, you may find hanging crunches more comfortable.
- May reduce or prevent back pain: Making your ab muscles stronger with hanging crunches is typically good for reducing and preventing back pain (1, 2).
- Makes your six-pack more visible: In combination with a body fat percentage that is low enough, growing your abs makes your six-pack stand out more. Many people find this a benefit from an aesthetic standpoint.
If these benefits align with your training goals, hanging crunches could be a good addition to your exercise routine.
Hanging crunch alternatives
Even if you like the benefits of hanging crunches, you may not like the equipment requirements, want to work different parts of your abs, or want to work different core muscles.
In these cases, you can also consider some of these hanging crunch alternatives:
- Reverse crunches
- Lying leg raises
- Hanging leg raises
- Bicycle crunches
- Hanging sideways knee raises
- Ab wheel roll-outs
What hanging crunch alternatives you love the most depends on your training goals, equipment collection, and personal preferences.
Are hanging crunches a good exercise?
Hanging crunches can be a good exercise to grow and strengthen ab and hip flexor muscles for more advanced lifters.
The bigger challenge can be helpful for people who don’t like doing other weighted crunches.
You could also find hanging core exercises more comfortable than the floor options out there.
One potential downside of hanging crunches is that they are relatively challenging. Not everyone can do them in good set and rep ranges tey.
Additionally, it is easy to confuse working your lower abs and hip flexors.
Lastly, not everyone has the equipment needed at home or in the gym to do hanging crunches effectively.
If these things apply to you, you can also choose one of the many other effective ab and core exercises instead.