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10 Of The Top Pull-up Bar Exercises For Bigger Abs

Pull-up bar workouts can offer you impressive benefits for many muscles but what are some ab exercises you can do with a pull-up bar?

A pull-up bar is simply any horizontal bar that is suited for doing pull-ups, a popular bodyweight exercise. There are however many other exercises for different muscles you can do with this piece of equipment.

Even though a pull-up bar is not the first thing most people think of when looking into ab exercises, you can use this gym equipment to build bigger abs if you choose the right exercises.

Before trying out these exercises make sure your pull-up bar is sturdy enough. For some of these examples a simple doorway pull-up bar is likely not enough.

If you try out these exercises and notice that your grip muscles fatigue before your abs it may be smarter to turn to other gym ab machines.

Keep in mind that implementing these exercises can offer benefits but like any exercise, there is always some risk of injury. Especially if you have sensitive shoulders you want to be careful when doing the pull-up bar exercises for abs and implement a good technique. When in doubt talk to an expert.

1. Knee and leg raises

To do a knee or leg raise take the following steps:

  1. Hang from the pull-up bar with your hands at about shoulder-width with your hand palms facing forward. Let your legs hang down for now.
  2. For the knee raise, start raising your knees held together upwards. Let gravity do its work on your lower legs throughout the exercise. For the leg raise, you keep your legs stretched but in this step, they just hang downwards.
  3. Slowly raise your knees to at least hip height for the knee raise or your feet to at least hip height for the leg raise. Once you are at the highest you can hold for a second or less.
  4. Lower your legs back into the position in step 2 in a controlled manner.

If you are more of a workout beginner you can start with knee raises. These are generally less challenging than leg raises.

On the other hand, if bodyweight leg raises are not challenging enough you can use something like ankle weights to make knee and leg raises weighted and in turn more difficult.

2. Around the world

To do an around the world take the following steps:

  1. Hang from the pull-up bar with your hands at about shoulder-width with your hand palms facing forward. Let your legs hang down for now.
  2. Make a big circle with your feet while keeping your legs stretched. Ideally, at their highest point, you want your feet to be above your head but if that is not yet within your capabilities you can start with repetitions with smaller circles and build up from there.
  3. Repeat in the opposite direction.

Keep your movement slow and controlled to make the most of the around the world exercise.

3. Flutter kicks

Flutter kicks are a great way to make a regular L-hang more dynamic which can be beneficial for ab muscle growth. To do pull-up bar flutter kicks take the following steps:

  1. Hang from the pull-up bar with your hands at about shoulder-width with your hand palms facing forward. Raise your legs held together upwards to about hip height. Your legs should be more or less stretched throughout the exercise.
  2. Raise one leg upwards a small amount.
  3. Start lowering this leg while at the same time raising the other leg the same way.
  4. Repeat for a number of repetitions or a certain amount of time.

Flutter kicks are similar to the movement you make with your legs while swimming crawl.

4. Air cycling

If you find the regular knee raises boring or some more coordination requirements interesting you can consider this next exercise. To do air cycling take the following steps:

  1. Hang from the pull-up bar with your hands at about shoulder-width with your hand palms facing forward. Let your legs hang down for now.
  2. Start raising one knee upwards. Let gravity do its work on your lower legs throughout the exercise.
  3. Raise the knees to at least hip height.
  4. Start lowering this knee while raising the other knee the same way at the same time.
  5. Repeat for a number of repetitions or a certain amount of time.

This exercise resembles doing high knees while hanging from a pull-up bar. If you want to do this exercise with external weights you will have to use ankle weights.

5. Crisscross

This next exercise requires some extra coordination and good grip strength to deal with the movements of your body. For the crisscross take the following steps:

  1. Hang from the pull-up bar with your hands at about shoulder-width with your hand palms facing forward. Let your legs hang down for now.
  2. Raise your legs held together upwards to about hip height. Your legs should be more or less stretched throughout the exercise.
  3. Move both of your legs to the opposite side, one will have to be slightly higher and go over the other.
  4. Return to the neutral position in step 2 where your legs are pointing forward.
  5. Move both of your legs to the opposite side again, this time make the leg that previously went over the other one go under the other one.
  6. Repeat for a number of repetitions or a certain amount of time.

6. Sideways knee raise

Many of these pull-up bar exercises focus mainly on your ab muscles. If you also want to engage other core muscles like your oblique muscles more this sideways raise may be the right choice. To do a sideways knee raise take the following steps:

  1. Hang from the pull-up bar with your hands at about shoulder-width with your hand palms facing forward. Let your legs hang down for now.
  2. Raising your knees held together upwards. Slightly tilt your hips to the left or the right so that the knee of that side is in a higher position than the other knee. Let gravity do its work on your lower legs throughout the exercise.
  3. Raise your knees to at least hip height. Once you are at the highest you can hold for a second or less.
  4. Start lowering your knees until your legs are back into starting position.
  5. Repeat but with the other knee in the higher position.

Once your skill level is up for it you can consider doing sideways leg raises or sideways knee raises with extra weights to make this exercise more challenging.

7. Windshield wipers

To do windshield wipers take the following steps:

  1. Hang from the pull-up bar with your hands at about shoulder-width with your hand palms facing forward. Let your legs hang down for now.
  2. Raise your legs held together upwards until they are in more or less a vertical line. Keep your legs slightly less than stretched throughout the exercise.
  3. Twist your body so that your legs turn sideways until they are in a horizontal line.
  4. Return your legs to the position of step 2.
  5. Twist your body so that your legs turn sideways until they are in a horizontal line at the opposite side.
  6. Return to the position of step 2.

Windshield wipers on the pull-up bar are a challenging exercise that will engage both your abs and obliques.

8. Knee-to-elbow

To do a knee-to-elbow take the following steps:

  1. Hang from the pull-up bar with your hands at about shoulder-width with your hand palms facing forward. Let your legs hang down for now.
  2. Slowly move your knees up until they touch your elbows.
  3. Lower your legs back into starting position in a controlled motion.

By doing this knee-to-elbow exercise slowly you engage your ab muscles more compared to using the momentum of your legs.

9. Hanging crunches

Crunches are one of the most popular ab exercises out there. The regular version is done on the ground but you can also do this exercise on a pull-up bar. Make sure your pull-up bar is stable enough and your skill level is sufficient enough for this exercise. If these things are checked off, to do a hanging crunch take the following steps:

  1. Hang from the pull-up bar by your knees. Let your upper body hang down so your body is more or less in a straight line from your knees to your head. You can place your hands behind your head, cross them over your chest, or put them anywhere else. The point is to not really use your arms or move them during the exercise.
  2. Raise your upper body towards your knees until your upper body is at a 45-degree angle with your upper legs. Make sure you use your ab muscles to do this movement, not any other body parts.
  3. Lower your upper body in a controlled motion until you are back in the starting position.

Keep your safety in mind, the message is rather safe than sorry. Don’t hang upside down for too long, this can have negative consequences. If you want to play it safe there are plenty of other ab exercises you can do on a pull-up bar.

10. L-hang

The L-hang is an exercise with simple movements, to do one take the following steps:

  1. Hang from the pull-up bar with your hands at about shoulder-width with your hand palms facing forward. Let your legs hang down for now.
  2. Raise your legs held together upwards to about hip height. Your legs should be more or less stretched throughout the exercise.
  3. Hold this position for an extended amount of time.

You can also do this hold in a knee raise position, which means letting your lower legs hang. You can also add weights to this exercise.

Keep in mind that this L-hang is a type of isometric exercise. In simpler words, this means that you engage your muscles in a more static way, without moving a lot. On the other hand, you have isotonic exercises where you engage your muscles in a dynamic way, by moving.

Isotonic exercises are generally more useful for building muscle. That means that the other pull-up exercises on this list are generally more useful for building bigger ab muscles.