Hanging Leg Raises vs Captain’s Chair [Which is Better]

Hanging leg raises are more challenging than captain’s chair leg raises. This doesn’t mean they’re the better workout. The difficulty in hanging leg raises mostly comes from the demand on your grip strength. Captain’s chair leg raises are just as effective at building your abs. As a bonus, captain’s chair leg raises allow you to focus on maintaining proper form, which reduces your risk of injury.

Hanging leg raises vs captain's chair

What’s the Difference Between Hanging Leg Raises and Captain’s Chair?

Hanging leg raises are performed while hanging from a pull-up bar with your arms extended. In this position, you hinge at the hips to raise your legs straight out in front of you.

Captain’s chair leg raises have the same hip-hinge and leg-raise movement. However, instead of hanging from a bar, your forearms are supported by the arms of a captain’s chair. A captain’s chair is a piece of gym equipment that supports your back and provides an easy grip for core ab exercises.

Are Hanging Leg Raises Better than Captain’s Chair Leg Raises?

In order to decide which ab exercise is best, let’s take a closer look. We’ll cover the details of both hanging leg raises and captain’s chair leg raises. Then, we’ll pick the best exercise.

What Muscles Do Hanging Leg Raises Work?

Hanging leg raises primarily target the rectus abdominis. This muscle makes up the “six pack” area. The secondary muscles used during hanging leg raises are the obliques and hip flexor muscles. Finally, because you are hanging from a bar during the exercise, you’ll build grip strength and forearm muscles.

What Muscles Does the Captain Chair Leg Raise Work?

Captain’s chair leg raises are scientifically proven to excel at building stronger abs and obliques. This clinical study measured 13 different ab exercises. Captain’s chair leg raises ranked as the second-best for activating the rectus abdominis and best for engaging the obliques. Like hanging leg raises, they also build hip flexor muscles. However, you won’t train grip strength with the captain’s chair.

Verdict: Muscle Activation

The hanging leg raise and captain’s chair are very similar exercises. Here are the key takeaways:

  • The two exercises are equally effective at building a stronger core.
  • Both exercises primarily target the rectus abdominis.
  • The obliques and hip flexors are recruited as secondary muscles in both exercises.
  • Hanging leg raises train grip strength, captain’s chair leg raises do not.

Since these exercises have similar effects for ab training, it’s essential to look deeper before choosing the superior exercise.

Are Hanging Leg Raises Difficult for Beginners?

Hanging leg raises are an extremely challenging ab exercise that can be difficult for beginners. First, your grip strength may fail before your abs do, which can prevent a good core workout. Second, because you are hanging, it is easy to sway, curl your back, or bend your legs during this exercise. These bad habits prevent healthy muscle development and increase injury risk.

Are Captain’s Chair Leg Raises Beginner-Friendly?

While still a challenging exercise, captain’s chair leg raises are easier for beginners than hanging leg raises. First, since you’re supported by the chair, you can focus on your ab workout without being distracted by maintaining your grip. Second, the back of the chair acts as a guide. It makes swinging, twisting, and bending to “cheat” the exercise easy to spot. This teaches you proper form. So, you’ll actually get a better ab workout.

Are Leg Raises a Cause of Injury?

All types of leg raises can cause lower back injury if you arch your spine during the movement. This is more common with hanging leg raises. If you use a captain’s chair and focus on keeping your spine flat against the chair during the exercise, you’ll lower your injury risk and get a better ab workout.

Verdict: Ease and Safety

Difficulty and risk are what separate the hanging leg raise and captain’s chair. Here are the key points:

  1. Captain’s chair leg raises are simpler because they allow you to focus on your core.
  2. Working your grip with hanging leg raises can split your focus and cause you to lose track of proper form.
  3. It is common for athletes to use improper form during hanging leg raises.
  4. Captain’s chair leg raises make maintaining proper form easier.
  5. Using poor form during leg raises causes back injury.
  6. Using good form leads to a better ab workout.

Now, we’re ready to reveal our winner between these two core exercises.

Should You Do Hanging Leg Raises or Captain’s Chair Leg Raises?

If you have access to a gym with a captain’s chair, use it instead of doing hanging leg raises. You’ll get an excellent ab workout and build proper form that leads to stronger, more developed abs. If you’ve never done either exercise, start with captain’s chair leg raises to build your skills.

If you’re experienced with captain’s chair leg raises and want an extra challenge, try hanging leg raises instead. They provide a similar ab workout but also build grip strength. If you don’t have access to a captain’s chair, hanging leg raises are a nice alternative. Just make sure to keep your back straight and spine neutral throughout each hanging leg raise.

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