Core training goes beyond the run-of-the-mill planks and side raises. However, moving on to more advanced variations might be a bit too challenging for certain individuals. Since everyone progresses at their own pace, it is sometimes necessary for intermediary exercises to be employed in order to build the necessary physical attributes for other more demanding movements.
One of the most challenging and effective movements for the core is the hanging leg raise. Despite how simple it may look on the surface (hanging from a bar and raising your legs), performing it correctly takes a significant amount of coordination, strength and mobility. If you find yourself lacking in any of these areas, try using the ball-assisted leg raise to shore up on weak points.
Location and equipment courtesy of TripleFit
The ball-assisted leg raise targets the fundamentals of the leg raise – static and dynamic engagement of the anterior and posterior core musculature. Recognising the ball as an integral part of the movement is key to making this exercise work. With the leg raise, many people tend to place all the tension on the abs. However, proper bracing in the leg raise requires for tension to be distributed all around the midsection instead of just the front – the placement of the ball makes this easier by giving something for the athlete to “push out” against.
To begin, set the height of the power rack's J-hooks to allow for an incline of the torso whilst hanging from the bar, taking into account the elevation afforded by the medicine ball. From here, take a grip on the bar that is slightly wider than shoulder width and position yourself so that the medicine ball is resting in the curve of your lower back. Take a deep breath, brace and bring your straightened legs to a parallel position. Proceed to engage your midsection and raise your legs straight up, holding the contraction in your abs for a short pause at the top and then lowering your legs slowly back into the parallel position. During the course of this movement, there should be tension between the medicine ball and your lower back at all times. This prevents your lumbar spine from going into hyperextension.
Ball-assisted leg raises can be done for up to 15 repetitions as way of ingraining proper movement patterns. Utilising the appropriate tempo is recommended in order to build the necessary mind-muscle connection. Treat this exercise as a movement drill and with enough diligence, you'll be doing full-fledged hanging leg raises soon enough!