One of the areas most difficult to develop is the lower abdominal wall. This is primarily because of a reduced range of motion that can be achieved by the fibers in this area, because they are so close to the pelvis. Secondly, this area is usually weaker than the upper portion of the anterior abdominal wall. These lowest abdominal fibers don’t work in isolation as the deeper hip flexor muscles assist them in any leg or trunk extension activities. Hanging roll-ups are a more difficult version of hanging leg raises, and it’s guaranteed to rapidly feel like you have set out to kill your lower abs— but in reality, a ripped new lower abdominal area is under construction with each rep that you complete.
Which muscles are involved?
The best abs exercises shorten the fibers in the front and sides of the abdominal wall and they don’t stretch these muscles. Hanging roll-ups will create strong shortening contractions of the fibers of the rectus abdominis, internal and external oblique muscles of anterior abdominal wall along with the iliopsoas muscles of the posterior abdominal wall while also challenging your core. Another advantage of this exercise is that there’s no need for anything other than a bar to effectively start to tighten your abdominals.
The rectus abdominis muscle is the first anterior abdominal muscle that’s activated in hanging roll-ups. The left and right halves of the rectus abdominis are separated by the thin tendon-like linea alba. The rectus abdominis has a taper to it, so it’s three times as wide superiorly as it is inferiorly. Because of this top to bottom taper, more work can be carried out by the upper parts of this muscle. The rectus abdominis muscle has a distal attachment on the pubic bone and pubic crest pelvic bones of the hip girdle. Superiorly, each half of this muscle inserts into the xiphoid process at the lowest part of the sternum and cartilages of the fifth to seventh ribs near the sternum. When both halves contract, the rectus abdominis muscle pulls the trunk forward so that your head and chest will move closer to your hips. Hanging roll-ups activate each the upper and lower parts of this muscle to a great extent.
The external and internal oblique muscles are activated by the flexor functions of hanging roll-ups as well. The fibers of the external oblique muscle are angled in the same direction that your fingers would point if you were to place your hands in your pockets. When both sides of the exterior oblique muscles work together, they flex the trunk. The internal oblique muscle sits just deep to the external oblique muscle and connects to the iliac bone of the hip. Its fibers run around the side of the trunk at right angles to the external oblique muscle and attach to the lowest three or four ribs. Like the external oblique muscle, the internal oblique flexes the trunk at the waist and moves the head toward the feet.
The transversus abdominis muscle is the deepest of the anterior abdominal muscles. It starts along the inner surfaces of the inferior five to six costal cartilages of the ribs. The fibers terminate in the rectus sheath that encases the rectus abdominis muscle. When contracted the rectus abdominis pulls the stomach contents inward.
The iliopsoas muscle is really a combination of the psoas major and iliacs muscles. The iliopsoas begins along the sides of the lumbar vertebrae and the intervertebral discs. The iliacus begins along the inside of the iliac bone of the pelvis. Together the fibers of these muscles combine and it descends to the pelvis and inserts on the lesser trochanter on the femur bone of the thigh. The iliopsoas muscles act as a single muscle and as such, becomes the most powerful flexor of the thigh at the hip joint to pull the legs upward in hanging roll-ups.
Even though holding your breath will be easier, it won’t allow full rectus contraction. Instead, exhale as the legs are lifted upward, and make a special effort to exhale by squeezing your abdominal wall when your legs are high to further activate the transversus adominis. Inhale on the way down.
Because the lower abs is a tricky area to develop, it’s probably deserving of a hard workout to develop it. Hanging roll-ups match the challenge, because they are brutal for the lower abdominal muscles. Even if it’s difficult at first, stick with it—because quickly you’ll be able to complete 20 repetitions quite easily. When you are able to knock out three sets, your lower abdomen will have strengthened and you’ll start to see and feel the transformation to a ripped smaller lower abdomen with an iron core to match.
HOW TO PERFORM THE EXERCISE?
- This is one of the most difficult workouts for the lower abdomen. Jump up to grab a chin bar and straighten the elbows so that you’re hanging down toward the ground.
- Start with your legs hanging straight down from your waist. Pull in your stomach to activate the transversus abdominis, then slowly lift your legs toward your head. Keep your knees locked and just short of being completely straight.
- A common hanging leg raise would stop with the legs parallel to the floor, but in this exercise you won’t stop here. Continue to lift your feet upward and flex your waist.
- Raise even further, with the goal to lift your legs until your feet touch the bar that you’re holding on to. This final position above where your legs are parallel to the floor will cause your body to curl up in a jackknife position.
- Hold your legs in the highest position possible for two to three seconds, then slowly lower your legs to the straight position. Make sure that you don’t swing your legs past a position that would be vertical to your upper body.
- Don’t pause at the bottom, but begin the next repetition upward.