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Are Hanging Sit Ups the Best for the Abs?

author image Ollie Odebunmi
Ollie Odebunmi's involvement in fitness as a trainer and gym owner dates back to 1983. He published his first book on teenage fitness in December 2012. Odebunmi is a black belt in taekwondo and holds a bachelor's degree in economics from Kingston University in the United Kingdom.
Are Hanging Sit Ups the Best for the Abs?
Hanging situps provide an intense abdominal workout. Photo Credit Zinkevych/iStock/Getty Images

Hanging situps are also known as inverted situps. Use a pair of gravity boots to hang from a pullup bar or strap yourself to an inversion table. Owing to your body position, hanging situps are a difficult exercise and provide an intense abdominal workout routine. Whether hanging situps are best for the abs depends on your level of fitness and how effective you find the exercise.


Hanging situps may also be referred to as upside down situps or inverted crunches. Due to the intense nature of the exercise, it is recommended you do hanging situps only if you are an advanced trainer. Your quadriceps, hamstrings and calf muscles act as stabilizing muscles to hold you in place as you perform the movement. Keep your movements slow and controlled to reduce the risk of injury.


Hanging situps emphasize your upper and middle abdominals. Place your hands on your temples, across your chest, or held in front of you and curl your trunk up. Exhale forcibly as you curl up and do not let your body sway. Shapefit.com recommends you do as many repetitions as you can. You may only manage a few repetitions initially but aim to do two to eight sets of 10 to 20 repetitions. Hold a weight or dumbbell to increase the intensity of the exercise.


Hanging situps should not be confused with hanging leg raises or hanging knee raises. These are performed by hanging from a pullup bar by your arms. Cross your ankles and bend your knees. Raise your hips and pull your knees up toward your chin. Hanging knee raises emphasize the lower and middle abdominals.


A study commissioned by the American Council on Exercise conducted by the Biomechanics Lab at San Diego State University reviewed 13 abdominal exercises to decide their effectiveness. EMG or electromyography equipment was used to monitor muscle activity in the abdominals, obliques and hip flexors while different ab exercises were performed. High muscle activity in the hip flexors indicate less activity in the abdominals. Hanging situps were not reviewed by the study. The three exercises that showed the most muscle activity were the bicycling maneuver, captains chair and exercise ball crunches. The study concluded the effectiveness of ab exercises vary from person to person depending on factors such as athleticism, familiarity of exercises and past injuries and recommends you do a variety of ab exercises to get the best results from your abdominal workout.

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