Captain's Chair Leg Raise

Captain's Chair Leg Raise
Captain's Chair Leg Raise (Image: undrey/iStock/GettyImages)

You may desire six-pack abs, but to attain them, you have to understand their makeup. They consist of the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis and inner and outer obliques. The rectus abdominis is the large muscle centered between the chest and pelvis, and the obliques run down the sides of the stomach in a diagonal direction.

With ab workouts, your goal is to target as much of these muscle fibers as possible for full development. The captain's chair leg raise helps you achieve this goal.

What is the Captain's Chair?

The captain's chair looks like a large chair with no seat. It has a padded backrest, padded horizontal supports for the arms and supports for your feet.

Regular ab exercises on the floor or with other machines tend to single out one segment of the abs. The captain's chair leg raise surpasses this goal. According to the American Council on Exercise, the captain's chair exercise ranks second highest of all ab exercises for rectus abdominis activity and in first place for oblique recruitment.

What is the Best Technique?

You perform a standard leg raise from a hanging position on a pull-up bar or a face-up position on the floor. While these exercise variations are beneficial, the captain's leg raise trumps them both. As soon as you get into position, your abs have to contract to keep your upper body still. Unlike leg raises done from a pull-up bar, your back is completely supported throughout, which means more ab activation and less room for injury.

To gain the benefits that the leg raise offers, use proper form.

How to: Begin with your back pressed against the back rest, feet on the lower supports and forearms resting on the upper supports with your hands gripping the handles. Slowly remove each foot from the supports and let your legs hang straight down. Keeping your legs straight and together, lift them in the air in front of your body. Once your legs are parallel to the floor, slowly lower them down and repeat.

What Muscles Do Captain's Chair Exercises Work?

Your abs work to flex and extend your torso, as well as to stabilize your spine. But these aren't the only muscles worked.

The motion involved with pulling your thighs closer to your stomach is called hip flexion. Whenever you flex your hips, you work the quadriceps and the hip flexors. The hip flexors run from the lower stomach to the top of the thighs; they consist of the iliacus and psoas major, also known as the iliopsoas.

Can Leg Raises Be Modified?

The standard leg raise might be too challenging if you are new to exercise or have not worked out in awhile. To do an easier variation, bend your knees as you raise your legs in the air.

You also have the option of lifting your legs or knees to your sides as you raise them. This will shift more of the focus to your obliques.

Resistance

The captain's chair uses your body weight to train your core. This does not mean you can't add resistance with your workouts; you just have to get creative. Either strap ankle weights to your lower legs or pinch a dumbbell or medicine ball between your shins when you do exercises. Once you are able to do 20-plus reps with any captain's chair exercise, it is a good indicator that you need more resistance. Be careful in adding resistance as it can compromise your form and strain your back.

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