Hanging Leg Raise Machine Exercise Guide (Captain’s Chair)

hanging leg raises for abs with machine

Do you hate crunches, sit-ups, and other traditional abdominal exercises?

Or, can’t you see any results from doing them?

Switch to hanging leg raise machine (Captain’s chair)!

Frankly, it’s my favorite ab machine because it is such powerful and versatile fitness equipment. If you read on, you’ll understand why I say that.

Home gym tip: Best vertical knee raise machines

Hanging leg raises benefits

Stronger and bigger abs

Compared to ab exercises done on the floor, the resistance is higher as your lower body is heavier than your upper body. This way, leg raises are more advanced moves but improves the size and strength of the abdominal muscles more effectively.

Complete core training

The regular leg lifts works the rectus abdominis, the six-pack muscles. Even if the machine puts you in such a state that helps to control the hanging leg raise, other stabilizer muscle groups such as your lower back, hip flexors and obliques are activated. So, the movement strengthens your whole core.

Target your lower abs

If you want to build V-cut abs, it can help you a lot. Lower body lifting exercises target the lower abs very well.

Range of motion

Compared to crunches or even sit-ups, the range of the movement is much longer. That is beneficial for muscle gain.

Lower back friendly

I started using the leg raise machine because I had a problem with my lower back. Compared to the floor drills, leg lifts don’t put such stress on the lower back. I could strengthen my abs effectively without back pain. I always use this strength equipment for the core.

Suitable from beginners to advanced athletes

If you are someone who is at the beginning of his workout route, then you can start with knee raises. If you are a pro, you can use ankle weights for additional resistance (but it puts more stress on the back). Or, switch to advanced practices like side hanging leg lifts.

How-tos: Leg raise machine exercises

Now you know the benefits, so let’s learn the variations and the form.

Regular hanging leg lift technique

  • The starting position: Get in the Captain chair, stand on the footrests, and with your lower back against the back pad.
  • Place your forearms on the arm pads, and grab the handles. Put your back against the pad.
  • Now, step off the footrests so that your legs hang. (At first, mainly if you are heavy, it isn’t easy since you have to hold your entire body weight on your forearms. If it is really hard, just practice hanging for the next few weeks to get the strength.)
  • By focusing on your abdominal muscles, lift your legs upwards until they get into a 90-degree angle to the ground. Don’t rush! Lift your leg in a controlled way without momentum. Keep your legs straight and tight to each other. At the top, you may want to stop for 2-3 seconds and tighten your abs. That gives an extra boost to muscles.
  • In the lowering phase, also keep the slow and controlled motion. But, don’t pause too much at the starting position, try to make exercise as continuous as possible.
  • Depending on your level of fitness, do 8-20 reps.


Vertical knee raise form

Follow the same steps. Keep your knees close to each other and lift your lower body until your thighs are parallel to the floor. By moving your knees more toward your chest, you can increase contraction. The vertical chair knee raise is a good start for beginners.

Oblique side raises

The starting position is the same as if you were doing the leg lifts or knee raises. But, when you hang, you twist your body towards the front. This way, when you raise your legs straight, more load is put on the obliques (side abs).

Of course, side leg raises are much harder to perform. It is almost impossible to carry out with straight legs, so you can bend them a little for better focus. When you lower your legs, do it slowly. Don’t swing your legs.

Workout Tips

We were talking about that hanging leg raises are compound activities that strengthen multiple muscles at once. So, it’s easy to include it in your ab workout routine. If you perform 3-4 sets of front lifts and side lifts, you are ready with ab training for the day. I usually add them to my full-body workout.


You can use the dip station, as well. However, it’s much harder to perform the hanging leg raise since the dip machine has no back and arm pads for control. So, you may swing.

In a nutshell:

A leg lifts machine is a powerful ab workout equipment to work your entire core. So, use it at the gym. It’s also not a bad idea to get one for home; the power tower is the best choice.


James Wright

James (36) has been working out since he was 15 years old. He has a home gym where he pumps iron, does bodyweight workouts and boxing. He likes sharing his experiences with others who want to build a better physique.

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