I did 100 hanging leg raises every day for a month – here's what happened

This ab exercise totally transformed my core as well as my grip strength

woman performing hanging knee raises
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Workout challenges can be dumb, especially ones that involve your abs. Yet, we can't get enough of them, especially this close to beach body season. To help me get back on track with my workout routine after a couple of weeks on holiday, I decided to do 100 leg raises a day for a month and see what happens.

As the name suggests, hanging leg raises require a pull-up bar or a monkey bar. You hang from the bar with your body fully extended, brace your core, and lift your legs up. Sounds pretty straightforward, right?

Indeed, hanging leg raises are easy to comprehend but, like the most effective exercises, much harder to execute. The workout requires excellent grip strength, a rock-solid core, and solid hip flexors and hamstrings.

What happens to your body if you try doing 3,000 of them over a period of a month? Is it a good idea or too much to handle? There was only one way to find out. 

Grab the bar. Hold on tight. Hang. Brace, then lift and tuck your legs. Lower them again. Only 99 to go and you're done for today. Let's go!

Week one

Let’s talk abs. We all want them. Especially with the warmer months upon us. Sit-ups, Russian twists, and the plank are all effective, but did you know that hanging leg raises are among the most potent exercises you should include in the best core workout?

They are not only a fabulous way to enhance deep core strength, but they will also train your hip flexor muscles, forearms, and grip—and don’t I know it? 

After my first attempt at this 100-rep challenge, I managed only 20; my grip failed me, and I had to give my hands a good old shake before going again. I attempted another 20 before changing focus and doing some squats.

As such, the first week was all about strengthening my grip and doing my 100 reps in five rounds of 20, which seems manageable.

Lucky for me, I was quite surprised that each day, I could hold onto the bar for longer. I love how stretched and elongated my body felt as I hung onto the bar and raised my legs. I’m 5ft 2 in. - I hoped that by the end of this challenge I'd also be taller as well as stronger (one can hope).

Week two

As I continued with my 100 reps, I realised that I’d been doing the easier version, which involves tucking your legs up in front of you rather than keeping them straight.

Annoyingly, I found the straight-leg version too hard, so I kept on using my own tucked variation. My abs were still getting the best workout, and I loved that there was next to no pressure on my lower back as I hung and then crunched my legs up.

On the second week, I still did my five rounds of 20 reps, but I used less momentum and controlled my legs better, which meant my abs worked much harder.

By the end of the week, my grip strength felt stronger, and so did my shoulders and upper back, both of which worked super hard to support my body weight as I hung tough.

Horizontal color image of woman exercising on gymnastic bar.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Week three

As I progressed through the challenge, gripping onto a bar caused my hands to develop several calluses. It wasn't ideal, and my little boy complained that my hands were “scratchy.” He may as well get used to it; I was only halfway in.

By the third week, I was up to four rounds of 25 reps, and I started playing around by adding in a rotation of my knees, which hit my obliques. I tried a few with straight legs, too, but I won’t lie—my hip flexors feel too weak, and they tire out very quickly.

My aim was to work up to more reps and maybe add a few in here and there. I wasn't about to give up.

Week four

Mission complete!

After four weeks of doing hanging leg raises every day, I noticed a huge improvement in my core strength, coordination, and grip.

As I worked on the leg raises with straight legs, I also noticed that my hip flexor strength and hamstring flexibility improved as I lifted my legs up together to form a straight line perpendicular to the ground.

Granted, I only managed around 10 or 20 in each session, but they feel slightly easier, and I’ll keep working on doing more with my legs straight as I progress.

All in all, I loved this challenge. Hanging leg raises will absolutely remain a staple move in my workouts, but 100 reps a day? I think that’s a bit excessive. 100 a month will do just fine.

Lucy Miller
Freelance writer

Lucy Miller is a journalist, Level 3 Personal Trainer, Nutritional Advisor and Children’s Fitness Specialist. She holds fitness qualifications from NASM Training and Premier Training International and has been a fitness journalist and fitness (and cover) model for over 20 years. Since going freelance in 2014, Lucy left Men’s Fitness Magazine to write for an abundance of top consumer titles such as Women’s Health, Women’s Fitness, Waitrose, The Times, The Guardian and Runners World.

She’s also extremely passionate when it comes to educating others about health and physical activity and loves inspiring and working with children and adults to help make fitness fun, sustainable and accessible. In her spare time, Lucy is ever the sportswoman. Once a national gymnast, having won three national titles, she has also run a handful of marathons around the world and loves to test her physical and mental side with daily running and gym sessions, not to mention ballet, bootcamp, boxing and TRX.