The Dirty Dozen Exercises: Move #4, The Hanging Abdominals

by Phil Ross on May 24, 2013


There is nothing sought after more than a set of “washboard abs.” A set of ripped, hard looking, abdominal region inspires awe and envy in everyone that sets eyes upon them. A “Cut Gut” is a sure telltale sign the the bearer is in incredible physical condition and that they “don’t have an ounce of fat” on them. How do we achieve these legendary abdominals of steel and sinew? How do we develop 6-pack abs that can withstand having cinder-blocks piled on it and being hit with a sledgehammer? Can we develop our midsection so that we can absorb a full power knee drive from a Muay Thai Fighter or an uppercut from a Prize Boxer?

First of all, having a “ripped” abdominal section is not necessarily indicative of abdominal strength. It not simply the appearance, but how did they get those abs? By simply starving themselves or as the result of serious, pointed abdominal training? There are some fitness experts that recommend a thousand abdominal repetitions per day or some type of fitness apparatus that they are undoubtedly paid to endorse. These machines may or may not work and I don’t know how many of us have the time to perform a thousand or more crunches a day. So how do we achieve these legendary abdominals that can withstand having a 2 x 4 broken over them, but fit the workout into our overloaded lives?


If you are engaged in a consistent Kettlebell and Bodyweight training regiment, your abdominals and core are already receiving a great deal of work. However, if you want to take it to the next level and maximize the “best bang for the buck” for your abdominals,  then Hanging Abdominal training is a must. You will discover that I do detest long, drawn out training sessions. Who has the time? How long can ANY of us effectively train while maintaining intensity and proper form? Plus – if you are an athlete, you want to leave time to practice your sports skills, not spend the bulk of your day with your strength and conditioning. If you are not a competitive athlete, you probably have work, family or social matters that require your attention. Use your time wisely.

There are several methods of practicing the hanging abdominals. or a beginner, I will recommend that you use (or purchase) the Dip, Pull-up & Ab Machine. The are available new for about $300, used for $100 or less. It will be the most useful apparatus that you ever purchase. No moving parts whatsoever. In addition to the video demonstrating the higher level abs, check out this one on YouTube.  It will show the machine. For beginners, simply raise your knees up to chest (or as high as you are able) while keeping your lumbar region (low back) pressed firmly against the back board of the machine. When you able to accomplish 20 repetitions with bent knees, then move to straight legged version and bring your legs up so that your heels are level with your waist. For the next level of this exercise, you bring your feet up to or above head level. Please remember to maintain a flat back against the back pad. Packing your shoulders and assuming a tall chest position are a must.


Once you are able to to perform the suspended abdominals, you are ready for the Hanging Abdominal training. There are three basic movements that I recommend. The Hanging Knee Lift, Jackknife and the Side to Side Jackknife. The easiest are the Hanging Knee Lift. Grasp a pull-up bar with your elbows straight and your shoulders packed. Do not allow for body sway. Contract your abs and raise your knees up to chest level. Work up to at least 20 repetitions prior to advancing toward the Jackknife Abs. For the straight Jackknife abs, assume the same position as during the Knee Lifts. Straighten your legs, steady your body and contract your abs as you raise your legs so that your feet are above the bar. Repeat. For the Side to Side Jackknife, simply raise your feet to one corner of the pull-up bar and then the other. This contra-lateral movement is incredible. As far as repetitions are concerned, start with 3 to 5 and then work your way up to 10 per set. Do not permit yourself to swing. You will not maximize the effect of the movement and you may expose yourself to injury. Packed shoulders, locked elbows and a steady body.

As always, train hard, train often and TRAIN SMART!

Coach Phil


About Phil Ross, Master RKC, 8th Degree Black Belt, Specialist in Bodyweight Strength and CK-FMS Certified. Phil Ross’ name is synonymous with Martial Arts and Fitness. He is known as the area’s Kettlebell King and has successfully competed on the National Level in…  Read more here.

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