Why Do Hanging Leg Raises Hurt My Back? Understanding the Causes and Finding Solutions

why do hanging leg raises hurt my back?

Why Do Hanging Leg Raises Hurt My Back? Understanding the Causes and Finding Solutions

Hanging leg raises are a popular exercise known for their ability to strengthen the core and target the abdominal muscles. However, it is not uncommon to experience back pain during this exercise.

If you’ve ever wondered why hanging leg raises hurt your back, this article is for you.

We’ll explore the causes behind this discomfort and provide valuable insights and solutions to help you overcome it.

Why Do Hanging Leg Raises Hurt My Back?

Hanging leg raises can cause back pain for several reasons. Firstly, poor form and posture or too much pelvic tilt (anterior or posterior) during the exercise can put excessive strain on the back, leading to discomfort. Additionally, swinging legs and lack of control contribute to the problem, as the back muscles bear the brunt of the uncontrolled movements. Factors such as being new to the exercise, muscle imbalances, a history of lower back pain or injury, and limited flexibility can also contribute to back pain during hanging leg raises. It’s crucial to address these issues by gradually progressing, focusing on proper form, addressing muscle imbalances, and incorporating alternative exercises when necessary. Seeking professional guidance and taking measures to prevent injuries are essential for a pain-free experience with hanging leg raises.

Muscles Used for Exercise

Hanging leg raises primarily engage the lower abdominal muscles, including the rectus abdominis and the hip flexors. These muscles play a crucial role in raising the legs while keeping the body stabilised. Proper muscle activation and control are essential to perform the exercise correctly and avoid straining the back.

However, if these muscles are weak or unconditioned, it can lead to excessive stress on the back, resulting in pain.

They Are New to You?

If you’re new to hanging leg raises, your body may not be accustomed to the movement, leading to discomfort or pain. Like any exercise, hanging leg raises require time for adaptation and strength building.

It’s important to start slowly, listen to your body, and gradually increase the intensity and volume of the exercise over time. Rushing into advanced variations or attempting too many repetitions too soon can strain your back muscles and cause pain.

Form and Posture

Maintaining correct form and posture is crucial during hanging leg raises to prevent back pain. Poor form can put excessive stress on the back, leading to discomfort or even injury. To ensure proper form, focus on engaging your core, keeping your spine neutral, and avoiding excessive arching or rounding of the lower back.

Imagine a string pulling your belly button towards the ceiling to help you maintain a stable and aligned posture throughout the exercise.

Warming Up and Cooling Down

Warming up before any exercise is essential to prepare your body for physical activity and prevent injuries. Prior to hanging leg raises, it’s recommended to engage in warm-up exercises that specifically target the core and warm up the lower back.

This could include exercises such as plank variations, pelvic tilts, or gentle back stretches. Cooling down afterward is equally important to stretch and relax the muscles involved. Incorporating exercises like cat-cow stretches or seated forward folds can help promote recovery and alleviate any post-exercise tension.

Pelvic Tilt

Pelvic tilt plays a significant role in the execution of hanging leg raises and can affect the strain on your back. Understanding the two main types of pelvic tilt, anterior and posterior, is crucial. Anterior pelvic tilt occurs when the front of the pelvis drops forward, exaggerating the natural curvature of the lower back.

This position can strain the lower back during hanging leg raises. On the other hand, posterior pelvic tilt involves tucking the tailbone under, engaging the core, and maintaining a neutral spine. To avoid back pain, focus on achieving a neutral pelvic position by engaging the core and tucking the tailbone slightly.

Your Weight

Your body weight can affect the difficulty and strain placed on your back during hanging leg raises. If you’re carrying excess weight, it can add additional stress to your lower back. Therefore, it’s important to maintain a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise.

Building overall strength, including core strength, can help distribute the load more effectively and reduce the strain on your back. Remember, a healthy weight is not only beneficial for your overall well-being but also for preventing exercise-related discomfort.

Swinging Legs and Lack of Control

One of the common issues encountered during hanging leg raises is swinging legs. Swinging legs not only reduce the effectiveness of the exercise but also place unnecessary stress on your back. Lack of control and momentum can contribute to this swinging motion.

To address this issue, focus on slow and controlled movements. Engage your core and use the strength of your abdominal muscles to lift your legs, rather than relying on momentum. Practice exercises that improve stability, such as hollow body holds or deadbugs, to develop better control over your movements.

History of Lower Back Pain or Previous Injury

If you have a history of lower back pain or previous back injuries, it’s essential to approach hanging leg raises with caution. Consultation with a healthcare professional or a qualified fitness instructor is highly recommended before attempting the exercise.

They can assess your condition and provide guidance on suitable modifications or alternative exercises that won’t aggravate your back. Real-life success stories of individuals who have overcome back pain through modifications can provide inspiration and motivation.

Related: Why Does My Head Hurt When I Do Planks?

Muscle Imbalances

Muscle imbalances can contribute to back pain during hanging leg raises. Imbalances between the abdominal muscles and the muscles of the lower back can put excessive strain on the back. Common imbalances include weak abdominal muscles and tight hip flexors.

To address these imbalances, it’s important to incorporate exercises and stretches that specifically target the weak muscles and release tension in the tight areas. Strengthening exercises like planks and variations of the bird dog exercise can help rebalance the muscles involved and reduce the risk of back pain.

Alternative Exercises

If hanging leg raises consistently cause discomfort or pain in your back, it may be necessary to explore alternative exercises that target the same muscle groups without the strain on your back. These exercises can offer a suitable replacement while you work on improving your core strength or addressing any underlying issues.

Examples of alternative exercises include reverse crunches, lying leg raises, or knee tucks on a stability ball. Experiment with different exercises to find the ones that work best for your body and goals.

Breathing Techniques

Proper breathing techniques can significantly enhance stability and reduce strain on the back during hanging leg raises. Focusing on your breath can help you engage your core and maintain control throughout the movement.

As you lift your legs, exhale slowly and fully, allowing your abdominal muscles to contract. Inhale deeply as you lower your legs. This controlled breathing pattern can help stabilise your core and provide support to your back.

Flexibility and Mobility

Limited flexibility and mobility can contribute to back pain during hanging leg raises. Specifically, tightness in the hips and hamstrings can restrict your range of motion and place more strain on the lower back. Prioritise flexibility and mobility exercises that target these areas to improve your overall movement and reduce the risk of discomfort.

Incorporate stretches such as the kneeling hip flexor stretch, seated forward fold, or standing hamstring stretch into your routine to improve flexibility and mobility.

Progression and Modifications

Progression and gradual difficulty increase are essential in any exercise program, including hanging leg raises. Rushing into advanced variations without building a solid foundation can lead to back pain. Begin with simpler variations, such as bent knee raises or knee tucks, and gradually progress to straight leg raises as your core strength improves.

Additionally, modifications can be made to accommodate pre-existing back issues or limitations. For instance, performing hanging knee tucks instead of full leg raises can reduce the strain on your back while still engaging the core effectively.

Injury Prevention Strategies

Injury prevention should be a priority when engaging in any exercise routine, including hanging leg raises. To minimise the risk of injuries, it’s crucial to listen to your body’s cues, avoid overexertion, and incorporate recovery strategies into your routine.

Rest days, adequate sleep, and proper nutrition are essential for recovery and injury prevention. Additionally, techniques like foam rolling, massage, or applying heat or ice to the affected areas can aid in relieving muscle soreness and preventing injuries.

Professional Guidance

Seeking guidance from a qualified fitness professional or healthcare provider is paramount, especially if you experience persistent back pain or have pre-existing conditions. They can offer personalised advice, modifications, and exercises tailored to your specific needs. Their expertise can help ensure that you perform hanging leg raises safely and effectively without compromising your back health.

Back Strengthening Workout

Here’s a workout routine that focuses on strengthening the lower back, which can help improve your performance in hanging leg raises:

  • Superman Hold: Lie face down on the floor with your arms extended forward. Lift your arms, chest, and legs off the ground simultaneously while squeezing your glutes and engaging your lower back muscles. Hold this position for 10-15 seconds and repeat for 3 sets.
  • Bird Dog: Start on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Extend your right arm forward while simultaneously extending your left leg backward. Engage your core and keep your back straight. Hold this position for a few seconds, then return to the starting position and switch sides. Perform 10-12 repetitions on each side for 3 sets.
  • Hyperextensions: Lie face down on a hyperextension bench or stability ball with your hips resting on the edge. Cross your arms in front of your chest or place your hands behind your head. Keeping your core engaged, lift your upper body until it forms a straight line with your legs. Lower back down slowly and repeat for 10-12 repetitions for 3 sets.
  • Glute Bridges: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground, hip-width apart. Engage your glutes and lift your hips off the ground, creating a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Hold the bridge position for a few seconds, then lower your hips back down. Perform 12-15 repetitions for 3 sets.
  • Reverse Plank: Sit on the ground with your legs extended in front of you. Place your hands on the ground behind your hips, fingers pointing towards your feet. Press through your hands and lift your hips off the ground until your body forms a straight line from your head to your heels. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds and repeat for 3 sets.

Remember to perform these exercises with proper form and start with weights or variations that challenge you but still allow you to maintain control and proper technique. Gradually increase the intensity and repetitions as your strength improves.

It’s always a good idea to consult with a fitness professional or healthcare provider before starting any new exercise routine, especially if you have a history of back pain or injury.

Related: Why Does the Ab Wheel Hurt My Back?


Why does my lower back hurt when I do hanging leg raises?

Lower back pain during hanging leg raises can be caused by several factors. Poor form and posture, swinging legs, lack of core control, muscle imbalances, a history of lower back pain or injury, and limited flexibility can all contribute to this discomfort. It’s important to address these factors and make necessary modifications to prevent and alleviate back pain during the exercise.

Are hanging leg raises good for your back?

Hanging leg raises can be beneficial for strengthening the core and targeting the abdominal muscles. However, they can also put strain on the back if not performed with proper form and control. It’s important to focus on maintaining proper posture, engaging the core, and progressing gradually to ensure the exercise is effective and safe for your back.

How do I stop my back from hurting when I do leg raises?

To alleviate back pain during leg raises, several strategies can be helpful. First, ensure you are maintaining correct form and posture throughout the exercise. Engage your core, keep your spine neutral, and avoid excessive swinging or arching of the lower back. Gradually progress the intensity and volume of the exercise, allowing your body time to adapt and build strength. Additionally, addressing muscle imbalances, improving flexibility and mobility, and seeking professional guidance can all contribute to reducing back pain during leg raises.

Are hanging leg raises bad for a herniated disc?

If you have a herniated disc, it’s crucial to approach hanging leg raises with caution. The exercise can put strain on the lower back, potentially exacerbating the condition. It’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional or a qualified fitness instructor to determine whether hanging leg raises are suitable for your specific condition. They can provide guidance on modifications or alternative exercises that won’t put excessive stress on the herniated disc, ensuring the safety and well-being of your back.

Final Thoughts…

Understanding why hanging leg raises hurt your back is crucial for preventing discomfort and injuries. By focusing on proper form, gradually progressing, addressing muscle imbalances, and incorporating alternative exercises, you can reduce the strain on your back and enjoy the benefits of this core-strengthening exercise.

Remember to listen to your body, prioritise safety, and consult with professionals when necessary. By doing so, you can develop a strong core, improve your overall fitness, and maintain a healthy back.

Do you experience back pain when doing hanging leg raises and have these tips helped? Let us know in the comments below.

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Beginners Upper Body Kettlebell Workout


Founder – Sport CBDs

Featured Image Attribution – Image by master1305 on Freepik

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