Pull-up bars don’t get a lot of credit for being such versatile pieces of exercise equipment. Of course, you can use a pull-up bar to sculpt your lats and arms, but did you know you can also use them to improve your core strength?
That’s right, pull-up bars are great for the core, too. Keep reading to learn about seven perfect pull-up bar exercises for abs you can try today.
1. Hanging Knee Raises
When it comes to doing core exercises on a pull-up bar, hanging knee raises are one of the first movements to master. This exercise will serve as a foundation for many of the other exercises included in this list. So it’s important to get comfortable with it before you move on to any of the more advanced progressions featured here.
To do this exercise, start by gripping the pull-up bar the same way you would if you were about to do a traditional, overhand grip pull-up. From here, follow these cues:
- Inhale and brace your core
- Exhale and tuck your hips under to engage your core
- Once your hips are tucked, bend your knees and slowly raise them up toward your chest.
- Hold this position for a second, then slowly lower your knees back down as you inhale.
Be sure to tuck your hips and re-engage your core at the beginning of each rep. Otherwise, your hip flexors will take over and end up doing a lot of the work for you.
If this version is too challenging, you can regress it by doing a version with alternating legs. Leave one leg hanging straight while you bring one knee up to your chest at a time.
2. Hanging Leg Raises
After you’re confident in your hanging knee raises, you can progress to hanging leg raises. Like knee raises, these are frequent staples for those who like to do ab workouts with a pull-up bar.
Start hanging leg raises the same way you would hanging knee raises. When you’re hanging comfortably for the bar (or at least as comfortable as dangling from a pull-up bar can be), do the following:
- Inhale and brace your core
- Tuck your hips under
- Exhale and raise your feet and legs without bending the knees
- Try to bring your legs so they’re parallel to the ground.
- Hold this position for a second, then lower the legs back down as you inhale and set up for another rep.
As with the hanging knee raises, you can regress this exercise slightly by lifting each leg one at a time instead of lifting them together.
3. Toes to Bar
When you’re comfortable doing basic pull-up bar core exercises like hanging knee and leg raises, you’ll likely be ready to move on to something more advanced, like toes to bar.
This is an awesome core exercise and a staple in most Crossfit workouts that will really get those abs working. It’s challenging for your lats and forearm muscles, too, since they have to work a lot to keep you stable and prevent you from falling from the bar.
Start by hanging from the bar as if you’re about to do a regular pull-up, then follow these cues:
- Inhale and swing your feet back behind you
- At the same time, squeeze the glutes and core muscles.
- Exhale and swing your legs forward, using a combination of momentum and core strength to swing your feet and toes all the way up to the bar
- When your feet touch, swing them back down and behind you to set up for another rep
4. Windshield Wipers
When the toes to bar exercise starts feeling too easy, try progressing it and showing those obliques some extra attention with windshield wipers. If you’re looking for a killer abs workout with the pull-up bar, windshield wipers are the perfect option.
Begin by hanging from the pull-up, and then perform one rep of the toes to bar exercise described before. When your feet and toes are touching the bar, do the following:
- Inhale and slowly lower your feet down toward one side, keeping your torso as still as possible
- Hold this position for a second, then exhale and raise your feet back up to the center position.
- Inhale and lower your feet down toward the other side, again, keeping your torso as still as possible
Be sure to do an even number of reps on each side when performing this exercise.
5. L-Sit Hang
Including some isometric work in your pull-up bar abs workout is a great way to increase strength and stability. L-sit will challenge your core muscles, for sure, but they’ll also help you to work on your grip strength and upper back strength.
To get into position for an L-sit hang, start by performing a hanging leg raise. When you’ve raised your legs up so that they’re parallel to the ground, engage your core, and hold this position for as long as you can.
Keep your hips tucked under as you hang in the L-sit position. That way, your core muscles are doing most of the work, instead of just your hip flexors.
6. L-Sit Hanging Twists
If you want to up the ante on your L-sit hang and bring some movement back into the routine, give L-sit hanging twists a try. This exercise is an excellent one for the obliques, and it also feels great to rotate the spine at the same time.
For these particular pull-up bar abdominal exercises, start by getting into a basic L-sit hang. From here, follow these cues:
- Inhale and make sure the core is engaged
- Exhale and slowly rotate the legs to one side, flexing the feet and keeping the hips tucked to maintain core engagement
- Inhale and return to the center position
- Exhale and rotate to the other side
7. Hanging Crunches
If you’ve ever watched the Rocky movies, you’re likely familiar with the idea of hanging crunches. Instead of tucking your feet up in the rafters of a barn, though, you can hang from a pull-up bar (or the monkey bars at your local playground, as shown in the video above).
When doing these pull up bar abs exercises, perform one rep of the toes to bar exercise. When the toes reach the bar, swing the legs up over the bar so that it rests underneath your knees, and you’re using your legs to stay in place.
When you feel secure, let go and slowly lower yourself so you’re hanging upside down (you might want to have someone close by who can spot you). From this point, follow these cues:
- Inhale and brace your core
- Exhale, engage your abs, and curl your torso up until you reach your knees
- Hold this position for a second, then lower back down and set up to do another rep.
Time to Test These Pull Up Bar Exercises for Abs
Pull-up bars aren’t just useful for upper body workouts. They also make for an incredible tool if you need help strengthening your core.
Keep this list of pull-up bar exercises for abs in mind so you can start building a strong and sculpted midsection today.