Pull-up bar ab workouts take advantage of the pull-up bar’s versatility to engage your core and build strength. It’s possible to develop a more defined midsection if you incorporate the right pull-up exercises and pace yourself accordingly.
Pull-up bars don’t get a lot of credit for being such versatile pieces of exercise equipment. Ab workouts done on the pull-up bar appear simple but require diligence and good form to be beneficial. Pull-up bars become effective tools for ab exercises once you’ve grown accustomed to foundational exercises like the hanging knee and hanging leg raises. Of course, you can use a pull-up bar to sculpt your lats and arms, but pull-up bars improve core strength in many ways.
Today, we’ll look at seven pull-up bar ab exercises, starting from basic ab workouts to more advanced pull-up bar exercises. We’ll provide steps to complete the exercises and some tips to keep in mind while on the pull-up bar.
1. Hanging Knee Raises
Hanging knee raises are one of the first movements to master for pull-up bar ab workouts. The exercise will serve as a foundation for many of the other ab 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
Hanging leg raises are a common type of pull-up bar exercise that we list among the best workouts for abs due to their focus on the lower abs. You should progress to hanging leg raises once you’re confident with hanging knee raises. Like knee raises, hanging leg raises 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 a hanging knee raise. When you’re hanging comfortably from he pull-up 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
Toes to bar are the next exercise you should progress to for a pull-up bar ab workout. The exercise is a suitable progression once you’re comfortable doing basic pull-up bar core exercises like hanging knee and leg raises. Once you are, you’ll be ready to move on to the more advanced toes to bar ab workout.
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
Windshield wipers are the next progression in a pull-up bar exercise centering on abs. Windshield wipers on a pull-up bar target the obliques and serve as a suitable follow-up to the toes-to-bar exercise. Try to progress once you’re comfortable with the latter.
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
L-sit hangs are isometric exercises that can be done as part of a pull-up bar ab workout. 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.
Follow the instructions below to complete an L-sit on a pull-up bar.
- 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
- 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
L-sit hanging twists are a variation of the L-sit hangs. Incorporate hanging twists into your pull-up bar ab routine if you want to up the ante on your L-sit hang and bring some movement back into the routine. L-sit hanging twists target the obliques and help 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
Hanging crunches are an advanced ab workout done with the pull-up bar. Hanging crunches are recognizable from the Rocky movies. 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 the pull-up bar ab workout, 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 workouts for abs
Pull-up bars aren’t just useful for upper-body workouts. Pull bars also make for a useful ab and core workout tool if you follow the right exercises. Keep our list of pull-up bar exercises in mind next time you’re at the gym. Appropriate incorporation and progression of the ab workouts will help you build a stronger, more sculpted midsection. Be sure to listen to your body throughout and keep to your limits. Consider working with an experienced trainer to get the most out of your pull-bar ab workouts and any other exercises you decide to incorporate.