The Two Key Ab Building Exercises

key ab exercises

When it comes to sculpting a strong and defined core, the journey can often feel overwhelming with the multitude of exercises available. However, amidst the sea of options, there are two key ab building exercises that stand out for their effectiveness in targeting the entire abdominal region: Hanging Leg Raises and Cable Crunch Pulldowns. In this article, we’ll explore these two powerhouse exercises, breaking down their mechanics, variations, and how to incorporate them into your fitness routine for optimal results.

Hanging Leg Raises:

Hanging Leg Raises are a staple in any ab workout routine, renowned for their ability to target the lower abdominals, hip flexors, and overall core stability [1].


  1. Begin by hanging from the pull-up bar with a shoulder-width grip, ensuring your arms are fully extended.
  2. Engage your core muscles to stabilize your body and prevent swinging.
  3. With controlled movements, raise your legs upward until they are parallel to the ground or as high as you can comfortably go.
  4. Pause briefly at the top of the movement, then slowly lower your legs back to the starting position, maintaining control throughout the descent.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.


  • Knee Raises: If hanging leg raises are too challenging initially, you can start with knee raises, where you bend your knees and bring them towards your chest instead of lifting your legs straight.
  • Side-to-Side Leg Raises: To target the obliques more intensely, perform hanging leg raises while alternating lifting your legs to the sides in a controlled manner.
  • Weighted Leg Raises: Once you’ve mastered the basic form, you can increase the intensity by wearing ankle weights or holding a dumbbell between your feet.


  • Targets the lower abdominals effectively.
  • Improves hip flexor strength and flexibility.
  • Enhances overall core stability and coordination [2].

Cable Crunch Pulldowns:

Cable Crunch Pulldowns are another powerhouse exercise that targets the upper and mid-section of the rectus abdominis, as well as the obliques [3]. This exercise provides constant tension throughout the movement, making it a highly effective choice for building abdominal strength and definition.


  1. Attach a rope handle to a high pulley on a cable machine and set an appropriate weight.
  2. Kneel down facing away from the machine, grabbing the rope with both hands and positioning them beside your head.
  3. Keeping your hips stationary, engage your core and slowly flex your spine, bringing your elbows towards your thighs.
  4. Pause briefly at the bottom of the movement, squeezing your abs, then slowly return to the starting position under control.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.


  • Oblique Cable Crunch: To target the obliques more directly, perform the cable crunch pulldown while rotating your torso slightly to each side with each repetition.
  • Single-Arm Cable Crunch: For unilateral core engagement, perform the cable crunch pulldown with one arm at a time, focusing on maintaining stability and balance.


  • Provides constant tension on the abdominal muscles throughout the entire range of motion.
  • Targets the upper and mid-section of the rectus abdominis effectively.
  • Enhances overall core stability and strength [4].

Incorporating These Key Ab Exercises Into Your Routine:

To maximise the benefits of these two key ab building exercises, consider incorporating them into your routine 2-3 times per week, alternating between them or combining them into a single workout session. Start with 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions for each exercise, focusing on maintaining proper form and controlled movements.

Building a strong and defined core is essential for overall strength, stability, and aesthetics. By mastering the Hanging Leg Raises and Cable Crunch Pulldowns, you can effectively target all areas of your abdominal muscles and work towards achieving your fitness goals. Remember to progressively overload your workouts, listen to your body, and maintain consistency to see the best results. With dedication and determination, you’ll be well on your way to a stronger, more sculpted core.


  1. Schoenfeld, B. J. (2011). The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(10), 2857-2872.
  2. Escamilla, R. F., et al. (2014). Core muscle activation during Swiss ball and traditional abdominal exercises. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 40(5), 265-276.
  3. Signorile, J. F., et al. (2002). The effect of a very high-repetition weight-training protocol on muscular endurance and the relationship between muscular endurance and aesthetic muscle appearance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 16(4), 696-696.
  4. Camara, K. D., et al. (2016). An examination of muscle activation and power characteristics while performing the deadlift exercise with straight and hexagonal barbells. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 30(5), 1183-1188.