Are you ready to challenge your body and build a stronger core? In that case, you should definitely start doing a pull-up bar ab workout.
Using a pull-up bar can help you build the physique you want, and the compound movement benefits your entire body.
This guide will show you the best ab workouts, including some advanced hanging ab exercises, and tell you everything you need to know to get a great workout.
Table of Contents
- 10 Best Ab Exercises On The Pull Up Bar
- Who Should Be Training Abs On The Pull-Up Bar?
- How Effective Is Training Your Abs On Pull-Up Bar?
- Pull Up Bar Ab Workouts (6-Pack Routine For All Levels)
- Frequently Asked Pull Up Bar Ab Workout Questions
10 Best Ab Exercises On The Pull Up Bar
1. Hanging Knee Raise
A hanging knee raise is the first pull-up bar ab exercise that beginners should master.
It's easier than a regular leg raise but still trains your upper body and lower core muscles to help you develop a lean physique.
Hanging knee raises will help you to dramatically strengthen your core and improve your balance and posture.
They’ll also help to improve your grip strength which makes other hanging ab exercises easier.
Forearms, shoulders, lower abdominals (particularly rectus abdominis), hip flexors, obliques.
- 1Grip the pull-up bar with an overhand grip and just let your body hang down with straight legs.
- 2Bend your knees and engage your abdominal muscles to raise them until your thighs are almost parallel to the floor.
- 3Extend your legs back down until you’re back in the dead hang starting position.
- 4Repeat for 10-15 reps.
This is one of the entry-level hanging ab exercises for beginners, so take your time and focus on form.
Keep your knees bent throughout the motion to engage your core. Once you can do 3 sets of 15, move on to a hanging leg raise.
Suggested Equipment - Best Wall-Mounted Pull Up Bars
2. Hanging Single Knee Raise
A hanging single knee raise uses the same motion, but you alternate which knee you raise upwards.
This is a more challenging version of the exercise because your core has to do more work to control the coordinated movement.
Incorporating hanging single knee raises into your routine pushes your abdominal muscles and can improve your flexibility and functional strength.
Forearms, shoulders, lower abdominals (particularly rectus abdominis, hip flexors, obliques.
This hanging knee raise variation basically works all the same muscle groups as a regular knee raise but uses your entire core to stabilize your upper body.
- 1Grip the pull-up bar with your hands shoulder-width apart.
- 2Drop into a dead hang with your legs straight.
- 3Keeping one leg straight, bend the other knee upwards until your thigh is parallel to the floor.
- 4Pause at the top, and then lower your hanging knee back down in a slow, controlled motion.
- 5Once you return to starting position, repeat the movement with your other leg.
- 6Repeat for 12-15 reps on each side.
Try not to move your whole body from side to side as you alternate your leg movements. Keep your upper body still and really force your entire core to power the lift.
The L-hang makes full use of your pull-up bar to build your abs. The hanging position really engages your core, but there is very little movement, so it's kind of like a plank for pull-up bars.
The L-hang is one of the best beginner pull-up bar exercises for abs, and because you're in a neutral position throughout, it's very difficult to get the form wrong.
Forearms, shoulders, upper back, obliques, full abdominals.
- 1Grip the bar and drop into the hanging position.
- 2Pull your legs together and keep them straight.
- 3Raise them up so they are roughly parallel to the floor. Your body should form an L shape.
- 4Hold this position for 15-30 seconds, and then slowly lower back down to starting position.
This exercise is about using your core to hold the L position.
Try to increase the time you hold it by a few seconds at a time, and once your reach 60 seconds, you should consider moving on to a harder exercise.
Suggested Equipment - Best Ceiling Mounted Pull Up Bars
4. Hanging Knee Raise Twist
This alternative to a standard hanging knee raise helps introduces horizontal movement into the mix.
By raising your knees up and to the side, you use your lats and entire core to stabilize your body, engaging your ab muscles more effectively than other hanging core exercises.
This is one of the best pull-up bar exercises for abs and is perfect for beginners. If you've mastered the regular hanging knee twist, this is definitely one to try.
Forearms, shoulders, internal and external obliques, full abdominals, hip flexors, lats.
- 1Grip the pull-up bar with an overhand grip, arms about shoulder-width apart.
- 2Start in the hanging position with straight legs.
- 3Bend your knees and engage your abdominal muscles to raise them until you’re in a hanging knee tuck with thighs almost parallel to the floor.
- 4Keep your knees tucked together, and lift them to one side and upwards until they are around chest height.
- 5Pause at the top and engage your abs. Then, move your hanging knees back to the middle and extend your legs back down until you’re back in a dead hang.
- 6Repeat the exercise but lift your knees to the other side of your body.
- 7Aiim for 10-15 reps on each side.
Hanging knee raise twists are basically hanging crunches.
When going from the hanging knee tuck position and crunching upwards, try to keep it controlled and focus on keeping your upper body out of the equation.
This will put all the tension on your core.
5. Hanging Leg Raise
A hanging leg raise is a popular ab exercise because it engages multiple muscle groups at once.
It's the more challenging version of a hanging knee raise, and by keeping your knees straight, you increase the load on your abs, giving you greater gains.
It's one of the most useful pull-up bar exercises for intermediate lifters who are ready to take it up a notch.
Forearms, shoulders, upper back, lats, full abdominals, adductors, hip flexors.
- 1Grap the pull-up bar with an overhand grip and hands shoulder-width apart.
- 2Keep your legs straight, and raise them forward. Engage your core to keep your torso stable.
- 3When your legs reach a 90-degree angle, pause and squeeze your core.
- 4Slowly lower your legs to starting position to complete the exercise.
- 5Repeat for 10-15 reps.
Keep your legs straight during this pull-up bar exercise to really work your core.
If you're struggling, it probably means you lack hamstring flexibility, and you'll need to train them separately.
Don’t be too worried if you have to bend your knees slightly during a hanging leg raise, just to try to keep the slight bend consistent throughout all your sets.
6. Hanging Alternating Single Leg Raise
If you find the hanging straight leg raise too easy, then it's time to raise the bar (not literally, though).
Alternating leg raises force your core to work harder to control the movement one side at a time.
You'll also need better coordination to raise one leg, which can lead to a better mind-muscle connection with your abs.
This is an intermediate exercise and should only be attempted once you’ve mastered the double leg raise.
This exercise is a great alternative to side planks since it works the same muscles and puts slightly more emphasis on your obliques.
Forearms, shoulders, upper back, inner and outer obliques, lats, full abdominals, adductors, hip flexors.
- 1Grab the pull-up bar with an overhand grip and hands shoulder-width apart.
- 2Let your legs dangle down and relax your leg muscles
- 3Engage your core, and then, keeping your legs straight, raise one of them forward until it gets to about hip height
- 4Keep your core tight, and slowly lower the straight leg back down.
- 5Repeat with the other leg and keep alternating (sort of like your legs are hanging scissors).
- 6Aim for 15-20 reps on each leg.
This exercise helps you build your core strength on both sides of your body; however, you may naturally have greater core strength on one side than the other.
This can lead you to rush the movement on one side, so make sure you keep your legs moving in a slow and controlled way.
Keep both legs straight throughout the exercise. If you have your legs bent, then it puts strain on your leg muscles instead of your core.
7. Knees to Elbows
Knees to elbows are slightly easier than a hanging leg raise because you can use your whole body to support the movement.
They're great for building your core and developing greater flexibility in your hips.
Forearms, shoulders, upper back, lats, full abdominals, adductors, hip flexors.
- 1Grab the bar with an underhand grip and keep your legs extended.
- 2Drive your hips up and forward, and bend your knees as you move your legs forward.
- 3Raise your knees up to the tips of your elbows and hold.
- 4Slowly return to the starting position and repeat for 12-15 reps.
Control your downward motion and keep it slow to maximize the benefits to your abdominals.
8. Windshield Wipers
Windshield wipers build on the L hang by adding in some lateral movement.
By lifting and pulling your legs up to the bar, you put more strain on your obliques to raise your body in a controlled manner.
This is one of the best abs exercises for a shredded physique, but it may be too challenging for beginners.
Forearms, shoulders, internal and external obliques (massively!), full abdominals, hip flexors, lats.
- 1Hang straight down on the bar with your shoulder blades and lower body relaxed.
- 2Engage your abs and lift your legs until your toes are over hip height. Keep your legs straight and together. Your body should now form an L shape.
- 3Move your legs from side to side, slightly twisting your upper body as you go. Your feet should move in a semi-circle from one side to another, just like windshield wipers in the rain.
- 4Repeat this for 12-18 reps and then lower back to where you started.
It’s natural to have a slight bend in your legs during the movement.
Just make sure you engage your abs and focus on keeping your shoulder blades relaxed so that the exercise primarily targets your core.
9. Toes to Bar
This is one of the most challenging hanging exercises for your core.
It massively improves your grip strength and works almost your entire body, so it’s definitely one of the core exercises you need to be doing if you want to get shredded.
Toes to bar is a more advanced variation on standard leg raises, and the exercise isn't for beginners. Make sure you only attempt it once you're comfortable on the pull-up bar.
If you don't feel comfortable performing this movement yet, don't worry! Check out our guide to the best toes to bar substitute exercises.
Forearms, shoulders, upper back, inner and outer obliques, lats, full abdominals, hip flexors, quadriceps.
- 1Start by hanging on the bar with your hands just wider than shoulder-width apart and your legs straight.
- 2Engage your core and lift your feet upwards over your entire body until your toes touch the bar.
- 3Hold your toes to the bar for a few seconds, and then slowly lower back to starting position.
- 4Repeat for 12-15 reps.
Make sure you keep your core in control the entire time and don’t use your momentum to swing your legs up and down.
10. Hanging Around the World
This exercise is sometimes called hanging knee circles and is similar to windshield wipers.
The key difference is that you move your knees in as big a circle as possible so fully engage your core muscles.
It sounds simple, but it’s one of the most challenging core exercises that you shouldn’t even attempt until you’ve mastered windshield wipers fully.
Forearms, shoulders, internal and external obliques, full abdominals, hip flexors, lats.
- 1Grap the bar with an overhand grip and arms around shoulder width apart.
- 2Bring your knees up in front of you.
- 3Move your knees and lower body in a circle, going left to right, then down, round, and back up.
- 4Go back to starting position and repeat for 12-15 reps.
Once you've mastered the movement, you can make it even harder by doing the ab clock exercise:
As you move your lower body in a circle, imagine it's going round a clock face. You need to pause on every single number for a moment before moving on to the next one.
This is seriously tough, but it's great for building a strong core.
Related Article - DIY Freestanding Pull Up Bar
Who Should Be Training Abs On The Pull-Up Bar?
Pull-up bar exercises aren't always the go-to option, but let's take a closer look at who will really benefit from it:
It can be intimidating when you're a beginner, and a pull-up bar can make you feel exposed, but there's no reason why a beginner shouldn't be doing pull-up bar exercises.
Prerequisites for beginners:
Grip strength - you need to be able to hold your body weight on a bar for 45 seconds
Benefits for beginners:
2. Advanced Lifters
As an advanced lifter, you probably know you'll be able to do the exercises listed above, but is it worth your time?
The answer is very much yes, because the compound movement can make your workouts more efficient.
Prerequisites for advanced lifters:
Grip strength which can support your body weight
Coordination to perform more challenging variations
Benefits for advanced lifters:
How Effective Is Training Your Abs On Pull-Up Bar?
Many people choose to perform individual abdominal exercises.
While these can be effective, compound lifts and movements are generally more effective at helping you build a strong foundation in your core.
Pull-ups are the ultimate compound exercise, so it's not surprising that using a pull-up bar to train your core has some key advantages:
Better Core Engagement
Hanging ab exercises are effective because your abs are engaged the entire time.
You're constantly fighting against gravity, and this means your core has to work harder, leading to greater muscle growth.
Pull-up bars also make it easier to target your lower abs because the movement forces them to kick into action.
This gives you a more even physique, and it's why a lot of personal trainers use them in their lower abs workouts.
Functional Strength Training
Pull-up ab exercises help improve your grip strength and engage your upper body and core. This makes your whole body stronger and more functional and can make other workouts easier.
Accessible For Everyone
One of the main reasons that pull-up ab workouts are so effective is because there's something for everyone.
There is a wide range of different movements which work for people of all abilities, and the only equipment you need is a doorway pull-up bar.
Accessible exercises mean no excuses and make it easier to get the body you want.
Pull Up Bar Ab Workouts (6-Pack Routine For All Levels)
Workout Routine For Beginners
This is the perfect ab workout on pull-up bar for those who are just starting out.
You'll likely have limited grip strength at this point, so each of the exercises are shorter but still look to engage your abs fully:
Rest for at least 30 seconds between sets and 45-60 seconds between exercises.
Workout Routine For Intermediate
If you already know how to workout abs on a pull-up bar, then this workout is a good step up.
It has some more challenging exercises which engage your obliques more and require better grip strength:
Aim for 30 seconds of rest between sets, but where you can try to perform each exercise back to back to increase your endurance.
Workout Routine For Advanced
If you want really defined abs, then this advanced workout is for you.
It requires a very strong grip and a lot of core strength, and you need to be able to work your upper and lower body simultaneously without fatiguing.
Try to keep your rest time under 30 seconds between each set to maximize the gains and burn more body fat.
Frequently Asked Pull Up Bar Ab Workout Questions
Can you get abs from a pull-up bar only?
Technically, yes, just performing abdominal exercises on a pull-up bar can give you abs; however, you will need to get below 13-14% body fat for real six-pack abs.
Will pull-ups help lose belly fat?
Yes, pull-ups will help you burn calories and can help improve your overall calorie burning capacity, so you lose belly fat more quickly.
However, you will need to be at a prolonged calorie deficit to reduce your overall body fat.
How often should I train my abs?
Training your abs 2-3 times a week will help you maximize muscle development without overdoing it.
How long does it take to get a six-pack with pull-up bar?
No matter how strong your abs are, you need a very low body fat percentage to get a six-pack, and it can take anywhere from 3 months to 2 years.
The best pull-up bar ab exercises are a full body workout, but with a particular focus on your upper and lower abs.
They let you train more efficiently and build functional strength, but most importantly, they can help you build six-pack abs.
Hopefully, this guide has shown you that pull-up bars aren't just for pull-ups and has given you some useful new exercises to incorporate into your routine.
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Last Updated on November 10, 2022