Hanging Knee Raises are a great, often overlooked, core exercise that provides a ton of benefits.
In this guide, I’m going to teach you how to do a proper Hanging Knee Raise, what its benefits are and a few alternatives in case you need a substitution.
Table of Contents
How To Do Hanging Knee Raises
- Pull-Up Bar – Ideally a stand-alone pull-up bar or one connected to a squat rack although any sturdy object you can hang from will technically work.
- Abdominal Core Muscles (Rectus Femoris, Obliques Externus Abdominus)
- Quadriceps, Rectus Femoris
- Tensor Fasciae Latae (TFL)
- Secondarily: Back, Biceps and Forearms
- Find yourself a pull-up bar and grip the bar with an overhand grip
- Engage your lats so your body doesn’t go limp once you begin to hang
- Now hang from the bar and drive your knees up to hip height (or slightly above hip height)
- Finally, actively lower your legs back to the starting position – don’t allow the legs to just swing down
- Repeat for the designated number of reps
The biggest issue that most of my athletes run into when doing Hanging Knee Raises is how to keep from swinging.
To keep from swinging, you have to actively lower your legs back down. If you ‘let your legs go’ and just allow gravity to take over you’ll completely lose control of the movement. Timing and rhythm are both important for Knee Raises and you can’t achieve either if you’re not in control of your legs throughout the movement.
Hanging Knee Raise Benefits
The most obvious benefit of Hanging Knee Raises is that they are a great core exercise. Specifically, they target the lower abs (and hip flexors). The majority of core exercises – situps, crunches, etc – involve flexing the shoulders toward the core. Far fewer involve driving the legs toward the core and Hanging Knee Raises are a great example of one of those movements.
The benefits of Hanging Knee Raises extend beyond just the abs though. They are a great way to sneak grip training into your routine. A set of 15 to 20 Knee Raises will take most lifters 20 to 30 seconds. 3 sets can account for about 90 seconds of Bar Hang time.
And don’t forget about the back and shoulders as well. Having to stabilize the position of the upper body can be a workout in itself.
Hopefully, you can see now why Hanging Knee Raises can be such a powerful addition to your strength training routine. You really do get a whole lot of ‘bang for your buck’ with them.
Hanging Knee Raise Variations
Looking to change up your workout a bit, or maybe you need to make Hanging Knee Raises more challenging? Here are a few variations you can try out.
Weighted Hanging Knee Raises
The easiest way to make Hanging Knee Raises more challenging is to simply add resistance. The easiest way to do that is to hold a dumbbell with your feet.
Sit a dumbbell on it’s end and once you get to your starting position, grab the dumbbell in between your feet. This can be done by yourself, but sometimes it does help to have a partner help you get set up.
Knees to Elbows
Another way to increase the difficulty is to make the movement a little more complex.
Knees to Elbows demands that you not just raise your knees above your waistline, but that you bring them all the way up to touch your knees. This involves maintaining a greater flexed position in the elbow and slightly rolling the hips forward to get the knees to meet the elbows. They definitely raise the bar from regular Knee Raises.
Hanging Knee Raise Alternatives
If you can’t do Hanging Knee Raises, for whatever reason (lack of equipment, injury, etc), here are a few alternatives that you can try to substitute in their place.
Need more options? Here are my 8 favorite Hanging Knee Raise alternatives from beginner to advanced.
If you don’t have a pull-up bar or just aren’t ready for Knee Raises yet, Suitcase Crunches are a great alternative.
Suitcase Crunches are pretty close to the exact same movement, but with your butt on the ground instead of hanging in the air. Sit on the ground with legs extended straight out, six inches off the ground, and your torso leaned back at about a 45-degree angle.
Now, drive your knees and chest together (like closing a suitcase) and then extend back out. Keep your back and feet off the ground throughout the exercise.
Straight Leg Leg Raises
Another core exercise that doesn’t require you to have to hang off a bar are Straight Leg Leg Raises. They also focus on the lower abdominals and require no equipment to do.
Lay on your back with your hands out to the side or underneath your low back for support. Start with your feet six inches off the ground and, while keeping your legs straight, lift them up to 90 degrees from the floor. Lower back down to six inches and repeat.
More Links and Info
Looking for more Core Exercises? I have a growing collection in my Exercise Library, all with step-by-step instructions and all for free.