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How to Build Incredible Abs with Hanging Knee Raises

Upgrade your abs.

This extensive guide will teach you everything you need to know about hanging knee raises.

What are Hanging Knee Raises?

Hanging Knee Raises are a hanging bodyweight exercise that target the core and grip.

They involve hinging the lower body upwards with the legs in a tucked position and provide exceptional stimulus for the midline.

The movement brings together core and direct ab training into an incredibly effective and useful exercise.

What Muscles do Hanging Knee Raises Work?

The exercise is primarily a core movement. It strengthens, challenges and improves the following muscle groups.

External and Internal Obliques

These muscles help to stabilise the hips and spine, as well as support the general movement of the body.

Rectus Abdominis

These are more commonly referred to as the abs. Their purpose is to connect the ribcage to the pelvis and allow for twisting and flexion.

Hanging Knee Raises target the abs as a bottom-up movement. This provides new stimulus for hypertrophy of the abs. Think of the movement as working the body in the reverse direction of a standard Sit Up.

hanging knee raises

Hip Flexors

When performing the exercise, the athlete should contract the abs to pull the legs and knees upwards. However, due to the movement itself the hip flexors will also play a role

Grip and Forearms

During every set you must grip tight and hand onto the bar. This will develop and improve grip strength.

What are the Benefits of Hanging Knee Raises?

The exercise has many benefits.

Builds a Stronger Core

The movement is performed whilst the athlete is suspended in space. As a result, the core of the body must work exceptionally hard to stabilise the body and lift the legs.

Enhance the Abs

Hanging Knee Raises are an excellent way to construct your abs. Combine the exercise (programmed correctly) with an intelligent nutrition plan and you will see significant improvements with your six pack.

Build Better Overhead Skills

During the exercise the body must be held in place and balanced. This requires good shoulder mobility alongside strong forearms and grip.

All of these aspects of your fitness will be improved by the exercise.

How to Do Hanging Knee Raises

Use the following instructions to optimise your technique.

  • Grip the bar with hands shoulder width apart. Use a pronated grip
  • Hang with your legs fully extended underneath your body
  • Pause for a few seconds so that any sway or momentum is eliminated
  • Set the shoulder blades back and down. Fix the legs together
  • Inhale and brace the core, grip and glutes
  • Tense the abs into a hollow position
  • Bend the knees and lift the legs upwards and beyond 90 degrees of flexion
  • Pause and squeeze the abs as tightly as you can
  • Slowly lower the legs to the starting position
  • Exhale
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps

Training Tips for Hanging Knee Raises

Never use momentum to power each rep. If you find yourself swinging, return to the starting position and hang

Use straps if you want to simply target the abs but are struggling with holding on for long enough.

Hanging Knee Raises Variations

You can scale the exercise up or down with these variations, depending on how difficult or easy you would like the exercise to be.

Lying Knee Pull In

This is an easier version.

It will help you to practice a part of the movement whilst building up your core strength.

Before the exercise lying down on the floor.

Hanging Knee Raises with a Twist

This harder variation will force your obliques to work harder and takes the difficulty level up a notch.

Weighted Hanging Knee Raises

You can hold a dumbbell between your feet or a similar weight in order to make the lift more difficult.

Hanging Knee Raises with a Pause

At the top of the movement contract your abs as tightly as you can and pause for five seconds.

Hanging Knee Raises Alternatives

These alternatives will offer you new stimuli if you want to switch up your training and keep things fun and fresh.

Strict Toes to Bar

These are how you level up Hanging Knee Raises. This time you must lift your legs all the way up until your toes touch the bar.

This is an excellent way to develop strength, control and muscle.

toes to bar workoutsSource: Courtesy of CrossFit Inc.

Kipping Toes to Bar

Common in CrossFit®, this movement utilises momentum to lift the legs.  

Bicycle Kicks

Also known as Bicycle Crunches, this movement improves the abs, hip flexors and obliques.

Double Crunch

This Crunch variation maximises time under tension leading to increased hypertrophy.


Got more questions?

Are Hanging Knee raises Safe?

Yes, done with the correct technique they are a safe and effective exercise. As long as you have no major shoulder injuries you will be absolutely fine.

How Often should I Train the Hanging Knee Raise?

As a bodyweight exercise they are safe to perform them as often as you would like.

We would recommend going heavier and programming rest days if you are doing them to build muscle and strength.

How do I Add Weight to the Hanging Knee Raise?

The best way is to simply upgrade the exercise to Toes to Bar. Alternatively, you can grip a dumbbell between your knees or ankles.

What Part of the Abs do Hanging Knee Raises Work?

The exercise enhances the rectus abdominis, hip flexors and obliques.

Are Hanging Knee Raises Hard?

Hanging Knee Raises are a hard exercise, which is why they yield good results for you, your fitness and your body.

You can make them harder by upgrading to Toes to Bar.

Learn More

Add Nordic Curls or the Z Press into your training.

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