What are Hanging Knee Raises

The hanging knee raise is a great core exercise that especially targets your lower abs. It requires you to hang from a pull-up bar or gymnastic rings with your feet off the ground and your body straight, and you will simply curl your knees up towards your chest whilst keeping your core engaged. This is a fantastic exercise if you want to get a ripped 6 pack abs, whilst simultaneously develop your grip strength. This will have a positive carry-over on to other calisthenics exercises such as the pull-up, chin-up, and muscle-up.

A study has found that core stability training, may enhance sports performance by providing a groundwork for higher force generation in the upper and lower body. Moreover, results from rehabilitation research have demonstrated the effectiveness of core stability exercises for reducing the probability of lower back and lower body injuries. 

What Muscles are Worked by Hanging Knee Raises

The hanging knee raise isolate the abs and build strength in the hip flexors. The primary muscles targeted are the abdominal muscles, which include the rectus abdominis, obliques, and hip flexors. The secondary muscles targeted are the quadriceps, latissimus dorsi, and forearms.

What Level is the Hanging Knee Raises

This is an intermediate-level exercise as you will require some basic upperbody strength to be able to hold yourself in a dead hang position for a period of time. If you can hang for 10 seconds, then you have what it takes to practice the hanging knee raise! If not, that’s okay because you can regress down to easier variations such as the lying leg raise, whilst practicing the dead hang the gradually develop your grip strength.

How to do Hanging Knee Raises

  1. Hang From The Bar

Begin by hanging from the bar with arms at shoulder-width apart, using a pronated grip. Your arms are locked out, your feet should be off the ground, and your body should be in a straight line. Engage your core to keep your body stationary. This is your starting position.

2. Curl Up Your Knees

Exhale as your raise your knees towards your chest at a controlled pace. Brace your core and keep your legs together to reduce the swing. Pause at the top position for a second.

3. Gradually Lower Down

Inhale as you lower your knees down back to the starting position. Focus on engaging your core during the eccentric phase to reduce body swing. Feel the abdominal muscles being worked!

4. Repeat

Repeat this movement between 6-20 reps for 4 sets, 3 times a week (see the recommended reps and sets ranges below). You can practice different variations within the hanging knee raises by changing the direction you raise your knees up, for example, by rating your knees up towards your side, you will target the obliques. Thus, it is highly recommended that you practice different variations to target different muscle groups within your core. 

Hanging Knee Raises Workout

  • Beginners should perform between 6-8 reps, for 4 sets, 3 times a week.
  • Intermediate level athletes should perform between 9-19 reps, for 4 sets, 3 times a week.
  • Advanced level athletes should perform 20+ reps or more for 4 sets, 3 times a week.

Rest between 60-90 seconds between sets. You should move on to harder variations once you have achieved your reps and set goals. Once you find hanging knee raises easy, you can progress onto hanging leg raises to increase the resistance on your core muscles. 

What are the Benefits of Hanging Knee Raises

Develop Core Strength 

Your core muscles are essential as they stabilize the center of your body so that the muscles of the carcass can pull against stable surfaces. For example, when you shoot a basketball or swing a tennis racket, your core should be contracted before your limbs start to work. Therefore, hanging knee raises will develop your core strength, which will boost your athletic performance. Moreover, it improves your posture, helping you to stall tall with your limbs in alignment.

Enhances Grip Strength 

This exercise will develop your grip strength as you are required to hang from the bar holding your own body weight against gravity. Your forearms size and strength will be advanced from just hanging alone! This will have carry-over benefits in other calisthenics exercises such as the pull-up, chin-up, and muscle-up. Moreover, a stronger grip will be beneficial for your everyday activities such as carrying a heavy load/object or opening a tight jar. How cool is that!!

Improve Stability in Shoulders and Upper Back

The hang will develop your shoulders and upper back muscles as they are passively being worked, which will prevent poor posture and back pains. Sitting at a computer for a long period of time can create pains in the shoulders, middle back, and lower back. Therefore, hanging knee raises can be an effective strategy to reduce this pain. 



Hanging Knee Raises Variations

Standing Knee Raises

Standing knee raises is the most basic form of knee raises that you can do. If you are a complete beginner, then this is the perfect exercise for you as it will develop your core muscles without having the perform the hang. There are two variations within this exercise alone. To perform this, you will:

  1. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. Your arms are by your sides and your core is tight. This is your starting position.
  2. Exhale as you gradually lift your right knee up towards your chest until your thigh is parallel to the ground (at a count of 2), whilst keeping your core engaged to keep your body in balance. Pause at the position for a second. Keep your back straight
  3. Inhale as you gradually return your right leg to the starting position (at a count of 2). Switch to the left leg and repeat.
  4. Alternate this movement for both legs between 10-20 reps for 4 sets. You can also raise your knee to the side of your torso to target the obliques. 

Roman Chair Knee Raises

This exercise is usually performed by using an exercise machine at the gym, where you will rest your forearms on the roman chair, however, it is not necessary because there is a great alternative that is accessible! You can simply place your forearms on a pair of high dip/parallel bars that you can probably find at your local park. This will work for the same muscle groups and give you the same benefits. To perform, this you will:

  1. Position yourself in an upright position in a roman chair by resting your forearms on the lever. If you do not have access to the roman chair, simply rest your forearms on the dip/parallel bars. Your legs should be together, your feet are off the ground, and your toes are pointed. Keep your core tight. This is your starting position.
  2. Exhale as you gradually raise your knees up until they are parallel to the ground (at a count of 2). Brace your core, and hold at the top position for a second. 
  3. Inhale as you lower your knees down to the starting position (at a count of 2). Keep your core tight to limit to swing.
  4. Repeat this movement between 8-20 reps for 4 sets.

Hanging Leg Raises

This is a progression from the hanging knee raises. It will require you to lift your legs up whilst keeping them straight until they're parallel to the ground. This variation is more challenging because it will require higher torque (force), which increases the load on your core. To perform this, you will:

  1. Hang from the bar using a pronated grip at shoulder-width apart. Your arms should be locked out and your feet are off the ground. Keep your core tight. This is your starting position.
  2. Exhale as you gradually raise your legs up until they’re parallel to the ground. Keep your feet together, toes pointed, quads, and glutes engaged. Hold at the top position briefly.
  3. Inhale as you slowly lower your legs back to the starting position, whilst keeping tension in your core and leg muscles to reduce the swing.
  4. Repeat this movement between 5-20 reps, for 4 sets. You can also raise your legs towards the side of your body to target the obliqes.

Hanging Weighted Knee Raises

Once you find the hanging knee raises comfortable, you should move on to this variation as it will put more load onto your core by utilizing a dumbbell. Start with a lower weight such as a 2KG dumbbell and gradually increase the weight as you get stronger. This will give your abs a good pump! To perform this, you will:

  1. Hang from the bar using a pronated grip at shoulder-width apart. Your arms are locked out, and in between your feet is a dumbbell. Squeeze the dumbbell with your feet to keep them stable and secued. This is your starting position.
  2. Exhale as you gradually raise your legs up until they’re parallel to the ground. Keep your feet together, toes pointed, quads, and glutes engaged. Hold at the top position briefly.
  3. Inhale as you slowly lower your legs back to the starting position, whilst keeping tension in your core and leg muscles to reduce the swing.
  4. Repeat this movement between 5-12 reps, for 4 sets. You can practice two more variations (see the image below) to put more emphasis on the obliques.

Other Core Exercises

Russian Twists

L Sits

Plank Based Workouts

Leg Raises

V Ups

Flutter Kicks

Side Leg Raises

Lying Leg Raises

Hanging Leg Raises

Reverse Crunches

Mountain Climber

About the Author

My name is Pat Chadwick, I am a calisthenics coach with over 4 years of experience in helping people from all backgrounds to achieve their calisthenics goals. My goal is to become the number one calisthenics coach in the world as it is my passion to help people change their lives through inspiring bodyweight movements. I believe everyone deserves the right to feel good about their health, body, and be delighted inside and out.