Working your way to a stronger core? Trying to target those lower abs? Ready for a challenge? Enter: hanging knee raises. This exercise specifically targets your lower abs, but you’ll also feel it in your forearms and legs. Here’s how it’s done.

Fast facts on hanging knee raises

What are hanging knee raises?

Hanging knee raises are a lower ab exercise consisting of lifting and lowering your knees to your chest while hanging on a pull-up bar. This move mainly targets your abdominal muscles, including your obliques, but also works your hip flexors.

What are the benefits of hanging knee raises?

Hanging knee raises can be a good way to learn isolation techniques and develop a strong core. They can challenge your grip and forearms too.

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Ready to master hanging knee raises? Make sure you go through each of the steps below.

How to do it:

  1. Start by hanging on a pull-up bar. Keep your body straight and use an overhand grip.
  2. Engage your core as you raise knees toward chest.
  3. Stop when thighs are parallel to the floor.
  4. Lower your legs slowly, returning to the starting position.

Try repeating 10 times (or your target number of reps).

Perfecting your form

Practicing proper form helps you get the most out of this move and prevents injuries. Here are some top tips for acing hanging knee raises:

  • Keep your back straight to avoid putting too much pressure on your spine.
  • Remember to engage your core *before* you raise your knees (this also protects your back).
  • Your movements should be slow and controlled. This means resisting the sweet temptation to swing your legs to lift your knees higher.
  • Don’t forget to breathe!
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Traditional hanging knee raises aren’t right for everyone. Here’s how to modify this move so it works for your workout.

Make it easier: Lying knee pull-in

The lying knee pull-in can help you build up your muscles if you’re not quite ready for hanging knee raises yet.

How to do it:

  1. Lie faceup on a mat with arms by your sides, palms facing down.
  2. Bend knees and raise your legs to a 90-degree angle.
  3. Exhale as you extend your legs forward. Try to touch the floor with your toes.
  4. Inhale to return to the starting position.

Make it harder: Hanging leg raises

Up for a challenge? Upgrade your lower ab game with hanging leg raises.

How to do it:

  1. Start by hanging on a pull-up bar with your body straight.
  2. Inhale and engage your abs.
  3. Raise legs straight in front of you. Try to lift them until they’re parallel to the floor.
  4. As you exhale, slowly lower your legs back to the starting position.

Change it up: Hanging knee raises with twist

Don’t get it twisted. Oh, wait — do get it twisted! This variation on hanging knee raises targets your obliques (the muscles on the sides of your core) instead of your central core muscles.

How to do it:

  1. Start by hanging on a pull-up bar.
  2. As you inhale, engage your core muscles.
  3. Lift knees across your body to your left until thighs are perpendicular to chest.
  4. Lower your legs, then repeat the movement on the right.

Here’s how to add hanging knee raises to your workout routine.

  • When should you do them? You can do hanging knee raises as a solo exercise (just make sure you warm up properly first). Wanna add this move to your existing workout routine? Try incorporating it after planks or lying ab exercises like crunches.
  • How many should you do? This will depend a lot on where you are on your fitness journey and what your goals are. If you’re just starting out, try completing 2–3 sets of 8–10 reps. (Pro tip: Forget the speed. Focus on proper form instead, and rest when you need it.)
  • Who should avoid them? Hanging knee raises require a lot of upper-body strength and awareness. So, if you’re recovering from an injury or surgery, talk with a certified trainer before trying this move.

Hanging knee raises aren’t the only core-crushing move in town. Here are some popular ways to switch up your routine.

1. Toes-to-bar

Toes-to-bar is an exercise that works many of the same muscles that hanging knee raises do. Research suggests that CrossFit moves like this one can help build endurance, strength, and flexibility.

How to do it:

  1. Grab a pull-up bar with an overhand grip, keeping your back straight and core engaged.
  2. Lift legs until your toes touch the bar.

2. Double crunch

Double crunches can help you build a stronger core. What’s so great about that? Among other benefits, a stronger core can increase your balance and improve your posture.

  1. Lie faceup on a mat with knees bent and feet hip-width apart. Place hands behind your head.
  2. As you engage abs, lift your upper body and lower body off the floor, bringing knees to elbows.
  3. Slowly return to your starting position.

3. Bicycle kicks

Bicycle kicks (aka bicycle crunches) come with tons of potential benefits. They can improve your coordination and increase your abdominal and hip flexor strength.

  1. Lie faceup on a mat with hands behind head and legs extended.
  2. Pull your right knee toward your left elbow.
  3. Return to the starting position and repeat the movement on the other side.
  • Hanging knee raises are a bodyweight exercise that targets your central core and lower abs.
  • You do them by lifting and lowering your knees while hanging on a pull-up bar.
  • Hanging knee raises require great upper-body strength. You can modify the move by doing it while lying down.
  • Double crunches and bicycle kicks are some alternatives to hanging knee raises.
  • If you’re not sure if this move is right for you, reach out to a certified personal trainer for advice.