Hanging Knee Raises: Benefits, Muscles Worked, and How-To

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Hanging knee raises are a fundamental exercise in calisthenics and core training.

This simple yet effective movement targets the muscles of the abdominals and hip flexors, helping to build strength and stability in the core region.


Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced athlete, incorporating hanging knee raises into your workout routine can offer a plethora of benefits.

In this article, we’ll explore the various advantages of hanging knee raises, the muscles they work, and how to perform them correctly for optimal results.


Benefits of Hanging Knee Raises:

Core Strength:

Hanging knee raises primarily target the muscles of the core, including the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, and obliques.

By engaging these muscles, hanging knee raises help to improve core strength, stability, and endurance.


A strong core is essential for maintaining proper posture, preventing injuries, and enhancing athletic performance in various sports and activities.

Functional Movement:

The hanging knee raise is a functional exercise that mimics movements performed in everyday life and sports.


It involves lifting the knees towards the chest while hanging from a bar, which requires coordination, balance, and control.

By practicing this movement pattern, you can improve your overall functional fitness and make daily tasks easier to perform.


Hip Flexor Flexibility:

As you lift your knees towards your chest during hanging knee raises, you also stretch and strengthen the hip flexor muscles.

Over time, this can lead to increased flexibility and range of motion in the hips, which is beneficial for activities that require hip mobility, such as running, squatting, and jumping.


Scapular Stability:

Hanging from a bar while performing knee raises also engages the muscles of the shoulders and upper back, promoting scapular stability and strengthening the muscles that support proper posture.

This can help alleviate shoulder pain and reduce the risk of shoulder injuries, especially for individuals who spend long hours sitting or hunched over a computer.


Progression and Variation:

Hanging knee raises can be easily modified to suit different fitness levels and goals.

Beginners can start with bent knees and gradually progress to straight-leg raises for a greater challenge.


Additionally, variations such as twisting knee raises or hanging leg raises can target different areas of the core and add variety to your workouts.

Muscles Worked During Hanging Knee Raises:

Rectus Abdominis:

Located along the front of the abdomen, the rectus abdominis is often referred to as the “six-pack” muscle.


It contracts to lift the pelvis and bring the knees towards the chest during hanging knee raises, thereby flexing the spine.

Transverse Abdominis:

The transverse abdominis is a deep abdominal muscle that acts as a stabilizer for the spine and pelvis.


It contracts isometrically to maintain core stability throughout the movement, preventing excessive arching of the lower back.


The oblique muscles are located on the sides of the abdomen and assist in trunk rotation and lateral flexion.


During hanging knee raises, the obliques contract to help lift and stabilize the legs as they move towards the chest.

Hip Flexors:

The hip flexor muscles, including the iliopsoas and rectus femoris, are located at the front of the hip joint and are responsible for flexing the hip.


These muscles contract to lift the knees towards the chest during hanging knee raises, while also assisting in stabilizing the pelvis.

Shoulder Stabilizers:

Hanging from a bar requires the engagement of the muscles surrounding the shoulder joints, including the deltoids, trapezius, and rotator cuff muscles.


These muscles work to stabilize the shoulders and prevent excessive swinging or rocking during the exercise.

How to Perform Hanging Knee Raises:

Find a Stable Pull-Up Bar:

Begin by finding a sturdy and stable pull-up bar that is high enough off the ground to allow your legs to hang freely without touching the floor.


Grip the Bar:

Grasp the pull-up bar with an overhand grip, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.

Your arms should be fully extended, and your body should be hanging straight down with your feet off the ground.


Engage Your Core:

Before initiating the movement, engage your core muscles by drawing your navel towards your spine and bracing your abdominals.

Lift Your Knees:

Inhale as you bend your knees and lift them towards your chest, aiming to bring them as high as possible while maintaining control and stability.


Focus on using your abdominal muscles to initiate the movement rather than momentum.

Lower with Control:

Exhale as you slowly lower your legs back down to the starting position, maintaining tension in your core throughout the descent.


Avoid swinging or using momentum to lift or lower your legs.


Perform the desired number of repetitions, aiming for smooth and controlled movements with each repetition.


Start with a manageable number of reps and gradually increase as you build strength and endurance.

Tips for Proper Form:

Maintain a slight posterior pelvic tilt to prevent excessive arching of the lower back.


Keep your shoulders down and away from your ears to avoid shrugging.

Avoid swinging or using momentum to lift your legs, as this reduces the effectiveness of the exercise.


Focus on controlled breathing, inhaling as you lift your knees and exhaling as you lower them.

If you’re unable to lift your knees all the way to your chest, start with smaller movements and gradually work towards increasing your range of motion.



Hanging knee raises are an excellent exercise for strengthening the core muscles, improving hip flexor flexibility, and enhancing overall functional fitness.

By incorporating hanging knee raises into your workout routine and focusing on proper form and technique, you can reap the numerous benefits they offer and progress towards achieving your fitness goals.


Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced athlete, hanging knee raises are a versatile and effective exercise that can help you build a strong, stable, and resilient core.


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