Hanging Knee Raises – Muscles Worked, Exercise Demo, and Benefits

Abdominal development is not only something many athletes and fitness goers set as an aesthetic goal, it also serves as a basis for nearly every maximal strength, power, and human movement endeavor. Stronger abdominals, obliques, and lower back muscles can often equate to increased injury resilience and total body strength (when adequately programmed for).

Therefore, in this article we will discuss hanging knee raises, a bodyweight exercise that can be done to increase abdominal development, core stability, and set the foundation for further strength and athletic performance.

Muscles Worked

The hanging knee raise targets the anterior core muscles of the body, many of which are highlighted during other crunching and sit up movements. Unlike lying floor abdominal exercises, this exercise entails a lifter to support his/her body either in a Roman chain or from a pull up bar, which requires upper body strength, stamina, and control. Below are the primary muscles involved in the hanging knee raise movement.

  • Rectus Abdominis
  • Hip Flexors
  • Obliques (when knee raises are done to sides)
  • Latissimus Dorsi and Serratus (isometric contractions for support of body when hanging from bar)
  • Forearms and other grip muscles (when hanging from bar)

Hanging Knee Raises Exercise Demo

In the below video, the hanging knee raise is demonstrated. Note, this exercise is a regression of the hanging straight leg raise, which requires a greater amount of flexibility and core strength as the lifter must support the weight of the legs in the raise. Both movements can also be done to the sides to involve the obliques and increase complexity of this movement.

4 Benefits of Hanging Knee Raises

Below are four benefits of performing hanging knee raises, which can be done via Roman chair or hanging from a pull-up/gymnastics bar. Note, that many of these benefits are not necessarily specific to this exercise but rather to most hanging abdominal exercises, such as the L-sit, hanging leg raise, and even GHD sit up.

Abdominal Development

Sit ups, crunches, planks, and movements like the hanging knee raise all serve a purpose in developing a balanced and stable core. The hanging knee raise can be done to increase the muscular size and engagement of the rectus abdominis, which are responsible for core stability, bracing, and athletic movement.

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Hip Flexor Strength

Not only do hanging knee raises target the rectus abdominis, they also can enhance the strength and firing of the hip flexors, which are vital for explosive and repetitive movements such as jumping, running, sprinting, and bracing the core.

Midline Stability

Midline stability refers to the athlete’s ability to create muscular force and demonstrate control of the core muscles responsible for spinal integrity during human movement. Anti-rotational skills, muscular strength, and body awareness are all needed to resist excessive spinal extension/flexion/and rotational forces. Furthermore, enhancing midline stability can lead to increased performance in running economy, gymnastics and body control, and bracing capacities when under heavier loads.

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Foundational Bodyweight Core Movement

The beauty of this exercise is that is can serve as a foundational body weight exercise to develop the abdominals and movement patterning needed for more advanced bodyweight and gymnastics movements. Once a lifter has established baseline core strength and coordination, they can then start to expand their core training exercise lists and increase stability and performance.

Build a Better Core

Take a look at the below articles and learn how to integrate some core training exercise into your current fitness, weightlifting, powerlifting, and strongman routines.

Featured Image: @trainer_ritz on Instagram