Hanging knee raise lower abs exercise six pack

How to do the hanging knee raise for greater lower abs definition

The hanging knee raise should be a big part of your plan to sculpt a full set of lean, hard and defined abs and make your six-pack dream a reality, says New Body Plan founder and Men’s Fitness cover model Jon Lipsey

The hanging knee raise, alongside the reverse crunch, is one of the most popular lower abs exercises. It is also one of the most poorly executed. If you see someone doing them in the gym they’re likely to be swinging up and down with minimal abs tension. That tactic might tick off the reps. But it won’t help you get a rock-hard six-pack. Here’s what you need to know to get the most out of the move. 

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What is the hanging knee raise?

It’s a bodyweight exercise that targets your lower abs and it is performed while hanging from a bar. It also helps to increase grip strength because you’re hanging on for the duration of the set. 

Are hanging knee raises a beginner-friendly exercise?

It’s not particularly difficult from a technical point of view. But it does require a certain level of grip strength because you’re hanging from a bar. For that reason, you may also find it challenging if you’re comparatively heavy. The lighter you are, the less weight you have to support while you’re doing the move. 

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When should I do hanging knee raises? 

You can do hanging knee raises as part of your abs work at the end of a session. You can do them in combination with other exercises to target all parts of your abs. Try these best bodyweight abs moves to work your upper abs, side abs and lower abs. Or you can do them as part of this 10-minute lower abs workout to really target the lower portion of your abdominals muscles.

How often should I do hanging knee raises?

Doing them once or twice a week will work well. If you’re training your lower abs twice a week then you may do hanging knee raises in one of those sessions. You could do other lower abs moves in the other sessions. 

How many sets and reps should you do?

This depends but abs muscles tend to respond well to slightly higher rep ranges. So you could do anything from eight reps to 25 reps. Two to four sets of the hanging knee raise is a sensible number. Do two if you’re a beginner, three if you’re intermediate and four if you’re advanced. You could also do the move for time. Maybe 20 seconds per set for a beginner and slightly longer for more advanced exercisers. 

What kind of bar do I need?

Any bar will do. If the bar is straight, that would work well. If it is slightly angled to be kinder on your wrists, that’s fine too. You could even do it with a hammer grip where your palms face inwards. If you have the strength and stability, you can do the hanging knee raise using gymnastic rings.


How to do perfect hanging knee raises

• Hang from a bar with your arms straight.
• Contract your abs to bend your knees and bring your thighs up until they are just above parallel.
• Lower your knees slowly back to the start and repeat the move. 


How to get better at hanging knee raises

Push your knees together

Pushing your knees together when performing a hanging knee raise will improve the quality of abdominal muscle contraction. It does make each rep tougher but the pay off is a more sculpted six-pack. 

Don’t swing your knees

Resist the temptation to make reps easier by swinging your knees up and down. If you swing it is a sign that you’re not effectively applying tension to the target muscle. Failing to apply tension will undermine the effectiveness of every rep. So slow the reps down and  make sure your abs are powering the move. 

Practice dead hangs

It may be that it is your grip strength, rather than abdominal strength, that is your limiting factor. If that’s the case, practise dead hangs, where you hang on to the bar for as long as possible. Time your efforts and see if you can beat your best time whenever you give it a go. If you do this it will make bar exercises, such as the hanging knee raise, a lot easier.


How to make hanging knee raises easier

Regression move: Back-supported hanging knee raise

Do this beginner-friendly version of the main move if you find the standard hanging knee raise too difficult

In this version of the move, you perform it with your back resting against a support. The effect is that it removes the swing and helps you focus your effort on the lower abs muscles.


How to make hanging knee raises harder

Progress move: Weighted hanging knee raise

Do this advanced version when sets of 20 reps of hanging knee raises become pretty comfortable

If the standard version of the move is too easy, you can make it more challenging by adding external load. A good place to start is by using a light medicine ball. Place it between your knees and do it the same way that you’d perform a bodyweight hanging knee raise. 

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