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8 Hanging Knee Raise Alternatives

In a previous article we discussed the hanging knee raise and why it is responsible for abdominal development, gymnastics and bodyweight skills and movement, and enhancing core strength and aesthetics.

In the below article we discuss eight (8) hanging knee raises alternatives for coaches, athletes, and/or clients looking to diversify their fitness training.

8 Hanging Knee Raises Alternatives

Below is a comprehensive listing of eight (8) alternatives to the hanging knee raise that coaches and athletes can use nearly anywhere, and with any level of athlete. While these are not in exact order from least demanding to most, they do follow somewhat of a linear progression as you go down the list, so be sure choose your hanging knee raise alternative correctly based on the level of your lifter/athlete.

1. Lying Knee Pull In/Raise

This is nearly similar to the hanging knee raise, however since the lifter is lying on their back on the floor, they don’t need to have the upper body strength to support their entire body weight as they hang or showcase body control and awareness (unlike having to hang from a bar). This regression is good for individuals who lack strength in upper body and are looking to isolate the core more in the hanging knee raise variation or simply those who cannot perform such hanging knee raise movements. Lastly, anyone with an overhead injury (such as shoulder issues) could use the lying variation to increase core strength without the need to place the hands overhead in the hanging variation.

2. Hollow Rock Hold + Tuck

This alternative is a simple progression from the hollow rock hold, which then has the lifter perform a “double crunch”/leg pull in while in the hold position. This alternative is much more demanding than the previous exercise, primarily because the liter/athlete must also control their body in space.

3. Bicycle Kicks

This can be done lying on the floor, which entails a lifter to elevate their legs and shoulders off the ground and pull one knee into the chest, while the other knee stays extended and off the floor (leg/heel off the floor), then repeatedly alternative legs (like riding a bike). This will increase abdominal, hip flexor, and unilateral core strength and can help to pattern similar movements like the lying leg pull in and ultimately hanging knee raises.

4. Double Crunch

The double crunch is a basic bodyweight core exercise that entails a lifter to perform a crunch and lying knee pull in together. This is done by laying on the floor, with feet and hands starting fully extended and pulling both inwards toward the chest. This movement has some application and carryover to the hanging knee raise in that it engages similar movements patterns of the lower body and requires some body control and awareness.

5. Lying Leg Raises

Lying leg raises are performed by laying on the floor with the legs fully extended outward. This movement is slightly more challenging than hanging knee pull ins or tucks, as the longer the limbs are aware from the abs, the more stressful the movement is on the abs.

6. Dragon Flags

Dragon flags are an advanced bodyweight movement, which is a combination between a lying leg raise/lying knee pull in and double crunch. This movement can build core strength and help increase upper body strength as well specific to the hanging knee raise.

7. Strict Toes to Bar

This movement is an advanced progression of the hanging knee raise, often requiring greater upper body strength, core strength, and flexibility. This can be done to progress a lifter towards the toes to bar exercise or simply to progress them from a hanging knee raise towards a more challenging core movement.

8. Toes to Bar

Toes to bar, especially kipping, requires a great amount of core and grip strength, and total body awareness. Often seen in functional fitness workouts, this movement is an advanced progression of the hanging knee raise and can work many of the same muscle groups.

More Abdominal and Core Exercises

Take a look below at some of the popular core training articles and ab exercise guide below!

Featured Image: @jess_emily_x on Instagram

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Mike Dewar

Mike Dewar

Mike holds a Master's in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Mike has been with BarBend since 2016, where he covers Olympic weightlifting, sports performance training, and functional fitness. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at New York University, in which he works primarily with baseball, softball, track and field, cross country. Mike is also the Founder of J2FIT, a strength and conditioning brand in New York City that offers personal training, online programs for sports performance, and has an established USAW Olympic Weightlifting club.

In his first two years writing with BarBend, Mike has published over 500+ articles related to strength and conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, strength development, and fitness. Mike’s passion for fitness, strength training, and athletics was inspired by his athletic career in both football and baseball, in which he developed a deep respect for the barbell, speed training, and the acquisition on muscle.

Mike has extensive education and real-world experience in the realms of strength development, advanced sports conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, and human movement. He has a deep passion for Olympic weightlifting as well as functional fitness, old-school bodybuilding, and strength sports.

Outside of the gym, Mike is an avid outdoorsman and traveller, who takes annual hunting and fishing trips to Canada and other parts of the Midwest, and has made it a personal goal of his to travel to one new country, every year (he has made it to 10 in the past 3 years). Lastly, Mike runs Rugged Self, which is dedicated to enjoying the finer things in life; like a nice glass of whiskey (and a medium to full-bodied cigar) after a hard day of squatting with great conversations with his close friends and family.

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