Hanging Leg (Knee) Raise Alternatives: 10 Best Substitutes

Do you struggle to perform hanging leg or knee raises due to not having a bar to hang from or poor grip strength? Maybe you want some variation to your core workout? If so, this guide is what you’ve been searching for.

The hanging leg raise is one of the most challenging core exercises you can perform in your home gym, but this guide has the ultimate list of hanging leg raises alternative exercises you can do in your home gym.

If you find yourself in a situation where performing the hanging leg raise is impossible, there are many hanging leg raise alternatives you can use to activate your core effectively.

An excellent hanging leg raises alternative should work similar core muscles, giving you the same benefits. Some of the exercises in this list are easier to perform, while others are more difficult, making them suitable for all experience levels.

1. Power Tower Leg Raises 

This intermediate-level hanging leg raises alternative is the closest substitute you can get. The power tower supports your upper body with its armrests and back pad, reducing the difficulty of the movement.

Even though this substitute for hanging knee raises activates everything the standard hanging knee raise does, it doesn’t develop your grip strength. If you’ve found your grip strength is preventing you from performing the regular hanging leg or knee raise, then this alternative is an excellent choice.

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How to do it: 

  • Step up onto a power tower machine and place your back against the back pad and your elbows on the armrests.  
  • Remove your feet from the supports and let your legs hang vertically. 
  • Brace your core and raise your legs until they’re 90-degrees to the floor. (If this is too difficult, bend your knees up towards your chest). 
  • Slowly bring the legs back down, maintaining tension in your abdominals.  
  • Repeat to complete your set. 
Power Tower Leg Raises

2. V-Ups

If you’re looking to hit most of the muscles in your core and your hip flexors, then the V-up is a fantastic alternative hanging leg raise exercise.

As this movement involves lying on the floor, you need no equipment, and minimal space is required, making it the perfect solution if you're struggling for space in your home gym. It also removes any need for shoulder or arm strength as all the pressure is placed on your core muscles.

This is one of my favorite ab exercises that you can do anywhere. If you want to learn more of these easy and functional movements, read our full article.

How to do it: 

  • Lie on the floor (use a mat if you need to).  
  • Tighten your abdominals (imagine sucking your belly button towards your spine).  
  • Place your feet together and arms overhead so they are touching your ears. Your body should be in a straight line.  
  • Raise your legs and arms simultaneously, meeting in the middle until your body forms a V shape (hence the name).  
  • Slowly control the negative movement and repeat.  
V-Ups

3. Flat Bench Leg & Hip Raises 

This alternative to hanging leg raises is a more advanced movement and shouldn’t be attempted by beginners. It requires a massive amount of core strength to perform.

The movement uses a similar pattern to the hanging leg raises, except that you’re lying down on a bench.

The “hip raise” is optional during the exercise, as it increases the range of motion leading to more abdominal activation.

How to do it: 

  • Set a bench in a flat position.  
  • Lie down on the bench placing your head near the end.  
  • Raise your arms above your head and grab hold of the bench for support.  
  • Keeping your legs straight and feet together, raise your feet into the air.  
  • When your legs reach 90-degrees, lift your hips into the air towards the ceiling.  
  • Slowly return to the starting position and repeat.  
Flat Bench Leg & Hip Raises

4. Decline Leg Raise 

This alternative hanging leg raise exercise is similar to the standard leg raise; however, you use a decline bench rather than being on the floor.

Using a decline bench increases the force placed on the abs due to gravity acting on your legs as you raise them. Think of it as the halfway point between lying on the floor and hanging vertically on a bar.

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How to do it: 

  • Lie on a decline bench with your legs placed at the lowest end of the bench.  
  • Place your hands overhead and hold onto the bench.  
  • Tighten your core muscles, drawing your belly button towards your spine.  
  • Lift your legs upwards to 90-degrees, keeping them together and straight.  
  • Slowly lower and repeat.  
Decline Leg Raise

5. L-Sit Hold

This substitute for hanging leg raises is a more advanced movement. If you’re a beginner, move on to another exercises alternative for now.

The L-sit is a common training exercise for gymnasts as it’s a brutal core movement that places a significant requirement on the core. It differs from other exercises on this list as you don’t perform repetitions of this exercises; instead, you hold a position for a set time.

Even though it targets the abdominals, it works the hip flexors, quads, shoulders, traps, triceps, and lats.

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How to do it: 

  • Place a set of parallettes on the floor shoulder-width apart.  
  • Sit between them and hold each handle in a central position.  
  • Lift yourself off the floor and keep your legs out in front of your body at 90-degrees.  
  • Hold for a set time.  
L-Sit Hold

6. Stability Ball Knee Tucks 

This beginner-level alternative to hanging knee raise is an excellent exercise for stimulating your core muscles in more ways than one.  

It not only requires you to brace your core, but it requires wrist and shoulder stability too. There isn’t a muscle in the body that doesn’t work during this movement, although it primarily targets your abdominals.  

Garage Gym Pro Tip: Don’t let your body sag between reps, keep the tension in your abs.  

How to do it: 

  • Grab a stability ball and place it on the floor.  
  • Place yourself in front of the ball.  
  • Assume a push-up position but put your feet on the ball.  
  • Ensure your body is flat; suck your abs in tight.  
  • Bring your knees towards your chest, rolling the ball towards you.  
  • Roll the ball back out until your legs are straight again.  
Stability Ball Knee Tucks

7. Lying Down Leg Lowers 

The lying down leg lowers (lying down leg raise) is an excellent hanging leg raises alternative to perform at home. It predominantly works the transverses abdominis, the deepest layer of your abs. While you can’t see them, they’re vital for your overall core strength; they even help you develop a beach-ready 6-pack.

The movement is similar to the hanging leg raise, except that you’re lying down. 

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How to do it: 

  • Lie on the floor with your body straight.  
  • Place your hands under your glutes.  
  • Keep your feet together and legs straight; raise your legs until they’re 90-degrees to your body.  
  • Return to the starting position and repeat.  
Lying Down Leg Lowers

8. Bicycle Kicks 

This hanging knee raises alternative is a straightforward yet effective method of working your abs, hip flexors, and overall core strength.

It follows a similar movement pattern to the hanging leg raise but doesn't require any grip strength or shoulder stability. As a result, it's a perfect solution for beginners to build up overall core strength without worrying about a lack of upper body strength.

During this movement, your lower abs and obliques take quite the beating.

How to do it: 

  • Lie on the floor and place your hands on the floor at your sides.  
  • Raise your feet a few inches off the floor.  
  • Bend one knee and bring it towards your body.  
  • Bend the opposite leg towards your body while straightening the previous leg.  
  • Repeat until you’ve completed your set (you should look like you’re cycling).  

Garage Gym Pro Tip: If you want to work your obliques, you can twist up towards your knee, touching it with your opposite elbow.

Bicycle Kicks

9. Strict Toes to Bar 

The strict toes to bar exercise is a highly advanced alternative for hanging leg raises. If you can’t perform the standard leg raise, you’ll struggle with this substitute.

Your upper body works incredibly hard to stabilize itself during the movement as you raise your toes towards the bar. Muscles such as your rhomboids, lats, deltoids, biceps, and triceps are engaged throughout the movement. Obviously, this exercise works your core muscles too.

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How to do it: 

  • Stand under a pull-up bar or frame.  
  • Jump up and hold the bar with a wider than shoulder-width overhand grip.  
  • Retract your shoulder blades to create tension and brace your core muscles.  
  • Slowly lift your toes to the bar without bending the knees.  
  • Return to the starting position without swinging the body and repeat.  

Garage Gym Pro Tip: This movement is incredibly strict; there should be no swinging at all.

Strict Toes To Bar

10. Reverse Crunches 

Usually, the traditional crunch involves moving your upper body, which is nothing like the hanging leg raise. However, the reverse crunch is a brilliant alternative exercise for hanging leg raises as it involves raising your legs towards your body to work your core muscles.

It’s an excellent exercise for beginners to develop base strength in their core before moving on to more challenging movements.

How to do it: 

  • Lie on the floor and place your hands on the sides of your head.  
  • Lift your shoulders slightly off the floor to create tension in your abs and hold the position.  
  • Bend your legs towards your body and slowly reverse the movement.  

Garage Gym Pro Tip: Your legs are the movers; your upper body should remain still, creating tension in your abs.

Reverse Crunches

Are Hanging Leg Raise Substitutes Good? (Benefits Explained)

The hanging knee raise and the hanging knee raise alternative exercises provide exceptional benefits for your overall fitness, strength, and aesthetics. They’re suitable for all levels, except for the more advanced variations I’ve mentioned, such as L-sit and toes to bar leg raises.  

All of the exercises on the list above target the core in its entirety, while several of them work for other muscle groups too. The core has a significant effect on all of your other lifts. 

If it’s weak, your squats, deadlifts, and all other movements will suffer, leading to poorer workouts and less muscle development.  

However, by performing the hanging leg raise substitutes on this list, your lifts will improve, and movements such as pull-ups and other functional movements will become much easier to perform.


What To Avoid When Doing These Alternative Exercises

Arching Your Lower Back 

A common mistake is arching your lower back during the hanging knee raise alternatives, causing a lack of engagement in the core. Basically, you’re letting your core off the hook.  

Arching your lower back encourages your hip flexors to take over from your lower abs and glutes job, and this causes overactive hip flexors and underactive abdominals.

An excellent way to ensure you’re not arching your back is to suck your belly button into the floor (towards your spine).

Lowering Your Legs Too Fast  

By lowering your legs too fast, you’re allowing gravity to do the work for you rather than making your abdominals work hard to control your legs on the way down. You can avoid this by focusing on your movement speed and slowing the leg's movement during the negative portion of the exercise. 


People Also Ask (FAQs)

Why are leg raise alternatives so hard? 

In today’s society, we’re accustomed to sitting down for most of the day, which causes many areas of our body to become weak, such as the lower abs and other core muscles. Due to the leg raise alternatives targeting these areas, they often feel challenging at first.  

Do leg raise substitutes burn belly fat?  

Unfortunately, no exercises can target belly fat directly and specifically, not even abdominal exercises. However, the leg raise alternatives help develop the muscle under belly fat, so when you lose the weight you want, your six-pack is there waiting to be shown off on the beach.  

What muscles do hanging knee raise substitutes work? 

The main areas targeted during the hanging knee raise substitute exercises are the lower abs, hip flexors, obliques, and transverse abdominals. However, many of them also target the deltoids, biceps, triceps, quads, glutes, traps, and lats, depending on what variation you select.


Conclusion

The core is one area of the body you can’t afford to leave out of your workouts, and it’s responsible for bringing stability to all of your lifts, such as pull-ups, deadlifts, squats, and more.

One of the best ways to develop the core is hanging leg raises. However, they’re difficult to perform if you don’t have the correct equipment or body strength.

The alternative hanging leg raise exercises on the list above are the perfect solution for developing your core without performing the hanging leg raise.

Paul J

Last Updated on April 29, 2022