How to Do a Vertical Knee Raise: Tips, Technique, Correct Form, Benefits and Common Mistakes

Vertical knee raises work on the lower portion of your abs. (Image via Pexels / Julia Larson)
Vertical knee raises work on the lower portion of your abs. (Image via Pexels / Julia Larson)
Soniya Y

Vertical knee raises are an effective way to work your abdominal muscles, with an emphasis on the lower portion of your abs. In addition to targeting your middle, the vertical knee raise can also help you strengthen your shoulders, upper back, buttocks, and thighs.

Once you perfect the move, try holding onto dumbbells or using ankle weights to make it even more challenging.

Let's take a look at how to correctly perform the vertical knee raise so you can see how it fits into your workout routine.

How to Do Vertical Knee Raises the Right Way

On the dip/raise machine, face forward, back against the pad and arms holding yourself up by resting on the parallel bars. There are hand grips at the ends of these bars, and there are foot bars you can step up on to get into position.

  • Inhale as you take your feet off the support and allow your legs to hang freely.
  • Exhale as you slowly bend your knees, lifting them toward your chest; control the motion as you bring your knees up until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • Inhale again and continue to bring your knees up as high as you can without rounding the upper back off of the backrest and looking down.
  • Your abs will work more once they are higher than parallel to the floor.
  • Slowly return to starting position, exhaling as you do so.

Tips and Techniques for Vertical Knee Raise


1) Using your hip flexors

Don't just rely on your rectus abdominis to do all the work in a knee raise. Use your hip flexors to pull your thighs towards your torso, too.

The hip flexors, not the rectus abdominis, are primarily responsible for moving your legs during a knee raise. They contract to pull your thigh towards your torso during the initial phase of the motion. The rectus abdominis activates isometrically— without changing in length— to stabilize your torso and pelvis as you lift your legs.

2) Target your rectus abdominis

The vertical knee raise targets the rectus abdominis, a long sheath of muscle that runs from your sternum to your hip. If you are lean enough, this muscle will show through, displaying the coveted “six-pack.” Its main function is spinal flexion—pulling your ribs toward your hip bone—which is what you do during a standard floor crunch.

3) Follow the right form

You can do a knee raise by hanging from a dip/raise machine, pullup bar or parallel bars. To do it correctly, brace your abs and inhale as you bend your knees and pull them toward your chest.

Once your thighs are parallel to the floor, continue the motion by rounding your back and flexing your waist until your knees almost touch your chest.

Benefits of Vertical Knee Raise

  • The vertical knee raise works your rectus abdominus and hip flexors. The rectus abdominus is responsible for spinal flexion, letting you sit up from a lying position and other motions involving pulling your chest down towards your hips. Your hip flexors are also doing the work of bringing up your knees during this exercise.
  • When you perform the vertical knee raise, your hip flexors are the muscles that do most of the work. Your rectus abdominus stabilizes your core during the exercise, but it doesn't actually bring up your knees.
  • It's a good idea to include the captain's chair exercise in your ab workout routine. The captain's chair exercise was ranked one of the most effective exercises for stimulating the rectus abdominus, as well as the internal and external obliques. That's because it requires gym equipment.

Common Mistakes

  • Don't drop your legs to the floor or you will lose half the benefit of the exercise. Bend your legs slowly and bring them back to the starting position.
  • Don't use momentum or swing your legs up and down, as that won't be doing any good for your abs.
  • When you're new to this exercise, keep your knees bent. If you extend your legs fully, you'll focus more on your hip flexors than on your abs and it will put more stress on your lower back. But as you get stronger, extend your knees for a deeper workout.

Bottom Line

Start slowly and build slowly. The results will come if you are consistent in your workouts and have good form.

Vertical knee raises can be a simple way to get a good core workout in, or they might be just what the doctor ordered when you need to spice up your rest day workouts or add some variety to your regular regimen.

There are many different ways that you can do these basic exercises, so it’s important to be diligent and find a variation that works best for you.

live poll LIVE POLL

Q. Hanging knee raise or Vertical knee raise?

Hanging knee raise

Vertical knee raises!

Edited by Sabine Algur


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