Knee Pull-Ins: Proper Form, Muscles Worked, Benefits And Common Mistakes To Avoid

As “working from home” has become the new norm in recent years, it’s no surprise that more and more people are on the hunt for effective “home workouts.” And drawing from my two decades of experience as a fitness professional, I’ve noticed that, for many, the arms, chest, and abs/core take the spotlight (with glutes not far behind, especially for women).

Knee pull-ins can be a great addition to your at-home workout toolbox, and let me tell you, they’re a real powerhouse for your core! These moves zero in on your lower belly muscles, giving your abs and core some serious strength.

When done correctly, they can even help you achieve those enviable abs (with some dietary adjustments, of course) and improve your posture. The key is getting the technique just right to reap all those fantastic benefits.

But guess what? Knee pull-ins are more than just a workout. They’re like the first step to learning how to do hanging leg raises. Doing knee pull-ins helps make your core strong and helps your core work well with your back. This makes your lower belly muscles even tougher and your core really steady.

In this article, we’re going to get into the nitty-gritty of knee pull-ins. I’ll walk you through the right way to do them, the muscles they target, the awesome perks they offer, and I’ll also give you some pointers to steer clear of those common slip-ups.

What Are Knee Pull Ins?

Knee pull-ins represent a specific kind of exercise aimed at concentrating on the muscles in your lower abdomen. This movement involves lying on your back and bringing your knees closer to your chest, effectively engaging the muscles in your core.

This particular exercise is highly effective for working on your abdominal muscles and enhancing the strength of your core. Correctly performing knee pull-ins can contribute to developing more distinct abdominal muscles and enhancing your overall posture.

These pull-ins are considered a core exercise designed to zero in on the muscles located in your lower abdomen. It can be seen as a variation of the leg raise exercise; however, instead of lifting your legs directly upwards, the focus is on bending your knees and drawing them towards your chest. This modification proves beneficial in activating the lower abdominal muscles in a more efficient manner.

How to do the Knee Pull ins

Knee pull-ins provide an effective core workout and are performed as follows:

  1. Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. You can use an exercise mat for comfort.
  2. Position your hands behind your head, elbows wide, or place them beside your upper body for support.
  3. Engage your abdominal muscles to lift your head and shoulders off the floor. Simultaneously, bring your knees in toward your chest, ensuring your core remains tight throughout the movement.
  4. Return to the starting position with control, and repeat the motion for the desired number of repetitions.

Note: If you have a history of lower back issues, it might be better to substitute the knee pull-in exercise with an alternative exercise to avoid discomfort.

Additionally, an alternative approach can be adopted:

  1. Begin by sitting on the exercise mat with your legs stretched out in front of you.
  2. Position your arms at your sides, palms resting on the mat to aid in maintaining balance.
  3. Gradually lean backward until you feel your abdominal muscles actively engaged, creating a stable starting position.
  4. Pull your knees toward your chest as you exhale, simultaneously bringing your chest closer to your thighs.
  5. Hold this position for several seconds, focusing on engaging your lower abdominal muscles.
  6. Briefly pause when you reach the peak of the movement, and then slowly lower yourself back to the starting position.
  7. Aim for 15 repetitions of this motion to complete a set.

Pro Tips

Here are some additional tips for doing knee pull-ins safely and effectively:

  • Make sure to engage your core throughout the entire exercise. This will help to prevent your back from arching and to protect your lower back.
  • Don’t lift your legs too high. If you lift them too high, you’ll take the tension off of your lower abdominal muscles.
  • Pause for a moment at the top of the exercise to really contract your lower abdominal muscles.
  • Lower your legs slowly and controlled. Don’t just drop them back to the starting position.
  • If you’re new to knee pull-ins, start with a few repetitions and gradually increase the number of repetitions as you get stronger.

Knee Pull Ins Muscles Worked

Knee pull-ins are a core exercise that primarily works the lower abdominal muscles, particularly the rectus abdominis. The rectus abdominis is the muscle that runs along the front of your abdomen and helps to flex your spine. Knee pull-ins also work the hip flexors, which are the muscles that connect your thighs to your pelvis.

The hip flexors help to lift your legs towards your chest. The sartorius and the iliopsoas are the primary hip flexors, and both of them work hard when doing knee pull ins. 

In addition to the lower abdominal muscles and hip flexors, knee pull-ins also work the upper back muscles, such as the latissimus dorsi and trapezius. These muscles help to stabilize your upper body during the exercise.

Benefits Of Knee Pull Ins

Knee pull-ins are a great exercise that can offer a variety of benefits for your overall fitness and health, while efficient in developing core strength, they have a variety of additional advantages. They can help to:

Knee Pull-Ins: Proper Form, Muscles Worked, Benefits And Common Mistakes To Avoid
  • Tone and flatten your stomach. Knee pull-ins engage your core muscles, which are responsible for stabilizing your spine and pelvis. This can help to flatten your stomach and improve your posture.
  • Reduce back pain. By working the muscles in your hips and glutes, knee pull-ins can help to align your spine and pelvis, which can reduce pain in the lower back.
  • Improve athletic performance. Knee pull-ins can help to improve your balance, stability, and range of motion. This can be beneficial for athletes of all levels, from recreational to professional.
  • Increase flexibility. Knee pull-ins can help to improve your flexibility by stretching the muscles in your hips, glutes, and lower back.
  • Promote weight loss. Knee pull-ins are a great way to burn calories and promote weight loss.
  • Focus on abs at home with no equipment. Knee pull-ins are a great option for people who want to improve their fitness but don’t have access to a gym or other exercise equipment. They are also a good option for people who are new to exercise or who have limited mobility.

Common Mistakes To Avoid

When performing knee pull-ins, it’s important to be mindful of a few common mistakes that can impact your workout effectiveness and safety. Keep these key points in mind to ensure you’re getting the most out of your exercise routine:

  1. Neglecting Core Engagement: Failing to engage your core muscles can lead to arching your back and straining your lower back. Focus on keeping your core tight throughout the exercise to maintain proper form and support.
  2. Rushing Through Repetitions: Speeding through knee pull-ins can compromise the engagement of targeted muscles. Perform the exercise in a controlled manner, emphasizing the quality of movement over quantity.
  3. Overusing Momentum: Swinging your legs or using momentum to complete the motion reduces the workload on your core muscles. Instead, concentrate on controlled movements to ensure your core is doing the work.
  4. Forgetting Breathing Technique: Neglecting proper breathing can disrupt your stability and muscle engagement. Exhale as you bring your knees toward your chest and inhale as you return to the starting position.
  5. Overarching Your Back: Arching your back excessively strains your lower back and decreases the exercise’s effectiveness. Maintain a stable lower back position throughout the movement.

By sidestepping these common errors and focusing on maintaining correct form, you’ll maximize the benefits of knee pull-ins and minimize the risk of discomfort or injury.


Incorporating knee pull-ins into your fitness routine can offer remarkable benefits for your core strength, abdominal muscles, and overall posture. By understanding the proper technique, targeted muscles, and potential pitfalls, you’re equipped to harness the full potential of this exercise.

Remember, the journey to a stronger core and sculpted abs begins with attention to detail and dedication to maintaining correct form. As you integrate knee pull-ins into your exercise regimen, keep in mind the valuable insights provided here to ensure a safe, efficient, and rewarding fitness experience

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