Most strength exercises are done standing, sitting, and lying down. But there can be real benefits to stopping halfway — and performing exercises on your knees.
Lifting from your knees trains muscles that are often under used while lifting from standing or sitting: when your legs are out of the equation, you require more hip mobility, core stability, and emphasis from the working muscles.
Both the Tall Kneeling (both knees on the ground) and Half Kneeling (one foot, one knee) give the lifter another tool in the tool box to improve their big lifts.
Use the following exercises as variety for your accessory lifts to help improve your mobility, technique and increase your gains.
1. Tall Kneeling
Lifting in the tall kneeling position helps you with posture, balance and glute activation. Because if you’re not properly aligned, your pretty face will head towards the floor.
Think of this as a plank but only on your knees.
Why and when should you lift from a tall kneeling position
- Improves your glute strength and endurance because more of your posterior is engaged
- Helps if you have poor posture or trouble balancing on one leg. The tall kneeling position reduces your base of support and improves these two factors.
- Acts as a form check. By temoving your lower legs as a lever, it’s easier to see your own mistakes, such as overarching of the lower back to lift weight overhead.
- Taking the lower legs out of your upper body standing lifts adds more core work and difficulty to the lift because of your inability to ‘cheat’ the weight up or down.
- If you need any of this, try adding some tall kneeling lifts to your routine. The following exercises are good examples, but remember to adjust the sets and reps based on your own needs.
Bench kneeling overhead press
If anything is off with your overhead pressing mechanics, this exercise will give you feedback in the form of a loss of balance or a loss of technique. For example, overarching the lower back and flaring of the rib cage.
You can regress this exercise by kneeling on the floor and using dumbbells.
Tall kneeling lat pulldown
This pulling variation is great for developing core stability and training the entire backside of the body.
It’s also outstanding for people who are yet to do their first chin up (or improve their chin up technique) as it simulates the core strength necessary to pull yourself up over the bar without any extra compensation.
Tall kneeling overhead Pallof press
The Pallof press is a great stand-alone exercise but adding some tall kneeling into the equation takes this great lateral core stability, anti-rotation exercise to the next level.
The overhead version will help groove overhead pressing mechanics before hitting the barbell too.
[Don’t miss our complete video guide to the Pallof press and variations.]
2. Half Kneeling
The half kneeling position is the go-to stretch to open up our hip flexors, but it’s also a handy position to lift from.
Why and when should you lift from a half kneeling position
- By lowering your center of mass, you can move your hips and shoulders without too much compensation from the pelvis and lower back. This is a godsend if you suffer from lower back pain.
- With the narrower base of support, you’ll receive extra core stability and glute activation benefits.
- Narrower base of support will also help dial in your technique on upper body lifts.
- If hip mobility is an issue, lifting from here can improve it. Or if you’re performing squats or deadlifts, using a half kneeling exercise as a filler/recovery drill works well.
If your hips are stiff or your back is acting up and you’re looking to add variety, take these exercises out for a test run.
Half kneeling single arm pulldown
The 45-degree angle of this variation makes it more shoulder friendly than other vertical pulling exercises, so if shoulder mobility is a problem for you this exercise is perfect.
Half kneeling kettlebell bottoms up press
Holding the kettlebell bottoms up creates more tension in the arm through a process called irradiation.
This gives you more strength and stability in the shoulder region, which makes this a great exercise for people with shoulder issues or for those who want a break from barbell/dumbbell overhead presses.
[Related: 3 bottoms up kettlebell exercises you should try.]
Half-kneeling med ball rotational throw
A common error with medicine ball throwing is lifters using other parts of their body like their lower back to create extra power, which is a big no-no.
However, throwing in half kneeling position reduces this compensation and increases the emphasis on the hips and core, which are the muscles needed for rotational power.
Whether you’re returning from a long layoff, working around nagging injuries or you’re wanting to spice things up to spark your gains, getting on your knees could be the change you’re looking for.
Featured image via wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock