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March 14, 2022 9 min read

Squats are one of the most popular exercises in the fitness community today. Everyone loves squats: This wonder exercise is easy to learn, easier to master, great for the muscles, and can be modified to suit your fitness needs. 

The kneeling squat is one of the numerous variations of the conventional squat.

It features a different range of motion than the traditional squat and targets the lower body from a very different angle.

Want to know how to perform this excellent exercise?

Below, we have provided you with the tips and tricks of the trade.

Woman doing barbell kneeling squat illustration

What Is The Kneeling Squat?

If you have spent enough time in the gym, chances are you have come across at least one gym enthusiast who seems to be pressing a barbell while on his knees. You probably walked away, shaking your head and muttering something about fitness freaks and their love for beasting it up with weird exercises.

That unrecognizable and probably strange exercise is known as the kneeling squat.

Is the kneeling squat any effective? Is it more straightforward than the conventional squats? Is it a dangerous exercise that should be left to the Stallone-like bodybuilders? We'll bring all the answers to the mind-boggling questions you have about this exercise.

The kneeling squat is a bodyweight squat exercise variation that works the muscles of your posterior or lower body.

It targets the major muscle groups from below your knees while taking it easy on your knees, a feature that many people may not derive from the conventional bodyweight squat.

Essentially, the kneeling squat is one of the best strength-training exercises today, especially for people who suffer from knee injuries.

How Does It Work?

The kneeling squat is done by kneeling with your legs about hip-width apart, lowering your glutes to your heels, and getting right back up to a high kneeling position.

This helps you to strike two birds with one stone: you not only relieve your knees of the garish pain that other squat variations might put you through but also train your hip hinge.

In the end, it is a win-win situation.

Many gym-goers scoff at the kneeling squat for its more limited range of motion and unique stance. They even doubt its ability to target as many muscle groups as the conventional squat. This might be because the regular squat focuses on hip extension, hip flexion, knee extension, and knee flexion, while the kneeling squat focuses on just hip extension.  

In reality, the kneeling squat engages as many major muscle groups of the posterior chain as the conventional squat does- right from the glutes and quads to the spinae erectors.

Kneeling squats are also very convenient. They can be performed regardless of your fitness level and your location. Although many people choose to perform this exercise as a weighted strength-training activity, it provides equally good results without weights.

If you are in the mood to ramp up your lower chain fitness and spice up your workout routine, the kneeling squat is a great way to get started.

Muscles Worked During The Kneeling Squat

Although the kneeling squat primarily works the glutes and quads, it also activates hams, hip flexors, lower back, core, and abdominal muscles.

This might be fewer muscles than those activated during the conventional squat, but for an exercise so looked down upon and neglected, this is a big deal. It also cannot be overemphasized that all these muscles contribute to the well-being and strength of your posterior chain.

Glutes

The glutes or gluteal muscles are what are commonly known as the buttocks. Although they might serve aesthetic purposes, your glutes are more important than you imagine.

Your glutes are made of three muscles, namely the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. These muscles originate from your pelvis hip and attach to your thigh bones.

Your glutes perform various functions that range from supporting good posture to functional movements, like running and athletic performance, amongst others.

They help in any movement that involves your legs and help to steer you in moving in the direction you intend.

The glutes drive your movements during the kneeling squat. Your glutes help during the movement of bringing your hip forward, also known as hip extension.

However, your glutes are engaged throughout the length of your exercise, just like they are during the conventional squat. This helps strengthen and tone them, providing you with a fitted look and better performance in sports activities.

Quads

Your quadriceps muscles are also primarily engaged during the kneeling squat. Also known as the quads, the quadriceps is the fleshy muscle covering the front and sides of your thigh. It comprises four muscle heads, namely the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and vastus intermedius. These muscles connect to your hip and knees.

The quads help in extending the leg at the knee joint and flexing the thigh at the hip joint.

They are one of the most used major muscle groups as they help in functional movements like kicking, jumping, cycling and running.

The quads are engaged in many exercises that involve using your legs. 

During the kneeling squat, your quads help you to extend your knees during the concentric phase and stabilize your body. They also bear most muscle tension generated when you include weighted resistance equipment during the kneeling squat.

Hamstrings

Your hams and other muscles are secondary movers engaged during the kneeling squat. Your hamstrings are the muscles at the back of your thigh that originate at your hip and are inserted into your knee.

These muscles help to flex your knee, extend your thigh, and move your lower legs laterally. 

When performing the kneeling squats, your hams are also engaged during the hip extension phase, albeit to a lesser degree than the glutes and quads.

They also keep you stable throughout the exercise.

Hip Flexors

Next up are your hip flexors located on the front part of your thigh. These muscles are crucial for stability and bending your knees. Your hip flexors are a vital part of the kneeling squat as they not only support and stabilize your body but also drive your body and the resistance weight upward and forward.

The kneeling squat helps strengthen your hip flexors, improving your performance in activities like deadlifts.

Lower Back

Your lower back muscles are a group of muscles that help to stabilize, rotate, and extend your torso and spinal column. They might not be the star muscle groups during the kneeling squat, but they receive enough attention to engage them to a great degree.

Core

Your core and abs are utilized in any squatting exercise and are unsurprisingly engaged during the kneeling squat. Your abs are not only the perfect addition to a fit physique but also support your torso and allow movement.

Some of your deep abdominal muscles and back muscles come together to form your core. The core helps to stabilize your body, keep your torso upright, protect your spine, and prevent you from suffering injuries. 

Together, your core muscles ensure your stability during the kneeling squat.

They offer support and withhold constant tension in your body.

How To Do Kneeling Squats

The kneeling squat is an easy exercise that you can perfect regardless of your fitness level. It is best to start with the bodyweight variation and work your way to the weighted version, adding little weights as you go. This will not only help you to perfect your exercise form but save you from causing harm to your muscles. 

To do the kneeling squat:

  • Lay a soft mat on the floor. This will provide comfort for your knees and reduce the pressure placed on them.
  • Get on your knees, keeping each knee about shoulder-width apart or slightly wider.
  • Keep your toes flexed and in contact with the floor.
  • Position yourself so your shoulder is directly over your hips, and your spine is straight.
  • Keep your head neutral and tuck your chin.
  • Keep your arms by your sides or extend them in front of you.
  • Slightly push your chest forward and engage your core.
  • Contract your glutes.
  • Hinge your hips back and lower your glutes as if sitting into your heels.
  • Keep your hips aligned with your knees without leaning to the left or right.
  • Drop your glutes until they come in contact with your calves without sitting on them.
  • Hold this position for a second.
  • Squeeze your glutes and extend your pelvis while keeping your back straight to return to the starting position.
  • Squeeze your glutes again at the top of the motion. This is one rep.
  • Complete as many reps as you can fit in a set.

Benefits of Kneeling Squats

The kneeling squat offers many benefits, some of which it already shares with the conventional squat. It is a unique variation that provides a breath of fresh air to your probably dull routine. Needless to say, the kneeling squat is also a tremendous posterior chain strengthening exercise.

Some other benefits of the kneeling squat include:

  • Great for knee injury: Unlike other squat variations that loads and put stress on the knees, the kneeling squat takes away the need for the inclusion of the knee in your routine. It is a safe exercise that shortens the range of motion of the conventional squat only to include your hips. This makes it a splendid exercise choice for people recovering from knee injuries.  The kneeling squat is a magnificent way to build strength in your posterior chain while circumventing possible knee pain. This hastens their ability to perform more challenging activities that require leg strength.
  • Beginner-friendly: If you have problems perfecting the conventional squat, the kneeling squat is a great way to get the feel of the movement and strengthen your lower body as you do so. The kneeling squat is an especially great way to perfect the weighted squat as the weighted standing squat is significantly more complicated than the weighted kneeling variation. The shorter range of motion and the fewer muscle activation is a safer way to improve your hip hinge without risking injuries to your knee. For the best result, pair your routine with CHARGED-AF for increased energy, better focus, and improved performance.
  • Versatility: The kneeling squat can be modified however you want it. If you are trying to take it slow, you can practice the weightless variation. Perform the movements without holding additional resistance. If you want to ramp up your kneeling squat, you can choose to implement weighted plates, resistance bands, dumbbells, or even barbells. Essentially, you decide what level you wish to practice on.
  • Improved Balance: Performing the kneeling squat correctly is a splendid way to hone and improve your balance and stability. In the correct kneeling squat form, your core, abs, lower back, and glutes are all engaged. These muscles contribute to proper posture and help you achieve balance in functional and sports activities. The kneeling squat enables you to strengthen these muscles and enhances your balance in more challenging exercises.
  • Lower body strength: Like any other squat variation, the kneeling squat helps to build strength in your lower extremity. The hip thrust motion engages all the major muscle groups and strengthens them in the long run. This improves your push power and ensures better performance in other exercises that require leg strength.

Tips To Help You Perfect your Kneeling Squat

The kneeling squat might look like a piece of can't, but you need all the help you can get when performing this exercise.

This is why we have provided some tips and cues to look out for during the kneeling squat: 

  • Don't use momentum: A common mistake a kneeling squat newbie makes is dropping or lifting their hips too quickly. Using momentum does not activate your hip and glutes but instead focuses on your knees. This would put unnecessary pressure on your knees and lead to a knee joint injury or even worsen a pre-existing knee injury. Engage your glutes and use your hips to perform the movements during the kneeling squat.
  • Don't lean away: When performing the kneeling squat, you might be tempted to make the exercise easier by leaning to the front or side. This would break your form and not activate the necessary muscles in your posterior chain, especially your core. Focus on staying upright and keeping your gaze forward throughout the exercise.
  • Choose the right weight: The simplicity and shorter range of motion of the kneeling squat is not an excuse to overload your muscles by lifting too heavy. This might be tempting but will do more harm than good. Choosing a heavy resistance will place pressure on your knees and might make it difficult to hold the correct form throughout the exercise. Instead, choose a barbell weight you can control easily for the number of sets you wish to practice. 

Adding Kneeling Squats To Your Routine

The kneeling squat is a splendid exercise that helps to strengthen the core and major lower body muscles. This will not only help you to improve your ability to perfect the conventional squat and other squat variations, but also improve your performance in exercises like lunges and deadlifts.

The kneeling squat is a simple yet effective exercise. It makes a perfect addition to any lower body workout routine and can also be performed as a stand-alone exercise.