4 Kneeling Exercises For a Strong Core

Anthony J. Yeung
by Anthony J. Yeung
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If you’re looking for something different or new to jazz up your fitness regimen; something that unlocks a variety of benefits for your core, hips and lower back or something that builds stability, try doing exercises on your knees.

That’s right — it might not seem like much, but going from standing or sitting to kneeling can create a lot of great total-body improvements.

Doing exercises on your knees is like going from riding a bike with training wheels to without them. Kneeling movements train your body to create stability from areas where most people have deficiencies — your core and your hips.


By getting on one or both knees, you take your entire lower body out of the equation which significantly reduces your base of support. The result forces you to create balance and stability from your hips and all the muscles in your core. This translates to incredible athletic improvements like better glute, abductor and adductor activation and stronger trunk muscles, including your deep core muscles, obliques and pelvic floor. You’ll even get more mobility, better balance and healthier low-back muscles.

For more comfort, try kneeling on a pad instead of directly on the ground. With these exercises, there’s two terms you should know:

  • Tall-kneeling: Kneeling on two knees
  • Half-kneeling: Kneeling on one knee with both feet relatively inline with each other and both knees making a 90-degree angle. Don’t press the toes of your back leg into the ground; instead rest your laces on the floor.


Half-Kneeling, Single-Arm Overhead Dumbbell Press

A common issue with overhead presses, is people steal mobility from their lower back by arching backward (instead of using their shoulders and thoracic spine). This puts too much pressure on a fragile area, which can cause injuries and pain. By doing a press in a half-kneeling position, you’ll prevent yourself from overarching your back and force your glutes, hips and core to give you stability as you reach overhead.

The move: Get on one knee and hold a dumbbell on the same side as the knee that’s down. Start with the dumbbell by your shoulder. Squeeze your glute and push straight overhead.

Half-Kneeling Pallof Press

This exercise trains your core and hips to brace against twisting, which strengthens your abs and protects your lower back. Also, because you have to train in both directions, you develop symmetrical strength in your core.

The move: Get on one knee (with the knee furthest away from the machine up) and set a cable handle to chest height. While facing perpendicular to the cable, bring the handle to your chest. Brace your core, squeeze your glutes and keep your shoulders and hips directly over your knees. Push the handle straight forward and hold for 3 seconds. Bring it back to your chest and repeat. Then, switch sides and repeat.

Half-Kneeling Cable Rows

Just like with overhead presses, people often overarch their lower back when doing cable rows. By getting in the half-kneeling position, you’ll maintain good posture throughout the exercise while adding core emphasis.

The move: In the half-kneeling position, make sure everything is square to the cable machine and your feet are narrow. Keep your chest up and row. (Whatever knee that’s down is the side you row with.)

Tall-Kneeling Kettlebell Halo

Halos are an incredible exercise to develop core strength and stability. Even better, because you’re in a kneeling position, you’re forced to maintain great posture and balance so you get the full benefits of this movement.

The move: Get on both knees and hold a kettlebell in both hands with the large part over your hands. Keep your lower back neutral and make big circles around your head with the kettlebell. Do all your reps one way and then switch directions; switch knees and repeat.

About the Author

Anthony J. Yeung
Anthony J. Yeung

Anthony, a certified strength and conditioning specialist, is a fitness expert at Esquire, GQ and Men’s Health and gets guys in shape for their wedding at GroomBuilder.


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