For many of us, the regular squat can prove to be a challenge, particularly if you are just starting out on your journey to a fitter, stronger you. As a gentler exercise, the kneeling squat (also known as the hip thrust) is a great alternative that still focuses on the same muscle groups as the regular squat.
The exercise predominantly works the glutes but also activates the hip flexors, quadriceps and more bringing a whole host of benefits.
Before we dive into those all-important benefits, let’s first establish how to perform a kneeling squat to perfection.
How to Perform a Kneeling Squat
- Step 1. Start on your knees, shoulder width apart (similar distance apart to a regular squat). Your shins will be flat on the floor with your legs in line with your knees and your weight resting on your knees and lower legs. Tip: fold your yoga mat underneath your knees to add extra cushioning.
- Step 2. Position your feet so that the top of your foot is against the floor
- Step 3. Face forward, clasps your hands in front of your chest and engage core.
- Step 4. Keep your back straight as you slowly lower your bum down towards your heels. Maintain a neutral position, do not allow your spine or torso to twist or lean to one side or backwards as you lower your glutes down.
- Step 5. As your bum makes contact with your heels/calves, keep your core engaged and squeeze your glutes tight to you drive your hips and chest back up to the starting position in a thrusting motion. Remember, it is your glutes that drive the movement and the control comes from your hips, not your upper body. Keep your abdominals tight and try not to allow yourself to sit back on your heels before the thrusting movement.
- Step 6. Pause and hold the stretch in the starting position, with your glutes tight before repeating the movement for 8-12 repetitions, per set.
How to Modify or Vary the Kneeling Squat
Decrease the Challenge
Rather than resting the top of your foot on the floor, curl your toes up so that your heels are off the floor. Repeat the same movement but in this position, you’ll find the stretch won’t be as deep and is especially useful for weaker ankles.
Increase the Challenge
Position an exercise band round your legs just above the knees. Keep the band taught as you follow the same steps as above. The extra resistance from the band increases glute activation making it a much deeper stretch and adding challenge.
Tie your resistance bands securely to something behind you that will not move. If there is nothing to tie to, you could loop them round your feet behind you.
Position yourself so that the bands are around your waist and follow the same steps as before. This time, your hips will be pushing up against the band, adding further resistance to your glutes and working them harder.
Kneeling Squat Benefits
Builds glute strength
Whilst the hip flexors, quads, hamstrings and abs are all engaged during the kneeling squat, the exercise predominantly works the glutes making it a particularly popular choice for those who are wanting a more toned and bigger bum.
Balance and Stability
Keeping your core engaged throughout the movement, helps to improve overall stability and balance.
Recovery from Injury
As a lower impact exercise, kneeling squats may be recommended to help people recover from injury to the knees. As with any injury though, do not try this without first discussing with an expert.
The kneeling squat is a gentler way to improve hip extension in comparison to the regular squat.
The drive from the hips to create the thrusting movement makes this a great choice of exercise for those who want to improve their performance in deadlifts. The glute strength can also help with lunges and other jumping movements.
Although several variations that add challenge to the exercise require equipment, the exercise in its original form can be done anywhere providing you have something to cushion your knees.
Muscles Worked During Kneeling Squat Hip Thrusters
Kneeling squats predominantly target the glutes, but also activate the hamstrings and muscles in the thigh including the quads and adductor magnus (otherwise known as the ‘hip flexor’ – the largest and strongest muscle in the thigh).
The movement requires a stable core, which gives your abdominals a good work out too, as is the case with any squatting motion.