Woman kneeling when lifting weights

Kneeling when weight lifting can improve core strength and stability

Posted by for Workouts

Build a stronger core from a kneeling position. 

At peak time, benches in the weights room are like gold dust. If you don’t manage to get somewhere to rest your bum while your press and pull your dumbbells, you might think your session will suffer. Actually, the opposite is probably true – getting off your seat while you lift can do wonders for your strength.

“Kneeling when lifting weights is a technique that has huge benefits for core stability and strength,” explains Abi Skipper, coach at Strong Her. “By challenging the base of support, you make the exercise more challenging and also more functional. If you can nail the move in a kneeling position, it has huge carryover into the standing position so you lift with better form and also improves the way you lift in everyday life.” 

It mainly comes down to the fact that kneeling removes momentum. When we lift something overhead in a standing position, we can bounce through our legs or add a swing to the arms to get the weight up. “Take an overhead press as an example. People tend to overcompensate, particularly in the last few reps, by using their lower back and arching or driving through the knees,” says Skipper. “In a kneeling position, you have to use your true strength to lift the weight.”

How to kneel when lifting

There are a couple of different kneeling variations to try:

Tall kneeling

To lift in a tall kneeling position, sit on the floor with your feet tucked under your bum. Lift your glutes away from your heels so the weight is spread through your shins and top of your feet and you are straight from your head to your knees. Ensure you tuck your tailbone under and squeeze your glutes in this position to stabilise the core. 

Half kneeling

Begin in the tall kneeling position, but place one foot flat on the floor in front of you with the knee bent at a right angle. Keep your hips square, ensuring they don’t twist or collapse to the side as you hold the position. 

Protect your joints when kneeling 

Because kneeling challenges your stability, ensuring safe practice is essential. 

Use lighter weights 

Pressing 20kg overhead when standing might not be a problem, but if you’re putting that force through your knees into the ground it might feel uncomfortable. Plus, when you take out the bounce, you might find lighter weights give you all the challenge you need. 

Use soft surfaces 

Most gyms have a slightly bouncy floor in the weights room, which makes kneeling a little comfier. If you’re trying it at home, make sure you place your knees on a non-slip but soft surface. 

Brace your core 

Reap the most benefits by engaging your core as you lift. It will make the exercise safer, stop you arching through your back and build even more strength. 

4 kneeling exercises to try:

Shoulder presses

You can perform a shoulder press in a tall standing position, or take a half-kneeling position for single side shoulder work, like Arnold presses, to challenge stability.

Lat raises

Try lifting these weights to the side without bouncing through your legs and you’ll be surprised how light you have to make the weights.

Half kneeling woodchop

This functional move requires stabilising the midsection as you’re moving a weight through a large range of motion.

Half kneeling Pallof press

This adds extra fire to the core as the cable or resistance band tries to pull you sideways.

Share this article

Chloe Gray

Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).