Now that I have your attention with my provocative article title, let me elaborate as to what I mean when I say "get on your knees". And, no, this article is not about gay for pay again. Get your minds out of the gutter. For some exercises, people can execute them standing or seated; examples of this are, dumbbell curls, lateral raises and front raises. Some people choose to sit because they feel that they are able to focus in on the muscle more intensely and really feel the contraction. Another benefit of sitting when you do some of these exercises is that it cuts out on the swinging and allows you to move the weight with the target muscle and not momentum. This is where I decided to get freaky and try something new. In my humble opinion, I believe that performing these movements on your knees is a great way to truly obliterate the target muscle. A few cautions before we begin; if you have knee issues or knee pain and, despite putting a mat underneath your knees, you still have pain, don't do what I am going to suggest. It isn't worth the risk/pain or exacerbating any pre-existing injury you may have. Now, let's get to the meat and potatoes . . . and gravy.
The big issue that I have with performing exercises standing is that you have to really focus a lot of your energy on stabilizing the rest of the body, taking away from your focus on the actual target muscle. For example, when performing standing dumbbell curls, one has to stabilize the rest of the body that is not involved in the lift. This focus on stability engages the most motor neurons from the brain and in turn will take away from your concentration on that target muscle group. When you get on your knees, you are eliminating one lever from the knees down; however, still engaging your core for stability. When I perform dumbbell curls from the kneeling position, I find that it feels much more balanced and stable. I don't have to think about keeping myself upright and stable as much and I can really concentrate on the movement. Because I am on my knees, it forces me to stay level with the ground. In addition to that, I can still use body momentum to cheat out the last few reps if I need to.
But Greg, wouldn't it be better to be sitting down? Not necessarily, young Padawan. When you are sitting, your core is less engaged than when kneeling. Earlier, I talked about how standing can make it difficult to really concentrate on the muscle. Well standing isn't all bad because you do have to work your body to stay upright. Kneeling gives you the best of both worlds-- from standing to sitting-- and removes the negatives. Engaging your glutes and gut isn't possible when sitting, but on your knees it is. When standing, you have to concentrate too much on your whole body and what it is doing. Additionally, in certain movements, like laterals and dumbbell curls, I find my thighs get in the way at the bottom of the rep; taking away from a nice rhythm. I find with kneeling you are getting the benefits of standing and sitting while eliminating the less desirable elements of both.
An added benefit of kneeling is that you can still do a litany of exercises that you would not be able to do sitting down. To name a few-- barbell curls, upright rows and barbell front raises. Kneeling is like the great compromise in the weight room, you can do all the exercises between the two extremes of sitting and standing. There are obvious limitations to this technique, for instance you could not do any chest or leg exercises from kneeling. If you really wanted, you could do kneeling cable cross-overs but I think that is just overkill. And, imagine your poor knee taking all the pressure from a military press. Those knees of yours would not be too happy the following day.
In conclusion, just be careful how you employ this technique. Don't go up to a stranger and say, "Get on your knees, bitch!" or he might crack you in the head with a ten pound dumbbell. But seriously, it is a good way to try something new and experiment. The best part is that even though you will be on your knees, you will still be the same height as most of the pro bodybuilders out there; because they're short.
All articles by Greg Kovacs have been edited and arranged by Jeff Pearce since April 2011. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions e-mail him at: [email protected]