Many people don't think twice about the position from which they perform an exercise. The difference between, say, a Standing Shoulder Press and a Seated Shoulder Press is pretty much negligible, right? Not exactly. The positioning you use to perform an exercise can have a huge impact on its effects.
One under-utilized position that can help you become a better athlete fast? The half-kneeling position.
The half-kneeling position doesn't look especially complex or difficult. To get into it, place your back knee at a 90-degree angle on the ground directly beneath your hip and shoulder, and your front knee at a 90-degree angle with your foot on the ground directly below your knee. Your shoulder, hip and back knee must be in a straight line and your spine must be neutral.
Although it might not look or sound terribly difficult, the half-kneeling position offers big benefits. Here are three reasons you should integrate the half-kneeling position into your routine.
1. It Strengthens Your Core the Right Way
Your core is the main pillar of your athletic performance—everything is built around it. A strong, stable core allows you to stay in control of your body through a wide range of positions and is critical for transferring force between your upper and lower body.
One reason the half-kneeling position is so great for athletes is that it naturally recruits the core and requires it to work harder for stabilization. A proper half-kneeling position places your body where it cannot easily overcompensate for a weak area with a stronger area. When you're on your feet or in a seated position, your body can overcompensate to avoid getting your core involved—and you might not even notice. But this is much harder to do when you're in a proper half-kneeling position, because it forces you to use your core for what it was intended to do—stabilize and transfer power. If you try to overcompensate, you'll lose your balance.
Your base is rather narrow, your upper half is tall, and any attempt to avoid recruiting the core will likely cause you to wobble or fall over. So your core is forced to do its job to help you best perform a movement—a skill that's insanely valuable for athletes. The half-kneeling position can turn movements you've always thought had little to do with the core—like Shoulder Presses or Face Pulls—into exercises that require your core not only to be engaged, but to be engaged in the right way and at the right times. This type of core training will transfer to your sport much better than hammering out hundreds of Crunches.
2. It Improves your Posture
The half-kneeling posture requires you to keep your ribs down, your pelvis underneath you and your diaphragm and pelvic floor aligned properly. You might think you do all of these things already, but there's a good chance you're mistaken. Anterior pelvic tilt is one of the most common postural issues among Americans, often caused by a lifestyle that includes sitting for extended periods of time. Anterior pelvic tilt means your pelvis tips forward, which puts the lumbar in hyperextension and flares the ribs up and out. It's a common problem that can cause a wide range of issues, including poor breathing patterns, an underdeveloped posterior chain and subpar athletic performance.
A proper half-kneeling position puts you into a good posture, with your ribs down, your pelvis aligned properly underneath you, your glutes engaged and your lumbar in a good position.
"The half-kneeling position makes it easier to control rib and pelvis position so an athlete doesn't slip into lumbar hyperextension as easily," says Tony Bonvechio, strength coach at Cressey Sports Performance.
The half-kneeling position helps you perform movements while maintaining good posture. This can not only help you improve your overall posture, it can also cure common issues (like low back pain), which occur when you perform overhead pressing exercises. It also reinforces proper posture and form for split-leg exercises such as Split Squats or Lunges.
3. It Increases Hip Stability and Mobility
Tight hip flexors are extremely common among athletes. Tight hip flexors can limit your hip mobility and affect your overall athletic performance.
A proper half-kneeling position can help you improve your hip mobility and get comfortable with that range of motion. The fact that you're performing upper-body or core strength movements while improving your hip mobility proves the efficiency of the half-kneeling position. It allows you to work on multiple important factors of performance while performing a single exercise.
Even though you're on one knee, the half-kneeling position forces you to recruit your lower half for stability—something that isn't the case for seated exercises. "When you're seated, there's no active base of support. The seat is your support, so there's no need for the lower half to stay in a good position," says Bonvechio.
Performing exercises from the half-kneeling position forces you to use both your core and your hips for stabilization, an excellent type of training for any athlete.
Take a Knee
Now that you know the great benefits of the half-kneeling position, it's time to put it to use. The good news is you've got a lot of options. Lots of exercises that can be performed from the half-kneeling position. Here are some great ones to get you started.
Half-Kneeling Cable Chop
Half-Kneeling One-Arm Landmine Press
Half-Kneeling One-Arm Lat Pulldown
Half-Kneeling Cable Lift
Half-Kneeling Cable Push-Pull
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