Barbell kneeling squat exercise

Barbell kneeling squat

Exercise details

  • Target muscle: Gluteus Maximus
  • Synergists: Hamstrings, Adductor Magnus, Quadriceps (Rectus Femoris, Vastus Lateralis, Vastus Medialis, Vastus Intermedius)
  • Mechanics: Isolation
  • Force: Push

Starting position

  1. Set up a barbell in a power rack or Smith machine at kneeling shoulder height. If using a power rack, ensure that the safety pins are in place at an appropriate height.
  2. Kneel under the bar, on a soft mat to protect your knees.
  3. Position the back of your shoulders under the bar, and grasp the bar at both sides.
  4. Dismount the bar by extending your hips. If using a Smith machine, you will have to rotate the bar to unlatch it from the rail.


  1. Keeping your head up and your back straight, inhale as you flex your hips and sit back until your buttocks touch your calves.
  2. Exhale as you extend your hips and return the bar to the starting position.
  3. Repeat.

Comments and tips

  • For your own safety, please use either a power rack or a Smith machine for this exercise.
  • According to the EMG studies of the “glute guy” Dr. Bret Contreres, of all the squat variations that he has tested, the barbell kneeling squat activates the glutes the most. Since your knees are fully bent and the flexion of your hips is minimal, the contribution of your hamstrings is small, which forces your glutes to do most of the work. What’s more, since there is a relatively small amount of movement, the exercise allows you to use very heavy weights to thoroughly overload your glutes.
  • However, the barbell kneeling squat is not good for your knees (especially if you go very heavy), so I recommend that you use the exercise sparingly, and keep it moderately heavy at most. Please use it only to warm up your glutes before a legs and glutes workout, or to burn out your glutes at the end of a workout.
  • Note that there are non-squat exercises, such as the barbell hip thrust, that activate the glutes even more than does the barbell kneeling squat.
  • Do not use the barbell kneeling squat as an alternative to the barbell squat, which is a far better all-round exercise.

Barbell kneeling squat video

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