Camels are known for their distinctive humps and their amazing ability to go long periods without water, not least for their strong stomachs. But, believe it or not, this desert animal can provide new inspiration for your core workout.
Enter the inclined camel exercise. This kneeling motion, which mimics the way a camel stands, not only activates the core but also strengthens the quads.
“The inclined camel is an excellent alternative to traditional quadricep isolation exercises and can be performed with body weight alone,” says Courtney Burnett, PT, DPT, physical therapist at Bespoke Treatments.
“This is ideal for people who want to target their quadriceps, who don’t have access to leg extension machines or who are looking for a way to introduce eccentric loading into their program,” says Burnett.
But that’s not all the benefits of bent over camel, it works your glutes, strengthens your back and also reduces the risk of injury.
Simply put, it can take your fitness to another level, no matter what your goals are. Want to improve strength? Do 3 to 5 sets of 4 to 5 reps, says Burnett. To focus on hypertrophy (i.e. growing muscle), aim for 3 to 5 sets of 6 to 15 reps, she says. For best results incorporate exercise into your daily routine two to three times per week.
Who should not take care of a hunched camel
Bent over camel may not be the right exercise for everyone. Here’s how to find out if it’s right for you.
To perform the movement safely, says Burnett, you need to be able to do the following:
- tolerate kneeling comfortably
- Achieve full, pain-free knee flexion range of motion
- Put weight through your legs in a plantar flexed position
If you are unable to do any of the above and/or experience pain in your knees as you come to the starting position (long kneeling stance), do not attempt camel squats.
Instead, stick to safer options, like planks to target the core or seated leg extensions and rear-foot elevated split squats for a serious quad-focused burn, says Burnett.
How to do bent over camel
core and lower body
- Start in a kneeling position, with a soft mat or towel beneath your knees, so that your shoulders, hips and knees are in a straight line.
- Your knees and feet should be hip-width apart and the tops of your feet should be flat on the floor.
- Start by strengthening your core and squeezing your glutes. You can cross your arms over your chest or leave them straight with your arms at your sides.
- Keeping your body in a straight line, essentially maintaining plank position, slowly lean backward as far as you can with knees bent until you feel an intense stretch in the front of the thighs.
- Once you reach your end limit, squeeze your quadriceps to return to the starting position. Do not allow your hips to hunch back or hunch throughout the movement to avoid compensation in your lower back.
Burnett says that if it’s too hard to hold an inclined camel, you can modify the move by placing a long resistance band in front of you for assistance. Holding the band will help in reducing your body weight to some extent thereby reducing the load.
Burnett says beginners may also find it helpful to place a bench, plyo box, or stacked plates behind them to create an elevated guiding surface. This will limit how far you can lean back. As you build strength, and your range of motion improves, you can gradually decrease the height of the surface.
Conversely, if you want to make it more challenging, you can place a plate or weight on your chest to add extra resistance, says Burnett. You can take this even further by continuously adding more weight.
Leaning back more (increasing your range of motion) will also increase the difficulty factor.
1. It works your quads and glutes
Burnett says the bent-over camel is an excellent exercise for developing quadriceps strength and hypertrophy.
To perform the movement, your quads must work both concentrically and eccentrically, she says. In other words, your muscles should shorten (or contract) and lengthen under tension.
“Studies have shown that training the rectus femoris, one of your four quadriceps muscles, in a lengthening position can be quite beneficial for creating hypertrophy,” says Burnett. This means that doing inclined camel can build lean muscle in your legs.
Not to mention that this move also requires great glute strength. This is because you must recruit your glute muscles to stabilize your hips during the exercise.
2. It strengthens your abs
While your quads are the main muscle group in the sport, your midsection also has to stabilize your muscles during bent-over camel. In fact, your core engages isometrically to maintain proper hip and torso position, Burnett says.
In fact, ab activation is necessary to execute the movement correctly. “A poor ability to generate abdominal pressure or maintain a rigid torso during this activity can create strain on the lower back,” says Burnett.
She adds, “If you feel discomfort in your lower back, chances are you need to engage your core more.”
3. It challenges your lower back
Burnett says bent camels strengthen the lower back like planks. During the exercise, “you are engaging the muscles isometrically to increase motor unit recruitment.” By activating your lower back muscles in this way, you can improve spinal stabilization, lower back muscle endurance, and posture control, she says.
Still, while inclined camel will challenge your lower back, it doesn’t strengthen the muscles in the same way as concentric and eccentric exercises (think: good mornings), says Burnett.
4. It stretches the front part of your body
“This exercise loads your quads in the lengthening position, which effectively stretches the front of your body,” says Burnett. As a result, it can help improve quad and hip flexor mobility and flexibility, she says.
This is a huge benefit as most of us struggle with tight hips and quads (due to too much sitting). Additionally, strained hip flexors can put pressure on your lower back, so it’s important to keep them loose and flexible to prevent back pain.
5. It may help reduce your risk of injury
As mentioned, bent over camels involve eccentric movements that train your muscles in an extended position. This type of strength training can protect you from injury.
“Improving eccentric strength is a great way to help reduce injury risk,” says Burnett.
Here’s why: “It may improve the ability to adapt to load and better tolerate the forces generated by rapid muscle extension, such as when decelerating or landing from jumping or running.” But,” she says.
Plus, this eccentric exercise can also help improve your coordination (since you have to coordinate bending your knees while keeping your hips straight), says Burnett. And having better control over moving your muscles and joints can also reduce your risk of injury.
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