This One Ab Exercise Works Your Quads, Glutes and Lower Back

If you want to work multiple muscles in one body-weight move, try the leaning camel.
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Camels are known for their characteristic humps and their amazing ability to last long periods without water — not so much for their strong abs. But, believe it or not, this desert-dwelling animal might offer fresh inspiration for your core workouts.


Enter the leaning camel exercise. This kneeling movement, which mimics the way a camel moves to stand up, not only fires up the core but also strengthens the quads.

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The leaning camel "is an excellent alternative to traditional quadricep isolation exercises and can be performed with body weight alone," says Courtney Burnett, PT, DPT, a physical therapist at Bespoke Treatments.

"It is ideal for someone looking to target their quadriceps who may not have access to leg extension machines or who's looking for a way to introduce eccentric loading to their program," Burnett says.

But that's not all the benefits of the leaning camel — it works your glutes, builds back strength and reduces your risk of injury too.

Simply put, it can take your fitness to another level, no matter your goals. Want to improve strength? Do 3 to 5 sets of 4 to 5 reps, Burnett says. To focus on hypertrophy (i.e., growing muscle), aim for 3 to 5 sets of 6 to 15 reps, she says. Add the exercise to your regular routine two to three times per week for the best results.


Who Shouldn’t Do the Leaning Camel

The leaning camel may not be the right exercise for everyone. Here's how to gauge whether it's right for you.

To perform the movement safely, you must be able to do the following, Burnett says:

  • Tolerate kneeling comfortably
  • Achieve full, pain-free knee flexion range of motion
  • Put weight through your feet in a plantar flexed position


If you're unable to do any of the above and/or you experience any pain in your knees simply getting into the starting position (a tall kneeling stance), don't attempt to do leaning camels.

Instead, stick to safer alternatives, such as planks to target the core or seated leg extensions and rear-foot elevated split squats for a serious quad-focused burn, Burnett says.



How to Do the Leaning Camel

Skill Level Intermediate
Region Core and Lower Body
  1. With a soft mat or towel under your knees, start in a tall kneeling position, so your shoulders, hips and knees are in a straight line.
  2. Your knees and feet should be hip-distance apart and the top of your feet should be flat on the floor.
  3. Begin by bracing your core and squeezing your glutes. You can cross your arms over your chest or leave your arms straight with your hands by your sides.
  4. Keeping your body in a straight line, essentially maintaining a “plank” position, slowly lean back as far as you can by bending at the knees until you feel an intense stretch across the front of the thighs.
  5. Once at your end range, squeeze your quadriceps to return to the starting position. Do not let your hips drop backward or bend during the entire movement to avoid compensations in your lower back.

If the leaning camel is too difficult, “you can modify the move by anchoring a long resistance band in front of you for assistance,” Burnett says. Holding onto a band will help offset some of your bodyweight to make the load less strenuous.

“Beginners may also find it helpful to place a bench, plyo box or stacked plates behind them to create an elevated guiding surface,” Burnett says. 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 hold a plate or weight across your chest to add extra resistance,” Burnett says. You can progress it even further by steadily adding more weight.

Leaning farther back (extending your range of motion) will also increase the difficulty factor.

5 Leaning Camel Benefits

1. It Works Your Quads and Glutes

The leaning camel is an excellent exercise to develop quadriceps strength and hypertrophy, Burnett says.

To perform the movement, your quads must work both concentrically and eccentrically, she says. In other words, your muscles must shorten (or contract) and lengthen under tension.


"Studies have shown that training the rectus femoris, one of your four quadriceps muscles, in a lengthening state may be significantly beneficial for creating hypertrophy," Burnett says. That means doing the leaning camel can build lean muscle in your legs.

Not to mention the move also requires great glute strength. That's 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 at play, your midsection must also stabilize its muscles during the leaning camel. Indeed, your core engages isometrically to maintain proper hip and trunk position, Burnett says.

In fact, ab activation is essential for performing the movement correctly. "A poor ability to generate intra-abdominal pressure, or maintain a stiff torso, during this movement can lead to stress across the lower back," Burnett says.


"If you feel discomfort in your lower back, chances are you need to engage your core more," she adds.

3. It Challenges Your Lower Back

The leaning camel strengthens the lower back in a similar way to planks, Burnett says. During the exercise, "you are isometrically engaging the muscles to increase motor unit recruitment." By activating your lower back muscles like this, you can improve spinal stabilization, lower back muscular endurance and postural control, she says.


Still, while the leaning camel will challenge your lower back, it doesn't strengthen the muscles in the same way as doing concentric and eccentric exercises (think: good mornings), Burnett adds.

4. It Stretches the Front of Your Body

"This exercise loads your quads in a lengthened position, effectively stretching the front of your body at the end range," Burnett says. As a result, it can help improve quad and hip flexor mobility and flexibility, she says.

This is a big benefit as most of us struggle with tight hips and quads (thanks to sitting too much). What's more, tense hip flexors can put strain on your lower back, so keeping them loose and limber is important to prevent back pain.

5. It Can Help Reduce Your Risk of Injury

As mentioned, the leaning camel involves eccentric movements, which train your muscles in the elongated state. Strength training like this may protect you from getting hurt.

"Improving eccentric strength is a great way to help reduce injury risk," Burnett says.

Here's why: "It can improve one's ability to adapt to load and better tolerate the forces produced by rapid muscle lengthening, such as when decelerating or landing from a jump or running," she says.

Plus, this eccentric exercise may also help improve your coordination (because you must synchronize bending your knees while keeping your hips straight), Burnett says. And having better control over moving your muscles and joints can also lower your risk of injury.