Knee/Squats with biceps curls are an excellent example of a compound exercise which trains the entire body (i.e. quadriceps/hamstrings/glutes/hip abductors/hip adductors/biceps and nose to toes core). These exercises may be performed anywhere, utilize the upper and lower body and demand a strong nose to toes core engagement throughout.

Three variations of this compound exercise will be described.  The first one will utilize body weight only, the second will incorporate dumbbells and the third will concentrate on plyometrics to emphasize power work which is great this time of year as we prepare for hiking/climbing/cycling/running season. 

As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.

*Perform 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions of one of the versions, 2-3 times/week on non-consecutive days.  If you have never performed this exercise before, begin with version #1, master it and then consider version 2 or 3.

**Warm-up for 5-10 minutes elevating the ratings of perceived exertion to a 1-2 which is very light to light exertion.  Good movement choices are full body in nature such as squats, lunges, pushups, step touches, light jogging or marching.

***Set up first by standing erect, completely vertical, head/neck in neutral, shoulders rotated back/down, rib cage lifted, navel pulled toward your spine, pelvic floor pulled up and in and the knees relaxed.

Knee/Squats with biceps curls – Version #1 – 4-8-inch step platform or staircase

Set up as described above, with the feet approximately shoulder-distance apart, arms extended by the sides of the body and the body weight equally distributed throughout the feet.

Place the right foot on the floor at the end of the step platform with the left foot on top of the platform close to that end.

Drive through the left foot, extending the left leg, as you lift the right knee upward and perform a biceps curl with both arms as the knee lifts.

Lower the right foot back to the floor with control into a squat position with both legs – thinking toe/ball/heel (i.e. sit back into a squat with the legs staggered—right leg “behind” with both heels down as you sit into the squat).  *Avoid permitting the left heel to lift as you sit back into the squat.

The arms fully extend with control to the sides and repeat the sequence.  The tempo of this movement pattern is slow—thinking two counts each direction.  Complete your repetitions on this side and then switch to the other end of the step and repeat on the other lead.

Knee/Squats with biceps curls – Version #2 – 4-8-inch step and moderate to heavy dumbbells

Perform the exact same exercise with the external resistance.

Knee/Squats with biceps curls – Version #3 – 4-8-inch step – plyometric – no external resistance – for advanced participants only with no lumbar spine or knee issues. 

-Exactly the same set up as versions one and two.

-Driving through the top heel, explode upward from the top of the step and the floor, as you lift the right knee toward the ceiling.

Then, land softly with control—touching the balls of the feet, then the heels, followed by the knees flexed into the staggered leg squat position again.

You may curl the arms up as you explode and return to the extended arm position on the landing.

Jackie Wright if the owner/manager of Mountain Life Fitness, LLC located in Granby, Colorado.  She may be reached at her website at and her email at

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