When working your abdominal muscles, you’ve probably heard about planks, sit-ups, and crunches, but what about trying the leaning camel if you’re looking to mix up your ab routine? This unusual-sounding exercise mimics a camel's move as it stands up, but the human equivalent is an excellent way to strengthen your core. Read on to find out what happened when I added the leaning camel exercise to my routine every day for a week.
As a reminder, what works for me might not be right for you and your body. If you’re new to exercise, or you’re returning to exercise following an injury or pregnancy, it’s a good idea to check your form with a personal trainer before attempting something new. On a normal week, I wouldn’t train my abdominal muscles every single day — your muscles need time to recover and repair in order to grow.
How to do the leaning camel exercise
Ready to get started? This exercise can be done with your body weight, or to up the ante, with one of the best adjustable dumbbells to add weight to the move. As with all ab exercises, good form is important. Here’s how to master the leaning camel:
- Start on your knees, with your thighs perpendicular to the floor, and your toes tucked.
- If you’re using a weight, hold a dumbbell with both hands against your chest.
- Engage your core, and lean your torso back — this will target your quad muscles.
- Pause, then using your core, rise back to your starting position.
This is predominantly an abdominal exercise, as your abs have to work hard to stabilize your body as you lean your torso backward, yet your quads are also getting a workout here. Ensure your head, neck, and shoulders stay relaxed, and your chest open — keep your eye gaze neutral throughout the exercise.
I did the leaning camel ab exercise every day for a week — here’s what happened
But what would happen if I made the leaning camel a part of my daily routine? Read on to find out.
I felt the move in my lower body as much as my abs
Your lower body, including your quads and glutes, really has to remain braced to keep your torso steady in this exercise. I was surprised by how shaky my legs felt after my first few days of doing the leaning camel every single day, and I had to slow the move down to really think about my form as I leaned back and then brought myself back to my starting position. As a runner, and someone who spends a lot of time sitting behind a desk, this exercise helped my hip flexors work as well.
My abs had to work hard to stabilize my body
You feel this exercise down the front of your body, particularly the rectus abdominis, or six-pack muscles, which run along the front of your stomach. The rectus abdominal muscles work to stabilize your torso as you move, and it didn’t take long for me to feel the deep shake in my core as I worked to hold my torso steady at the bottom of this movement, particularly when holding a dumbbell to my chest.
My lower back didn’t love this exercise
This exercise also works the lower back, as your muscles need to work to keep your torso steady. Your back should remain flat during this exercise — arching your back makes the exercise easier, and means your abs aren’t working as hard, but also puts you at risk of injury.
I suffer from sciatica following a horse riding accident in my teens and found that my lower back didn’t love this exercise, particularly after trying to do 50 reps a day for a week. While I’ll definitely be including it in my ab workouts in the future, as I definitely feel you get a lot of bang for your buck in terms of the lower-body and abdominal benefits, I won’t be attempting it every single day.
I didn’t notice any visible results
Of course, a week isn’t long enough to notice any visible difference in the core. For me, strong abs are more than an aesthetic goal — they can help me run faster on my next marathon, lift weights with better form, and protect my spine from injury. That said, if visible abs are your goal, you’ll need to focus on your overall body fat percentage. Diet, hormones, cardio levels, and stress can all affect your body fat percentage — here’s how to calculate your body fat percentage, and why it matters.
My verdict after a week? This is a fun ab exercise to try, and I’ll definitely be adding it to my warm-ups and ab workouts, but I’ll leave the daily camel lean to the actual dromedaries.
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Jane McGuire is Tom's Guide's Fitness editor, which means she looks after everything fitness related - from running gear to yoga mats. An avid runner, Jane has tested and reviewed fitness products for the past five years, so knows what to look for when finding a good running watch or a pair of shorts with pockets big enough for your smartphone. When she's not pounding the pavements, you'll find Jane striding round the Surrey Hills, taking far too many photos of her puppy.