Whether you’re following the ATG training program or are simply looking for some extra moves to improve your knee health, knees over toes exercises are some of the absolute best to include in your routine.
If your goal is to reduce knee pain, improve longevity, or increase athletic performance, you need to be doing as many of these exercises as possible each week.
A number of these exercises can be improved or made much easier using the right ATG equipment.
I’ve managed to negotiate some pretty epic discounts for a lot of the best gear, so be sure to check that article out for the cheapest prices possible!
If you struggle with flexibility and mobility, some of these exercises will be particularly tough, so be sure to check out my top stretches for knees over toes training.
Also check out my full list of the ATG standards so you can see what the benchmarks are for each of these exercises!
Knees Over Toes Lower Body Exercises
While the ATG program is now an extremely well balanced total-body system, it started out as a way to develop foundational lower body strength.
These are the lower body exercises the knees over toes movement was founded on.
1. Reverse Sled Pull
This is the one exercise the knees over toes guy does each and every day.
It’s a foundational centerpiece for all the other exercises on this list.
I’ve done a full write up as to why the reverse sled pull is the ultimate knees over toes exercise, so be sure to check that out for more information.
As far as weight goes, you should be able to work up to half your bodyweight total.
There’s also several more basic progressions you can work on if you don’t have access to a knees over toes sled, such as simply walking backwards or even using a powered down treadmill.
2. Patrick Step
The Patrick step is one of the first progressions as part of the ATG Zero program and is a key stepping stone towards the ATG split squat.
The idea of this movement is to keep your hips as far forward as you can while you step down on one leg and tap the floor before stepping back up.
Most of the time when we’re in this ‘knees over toes’ position (at the bottom of the Patrick step), it’s our joints doing a lot of the work.
A great example is landing from a jump in basketball on one leg.
Yes the muscles are involved, but it’s the joint that’s really copping a beating.
By actually training the muscles involved in this range of motion in a slow and controlled manner, we are teaching our body to get more comfortable loading the muscles as opposed to the joint which is our default state.
This is why the Patrick step is such a great precursor to the ATG split squat, because it teaches our knee joint to rely on our musculature in this extreme knees over toes position.
3. Standing Tibialis Raise
I’ve written countless articles explaining the benefits of strengthening your tibialis anterior and the knees over toes methodology also obsesses with developing this muscle.
The standing tibialis raise is the precursor to the tib bar tibialis raise and is a super simple bodyweight method of training this crucial muscle.
Simply lean your back up against a wall and with your feet out in front of you, curl your toes in towards your knees as shown above.
After 20 or so reps, you should have a pretty epic burn going in your shin!
4. Knees Over Toes Calf Raise
The knees over toes calf raise is an awesome way of isolating the soleus muscle as well as strengthening the Achilles tendon.
It looks pretty goofy, but it’s one of the best feelings you can get working out!
Start by leaning up against a wall with your toes as far in front of your knees as possible.
Perform a calf raise, remembering to generate power only through extending the ankles (i.e. try not to bend your knees).
The bilateral calf raise will probably be too easy for most people, so I recommend performing these on one leg at a time.
Again around 20 reps is a good starting point.
These can definitely get pretty old/annoying quite fast, so if you have access to a seated calf raise machine, this will be the logical next progression.
5. Tibialis Raise
Using a tibialis bar is my favorite way to absolutely murder that tibialis muscle.
This is the next progression from performing the standing tibialis raises and is one of the most enjoyable muscle burns you will ever feel!
The tibialis raise standard is 25% of your bodyweight for 5 sets of 5 reps as prescribed by Ben Patrick.
If you reach this level, you have achieved tibialis nirvana!
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Seriously, if you’re getting into knees over toes training, you absolutely have to get your hands on one of these!
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6. Sled Push
You’re usually going to see this coupled with the reverse sled pull, but the sled push is actually quite a bit different to the sled pull.
This movement has the added benefit of training your feet and Achilles which are areas athletes of all kinds tend to neglect.
Getting this deep ankle flexion is not only going to improve the strength of your toes, feet, and Achilles, but it’ll also do wonders for your ankle mobility.
Improved ankle mobility leads to improvements in movements like the ATG split squat which we’re about to talk about!
7. ATG Split Squat
The ATG split squat is the holy grail of knees over toes movements.
There’s countless progressions you might need to try to arrive at this final product, and then numerous ways to load it once you’ve got the movement down.
You should lunge down with your knee tracking over your toes and your torso staying upright.
Avoid excessive arching in your lower back (lumber lordosis).
In order to master the ATG split squat, you’ll need excellent ankle mobility as well as hip mobility just to get into this position.
If you’re brand new to knees over toes, don’t expect to be able to perform the ATG split squat immediately. It takes time to develop this movement.
8. Nordic Hamstring Curl
The Nordic hamstring curl is one of the ATG/knees over toes favorites and is the preferred way of developing knee flexion strength.
This one exercise has massively contributed to some of the most incredible athletic transformations of all time.
There’s plenty of different ways to perform this exercise, so if you don’t have a Nordic bench, don’t sweat.
Make sure you check out my full article explaining how you can do Nordic hamstring curls at home and what equipment is most effective.
You should also definitely take a look at my roundup of the best Nordic benches of 2023, as they’re some brand new, super innovative and really affordable options!
9. Tri-Flexor Knee Raise
The Tri-Flexor knee raise is, in my opinion, the most effective way to train your hip flexors.
This device was based on Ben Patrick’s very own prototype and is a combination between a MonkeyFeet and a single leg tib bar.
This is by far the best way of training hip flexors that I’ve encountered yet.
The ATG standard for the knee raise is 10% of your bodyweight for 20 reps which is no easy feat.
But using the Tri-Flexor, hip flexor training is so much easier than it used to be which is why I highly recommend grabbing one of these.
If you’re interested, use the discount code “A1ATHLETE” for 10% off your Tri-Flexor!
10. Reverse Squat
The only other half decent way to hit those hip flexors is to do what’s known as the reverse squat (or low cable pull-in).
In a supine position, attach both of your feet to a cable machine and with approximately half your bodyweight on the stack, attempt to raise your knees to your chest and lower back down.
The ATG standard for these is 50% bodyweight for 20 reps.
Unfortunately most gyms don’t carry cable attachments/straps that work well for this exercise, so investing in a reverse squat strap is a good idea if you’re planning on doing this exercise regularly.
TheTibBarGuy currently sells the most affordable reverse squat strap that’s identical to the one Ben is using in the above clip.
The only difference is it’s significantly cheaper than the above strap at just $20!
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11. Seated Good Morning
The seated good morning is one of the best ways to train your lower back.
Not only is it great for strengthening and lengthening your lower back, but it’s also going to stretch out your adductors (groin).
There’s plenty of ways to do this movement but the objective is to get your abs touching the bench (not your chest, so the tension stays on your lower back).
This is tough and requires a good amount of mobility.
The standard for this movement is 10 reps at 50% of your bodyweight.
There’s plenty of other variations of this movement including using dumbbells or even a cable machine.
If you’re tall like me, make sure you elevate the bench off the ground (some weight plates will usually do the trick).
12. Teardrop Squat
Shout out to Mark Bell for coming up with this one!
The teardrop squat is a squat variation you can perform in a squat rack using either a barbell or a resistance band in its place.
The idea is to squat down with your knees so far over your toes that you actually come up onto your toes.
The objective is to stay on your toes and squat all the way down so your bum is touching your heels and then to push back up into the standing position.
Use the barbell/resistance band for support if this is overly difficult.
This exercise is a great and extremely safe way to practice getting your knee joint comfortable in that knees over toes position.
13. Back Extension
The back extension is a super versatile glute/ham builder which can be performed bilaterally or on one leg.
It’s recommended you do this exercise following the ATG split squat as that movement will open your hip flexors up allowing you to maximally contract your glutes.
The objective is to control both the eccentric and concentric, and squeeze your glute at the top of the movement for 2 seconds before lowering.
No bouncing the weight!
The standard for this movement is a single leg back extension with 100% bodyweight in additional load.
14. Barbell ATG Squat
The barbell variation of the ATG squat is what I think of as one of the primary muscle/strength builder on this list.
When you squat all the way to the bottom of the hole, you’re forced to use your VMO muscle to generate a lot of the power to get back up, making this an excellent quad workout.
The point of elevating your heel is to allow you to get into that full squat position with a lot more ease and to shift the focus to the VMOs.
I recommend using a slant board for these squats as it’s the best and safest way to elevate the heel.
Alternatively you can grab a pair of squat wedges like the ones Ben’s using above to accomplish this.
15. ATG Squat
The ATG squat can also be done using a dumbbell held under your chin.
The idea is that your elbows don’t touch your thighs, which means you’re fully activating your quads.
Your elbows must also stay in front of you and shouldn’t flare out to the sides.
The legs must travel forward, knees tracking over the toes.
You want to pause for a second at the bottom of the squat.
16. Single Leg Calf Raise
The single leg calf raise is performed using an elevated surface, holding a dumbbell on the same side that you’re working.
You’re only allowed to use your knuckles on the wall for balance, no pulling!
Stand on the ball of your foot and wrap your other foot around your ankle.
Lock your knee out and perform the calf raise.
You can also try these by actively tensing your tibialis anterior at the bottom of the movement.
Make sure you can hold the top position at full extension; if you can’t, you’re using too much weight.
17. ATG RDL
The ATG RDL can be performed using either a barbell or dumbbells.
This movement is characterized by hinging at the hips and descending to ‘slightly beyond parallel’ before coming back up.
We’re trying to lengthen and strengthen primarily the upper hamstrings here.
18. Petersen Step Up
The Petersen step up is a reverse step up which requires you to rock up onto the balls of your feet (by raising your heel), while bending the working knee as much as possible.
This requires a fair bit of balance to get right!
Make sure you lower only to the bottom of your heel and don’t plant your entire foot down.
Pause at the bottom before stepping back up.
19. Poliquin Step Up
The Poliquin step up is essentially the same thing except we’re using a slant board or heel wedge to help practice the elevated heel approach seen in the Petersen step up.
20. Jefferson Curl
Start on an elevated surface using a barbell or dumbbell on the floor in front of you.
You can begin this exercise with minimal weight, 0-5kg is fine to begin with.
Start by tucking your chin into your neck and curling your spine down, vertebrae by vertebrae.
Once you’re at the bottom of the movement, use your core to pull yourself deeper into the full range.
Once you’re at the bottom, engage the glutes and roll back up the same way you descended.
Keep the load on your mid-foot. You should feel the stretch primarily through your posterior chain.
Knees Over Toes Core Exercises
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
Make sure you’re stacking some of the following core exercises with your lower body workouts.
21. Hanging Leg Raise
This is a lower ab and hip flexor combo exercise.
Ben says the objective is to get your legs as high as possible, ideally being able to reach the bar with your toes.
Being able to do this with straight legs is pretty challenging as it requires a lot of hamstring flexibility and immense core strength.
Don’t expect to be able to do these while carrying a bunch of extra fat around!
Being super light will make life a lot easier when doing bodyweight movements like these.
22. Garhammer Raise
The Garhammer raise is another exercise focusing primarily on the lower abs but also heavily involving the hip flexors as well as the rectus femorus (upper middle quad).
The Gahammer raise begins in an L-sit position, from which you raise your legs and lower them back to the starting position.
The above is what we call the level 3 Garhammer raise.
If that’s too difficult, start with the level 2 variation, which is where you start with bent knees, extend your legs at the top, and control downwards during the eccentric.
The first level of the Garhammer raise is to go with bent knees on the way up and down.
The L-sit is another brutal hip flexor and lower abdominal exercise which can be regressed by adding height.
The toughest version of this movement is to start on the floor.
Using elevated parallel bars makes life a lot easier.
You can start working on these using most dip bars/power towers.
Knees Over Toes Upper Body Exercises
The ATG upper body movements are designed to help maximize your performance in a variety of sports-specific athletic movements like sprinting and jumping.
Like the lower body movements, they’re characterized by full range of motion and help bring up important muscle groups that traditional routines have overlooked.
24. ATG Chin Up
ATG chin ups can be performed with whichever grip you prefer (neutral or underhand).
You must pull all the way up so that your shoulders are touching the bar. Hold that top position for 1 second.
You’ve also got to lower yourself all the way down to full extension so your elbows are locked out at the bottom of the movement.
You can regress this movement by doing negatives (starting in the top position and slowly lowering yourself).
25. 45 Degree Incline DB Press
You can do this exercise using either an incline bench or by sitting on the floor with you back up against the edge of a bench (see second clip below).
This is a simple incline dumbbell press except we’re focusing on lowering the weight as far down as they’ll go, about parallel with our chest.
Ben prefers doing this on the floor up against the edge of a weight bench, saying that it allows him to get a deeper stretch through his upper thoracic area.
26. ATG Dip
The ATG dip only differs from a regular dip in that you’re using a complete range of motion: starting with arms locked out at the top and lowering until you can’t go any further!
27. Face Pull
The face pull is a really important upper back/rear delt developer used to maintain balance when doing a lot of bench/shoulder pressing movements.
Focus on pulling the rope to your neck region while ensuring your elbows stay in line with or above your shoulders.
28. ATG Shoulder Press
Start this exercise sitting on a flat bench to take your lower body out of the movement.
The key differentiator between the ATG shoulder press and other variations is that we’re keeping our shoulder blades retracted throughout the entire movement.
Use the cue of having one head of the dumbbell over each side of the shoulder.
Of course we’re also using a full range of motion.
29. Cross Bench Pullover
This is one of the better exercises to help correct posture/slouching, ideal for younger athletes!
Start with your upper back in the middle of a bench.
Reach back with the dumbbell as far as you can, as you drop your hips.
If you keep your hips high, you won’t feel the thoracic stretch, so make sure you drop them down to really stretch through your abdominals.
Drive up with the dumbbell until your arms are perpendicular to your torso.
This is primarily a tricep exercise, but it’s also just a great way to stretch out your core and upper back.
30. Trap 3 Raise
The trap 3 raise targets your lower traps located right about half way down your back.
This movement can be performed on either a back extension machine or an incline bench.
The key is to keep your elbows locked out and to raise the dumbbells out in front of you on a 45 degree angle.
Control/hold at the top, and fight the weight down during the eccentric.
Here’s an example of these being done on a regular adjustable weight bench.
31. External Rotation
This exercise develops all round shoulder ability.
Ben initially implemented it with the idea of being able to bullet passes across the basketball court, but it also has carryover to sprinting and a huge range of other upper body movements.
Start by sitting on a bench and resting your elbow on the inside of your propped up knee.
Rotate your arm forward while keeping your elbow on your knee.
The only thing moving during this exercise should be your forearm; the rest of your body should be statuesque.
32. QL Extension
The QL extension targets your quadratus lumborum muscles deep in your your lower back.
This helps with a variety of lateral athletic movements as well as simple everyday tasks like bending over (on a slight angle) to pick things up.
Start on a back extension bench and hinge over sideways using your lower back and obliques to pull you back up.
If you don’t have access to a back extension bench, this exercise can be done standing using a split stance.
Shout out to @ATG_Sam for the video demonstration – I highly recommend following him on Insta if you’re into ATG training!
33. Incline Barbell Press
The incline press can be done either dumbbells or a barbell, although the barbell is preferred.
If you have access to a cambered bar, this will allow you to maximize your range of motion in true ATG style.
34. Dumbbell Scott Curl
The Scott curl is going to help develop full range bicep strength which will translate to sprinting ability as well as vertical jump ability (namely during the arm swing).
The Scott curl is a full extension supinated single arm bicep curl performed on a preacher bench.
I don’t have a preacher bench at my gym so I just pull a regular bench up to a back extension machine which works really well.
Don’t expect to be able to do all of these exercises immediately, especially if you suffer from knee pain, poor mobility, or haven’t been lifting consistently for a good while.
There’s plenty of progressions for each of these exercises that’ll help you work your way towards the ATG standards for each of the movements.
Never work through pain that’s higher than a 2-3/10.
Be sure to include some of the best knees over toes stretches prior to your knees over toes workouts so that you’re nice and loose and able to hit the full range of motion.
Also make sure you check out my full list of knees over toes equipment – I’ve managed to negotiate some pretty sweet discounts so you can get all the gear you need at the best possible rate.
Why You Should Sign Up For ATG!
Simply knowing what the ATG exercises are isn’t going to help you a whole lot…
But knowing exactly how many sets and reps to do, as well as how to program your weekly training routine, so you can progress efficiently, is far more important.
If you really want to make improvements to your foundational strength as an athlete, head on over to the ATG Online Coaching website where you can get access to Ben and his team who will set you on the right path.