There’s no lower-body exercise that’s more aptly named than the surrenders exercise. Because after just a few reps, you will want to give up.
Our advice? Don’t.
“The surrender exercise is a killer quad exercise that will challenge your lower body strength and mobility,” says Cody Braun, CSCS. “It’s a progression of the squat that requires good depth and unilateral leg strength. Because surrenders can be performed at a constant pace, not only will your legs burn, but you’ll get some good cardio sweat in too.”
Surrender Exercise: Step-by-Step Instructions
Stand with your feet about hip-width apart and place your hands behind your head. (Ideally while on an exercise mat or soft ground.)
Keeping your back flat and core engaged, push your hips back, bend your knees, and lower into a squat.
Take a step back with your right foot, and gently lower your right knee to the floor. Then do the same with your left knee so that you’re in a high kneeling position.
Engage your core as you lift your right knee and bring your right foot forward, planting it on the floor.
Keep your chest up and your shoulders back as you drive through the heel of your right foot, lift your left knee, and step your left foot forward into a low squat position.
From the low squat position, step your left foot back and lower your left knee to the floor. Then do the same with your right knee.
Lift your left knee and plant your left foot. Drive through your left heel and step your right foot forward into a low squat.
Continue alternating legs, return to a standing position once complete.
Form tip: “When you find yourself on one leg in the squat, you want to control your ascent and descent by resisting the urge to let your body shift from side to side,” says Braun. “Try to maintain one level at the bottom of your squat with your chest up and hips down.”
How to Make the Surrender Exercise Easier
You can make the surrender exercise easier, but don’t expect to breeze through your workout. Even modified surrenders are tough.
“If getting up and down off the floor bothers your knees, you can hold the deep squat and alternate tapping one foot behind you at a time,” says Braun. “This will keep the tension in your legs while saving your knees.”
Alternatively, you can start from a high kneeling position, lift one knee, plant that foot, and return to a kneeling position. You’ll feel this modified surrender exercise in your core, glutes, legs, and hip flexors.
And if neither of these surrender exercise modifications work for you, switch to step-ups. Like the surrender exercise, step-ups elevate your heart rate and engage your core while strengthening the muscles of the lower body.
What Muscles Does the Surrender Exercise Target?
Don’t be surprised if your legs start to shake after just a couple reps. Surrenders are designed to work — like, really work — your entire lower body and core.
The quadriceps are the four muscles located on the front of each thigh — the rectus femoris, the vastus lateralis, the vastus intermedius, and the vastus medialis — that collectively straighten the knee.
The gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus make up the muscles of your butt.
The glute muscles work together to help stabilize the pelvis, extend the hips, rotate the legs, and abduct the legs (lift the legs out to the side).
Found on the backs of your thighs below your glutes are the these ropey muscles.
Your hamstrings flex your knees and play a role in both hip extension (think: standing up) and thigh rotation.
As the name suggests, the hip flexors are a group of muscles that flex your hip (bringing your knee toward your chest).
The main hip flexor muscles include the psoas major, the iliacus, and the rectus femoris (one of the four quadriceps muscles).
Your core includes all the muscles that move your trunk and stabilize your spine. T
he rectus abdominis (six pack muscles), the transverse abdominis (underneath your six pack), the obliques (framing your six pack muscles), and the erector spinae (running alongside your spinal column) are some of your primary core muscles.
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