I Do These 5 Exercise Modifications Every Time My Knees Hurt

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By: Chris Freytag, CPT // July 24, 2023


Most leg joint pain actually stems from a lack of strength in your legs. How’s that for ironic? Yes, strengthening the muscles around your knee joint is one of the best ways to protect you from knee pain.

There are all kinds of ways you can work your legs by either modifying traditional leg moves and choosing moves that are effective but more gentle on your knees.

Most leg joint pain actually stems from a lack of strength in your legs. How’s that for ironic? Yes, strengthening the muscles around your knee joint is one of the best ways to protect you from knee pain.

There are all kinds of ways you can work your legs by either modifying traditional leg moves and choosing moves that are effective but more gentle on your knees.

Here are the best exercises for bad knees so you can strengthen your legs without putting stress on your knees.

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    1. Stability Ball Wall Squats

    Photo Credit: Get Healthy U

    Instead of a traditional squat, grab a stability ball, place it between your mid-back and the wall. These squats for bad knees will still help you work your lower body without putting pressure on your joints.

    • Lean slightly back against the ball with your feet shoulder-width apart in front of you and begin your squat.
    • Not only will this take some pressure off your knees, but you’ll also be able to adjust the move on the fly to suit your own strengths and weaknesses.
    • Get a feel for this and then add some dumbbells in your hand to make it harder.

    Tip: Choose your range of motion—go lower if you can, but stay higher if your knee pain kicks in. The key is to sit back as you squat, keep legs hip width apart, and focus your weight in your heels!

    2. Reverse Your Lunges

    backward lunge
    Photo Credit: Get Healthy U

    Another essential move for toned legs, lunges work not only your leg muscles but, when done properly, they also help you fire up your glutes. The lunge that tends to hit your knees hardest is the forward lunge. So…

    Try: Reverse Lunges

    You definitely want to practice them without any added weight, but once you get the motion down and concentrate on keeping the weight in your front foot, you’ll likely find these lunges are much easier on your knees. Add weight once you’re confident in the move.

    Tip: Pay attention to your glutes. You should feel this move in your rear end and put very little weight into the leg that goes behind you.

    3. Come Alive With Deadlifts

    chris doing lift exercise
    Photo Credit: Get Healthy U

    If you want to give your booty a little lift and your knees are bugging you, deadlifts might be your new best friend. This is a classic strength training move especially if you have bad knees.

    Try: Deadlifts

    Deadlifts are one of the most potent and overall best strength exercises one can perform. Not only are you going to target your glutes and hamstrings, but also your low back, middle back, traps, calves, forearms and core. Whew! That’s packin’ a whole lot of punch. The whole move centers around your center, and you work the entire back side of your body. Plus, when you keep your knees slightly bent, you won’t aggravate sore knees.

    Tip: Use heavy weights—either barbells or dumbbells—since you have many muscles recruited to do this lift. Keep your knees slightly bent and legs hip width apart – but do all the work in your abs and glutes.

    4. Bridge The Gap With Bridges

    chris working out
    Photo Credit: Get Healthy U

    Yes, you are lying on your back. No, you are not getting a break. A Glute Bridge is like a laser beam for your butt! If your knees keep you from squats or lunges, or you just need some variety in your lower body moves, the glute bridge is a killer. So…

    Try: Glute Bridges

    Glute bridges target and strengthen the glutes, hamstrings, core, lower back and hip muscles and uses your stabilizers to keep your body strong. Performing a glute bridge will give you amazing results for lifting the backside, without all the consequences to your joints.

    Tip: Try single leg glute bridges too! Isolating one leg will target the hamstrings and give you an extra challenge once you’ve mastered traditional glute bridges.

    5. Roll With A Stability Hamstring Roll-In

    stability ball hamstring roll
    Photo Credit: Get Healthy U

    Hamstrings are notoriously weak. They are a tricky muscle to target and often overpowered by the quads. We’ve got a move that will tackle those hamstrings along with your glutes and core. So…

    Try: Stability Ball Hamstring Roll-Ins

    Stronger hamstrings, along with stronger quads and glutes all work together to protect your knee joint. The Stability Ball Hamstring Roll-In is one of the most intense and effective ways to target those hamstrings and build strength in a very necessary spot. Yes, it requires a stability ball.

    Tip: Start by lifting and lowering your hips with your feet on the ball. One you have the strength to do that, you can progress to the roll-in. Also, expect cramps! It happens during this move, primarily due to the weakness of the hamstring muscle. Hang in there. It will get better!

    9 Hip-Strengthening Exercises for Seniors

    woman stretching
    Photo Credit: Shutterstock

    As the largest joint in your body, your hips play a central role in healthy aging.

    These mighty structures enable you to perform a wide range of daily activities, from standing to walking to climbing stairs — so it’s hardly surprising that hip weakness and pain can be debilitating to your everyday life!

    9 Hip-Strengthening Exercises for Seniors



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