Working your legs is essential for your overall fitness! After all, your legs not only move you, but as the largest muscles in your body they help you perform those big calorie-burning exercises which bump up your metabolism. The problem is that bad knees can get in the way—and they’re a common problem. One study from Gallup-Healthways found that 26% of the adult population in the United States suffers from knee pain. Injuries, surgeries, arthritis and runner’s knee—there are many reasons you might be experiencing knee pain, but it should never cause you to skip leg day. We’re here to show you the best workout modifications for bad knees so you can strengthen your legs without putting stress on your knees.
Work Your Legs Without Hurting Your Knees
Most knee 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 five great exercise modifications for bad knees.
1. Swap Out Your Squats
The big daddy of all leg moves, squats are a must do! If you have knee pain, however, you might have already decided they are a must don’t. So…
Try: Stability Ball Wall Squats
Instead of a traditional squat, grab a stability ball, place it between your mid-back and the wall. 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 and keep all your weight in your heels!
2. Reverse Your Lunges
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
If you want to give your booty a little lift and your knees are bugging you, deadlifts might be your new best friend. So….
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. This move is a must!
Tip: Use heavy weights—either barbells or dumbbells—since you have many muscles recruited to do this lift. Keep your knees slightly bent, but do all the work in your abs and glutes.
4. Bridge The Gap With Bridges
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
The glute bridge targets and strengthens the glutes, hamstrings, core, lower back and hip muscles and uses your stabilizers to keep your body strong. Performing a glute brdge will give you amazing results for lifting the backside, without all the consequences to your joints.
Tip: Try a single leg glute bridge too! It will target the hamstrings and give you an extra challenge once you’ve mastered the traditional glute bridge.
5. Roll With A Stability Hamstring Roll-In
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…
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!