No one likes leg day, but the situation becomes a nightmare for people who experience knee pain. However, the results of heavy leg training are worth it. That’s why we decided to write an article on how to train when your knees hurt.
As an introduction, we want to draw your attention to the fact that knee pain during training is not uncommon. There are many causes that affect the appearance of such pain, such as torn cartilage, torn ligaments and many others. Knee pain can also be rooted in poor exercise technique or improper muscle involvement at the expense of the knee joint. You may also be surprised by the unpleasant cracking and clicking of the knees, which, however, should not immediately mean the worst.
Don’t succumb to the myths that if your knees hurt, you can’t train. But beware, this is only valid if you have consulted a doctor and know that your knees are fine. If you feel severe pain or swelling while moving, consult a doctor before performing the following exercises or other exercise program.
How to train when your knees hurt
The knees belong to the complex joints in the body and only a doctor can assess whether they are in good condition and whether you can exercise. If the answer is yes, you can work on strengthening the muscles in the knee area for better stability and increased mobility. If you feel pain, listen to your body and slow down during training. We also recommend that you consider well what cardio activities to do.
If you experience knee pain, replace exercises and sports activities that strain the knee joints with those that do not put much strain on the knee joints. In practice, this means replacing zumba, aerobics, jumping, sprints with cycling, swimming or brisk walking. We assume that the article will not be read only by fans of cardio, so we decided to review a few strength exercises that you can try when you feel discomfort in the knees. First we will give you some tips that you should not forget before the essential workout.
1. Warm up
A few minutes on the ergometer, 2 minutes of brisk walking and 20 push-ups against the wall in combination with stretching the calves can warm you up well enough, thus protecting you from injury. Before training, never forget to warm up to move the stiff muscles and prevent injuries and contusions. Also, at the end of the workout, be sure to set aside 10 minutes for stretching.
2. Engage the thigh and buttock muscles
Most often, knee pain is due to unbalanced training and overloading the quadriceps. Athletes, on the other hand, often neglect the back thigh muscles and buttocks muscles, and they are often significantly weaker. Although it may seem illogical, it is good to continue with unbalanced workouts, but focus on exercises that engage the entire thighs – the lateral thigh muscles, buttocks and hind thigh muscles. This means that you need to work your quadriceps through complex exercises that involve the thigh muscles, buttocks and back thigh muscles. Among them, for example, is the deadlift exercise, which is generally well accepted by people suffering from knee pain.
These exercises are a good way to train your leg muscles when you can’t do squats and lunges. Of course, something different is valid for everyone. Some people can easily practice squats and weightlifting for years on end, and are fortunate to build enviable leg muscles. But for those of you who feel pain just when you look at someone performing squats, you need to learn to distribute the load between the thigh muscles and the glutes.
If you are worried that you will not be able to load your quadriceps enough this way, remember that perseverance is most important. This means that your main goal should be health so that you can train for as long as possible.
3. Try exercises with training rubber bands
Exercise bands can be very useful in exercises that will work safely to build the quadriceps without putting undue strain on the knees. You can use them for exercises that involve one leg, such as squatting on one leg, or skater (so-called Skater Squats). Tie one end of the training elastic to a stable support and the other end of the elastic to your knee. Then do the exercises as you are used to.
The training elastic will force you to keep your body back. This will put more strain on your thighs and reduce the strain on your knees. In addition, when you return to the starting position, you transfer the load from the thighs to the quadriceps, which will allow you to strengthen the vastus medialis, ie the broad thigh muscle. With the help of training elastics, you can create a new version of the exercises suitable for your knees from the exercises you know.
You can also do Bulgarian squats with the training elastics, but it is more appropriate to attach one end of the elastic to a belt around your waist. Make sure the shinbone is perpendicular to the floor.
4. Stabilization is the basis
The knee is an important joint for stabilization. For some people, it is better to train their legs separately. If you suffer from knee problems, the best thing you can do is choose exercises that require independent work on each leg.
Many people think that they should avoid exercises that strain each leg on their own, because they put more strain on the knee joint. It is important to realize that the human body is symmetrical in both appearance and strength. Engaging only one leg will allow you to follow better techniques and perform the movement precisely and correctly.
Another plus is that in this way you will dynamically engage all the muscles involved. These exercises load the quadriceps, back thigh muscles and buttocks. We warn you, you will not feel comfortable, but the results are worth it.
10 exercises for knee pain
It is generally accepted that for knee pain you should not perform exercises in which the knee passes in front of the toes. In the following lines we have systematized several exercises that you can perform even with knee pain.
1. Dumbbell Step Ups
The first exercise is climbing on a step or bench. You need dumbbells and step. How to perform the exercise? Put one foot on the steppe and with the help of the gluteal muscles stand on it. Hold the other leg at a 90 degree angle. Then return to the starting position and alternate legs. Do 4 sets of 15 reps for each leg.
2. Bulgarian squat
If you want to perform the Bulgarian squat exercise correctly, put one foot on the steppe behind you and relax it. The other leg is placed in front and during the exercise it bends to an angle of 90 degrees. If you feel stable, you can perform the exercise with dumbbells or dumbbells that you hold in your hands.
In case of knee pain, place your front leg as far away from the steppe as possible to maintain a 90 degree angle when squatting down and standing up. This exercise can be performed in such a way that instead of weights in the hands you use a belt with an elastic band attached to a fixed lever. Do 2-3 sets of 15 reps.
3. Romanian deadlift or deadlift with straight legs
The most important thing in Romanian deadlift is to load as much weight as possible. If you are a man and you weigh at least 77 kg, you should be able to lift 130 kg. Place your feet shoulder-width apart, place the barbell in front of you and hold it with your hands in the middle. Keep your back straight with your knees slightly bent. Using the gluteal muscles and the back thigh muscles, raise the barbell approximately to the level of the waist. Hold in the up position for a while and return to the starting position. Do 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps.
4. Slideboard reverse lunges
Classic seizures can be very unpleasant if your knees hurt, but you can try sliding back attacks. If you decide to perform them, take a barbell and hold it with both hands in front of your body, below the level of the chin. You can also train with dumbbells.
Put a sliding pad under one leg to help you with this exercise. If you do not have such a pad, you can take off one of your shoes and perform the exercise by sliding your sock on the floor. Focus on safety. Perform the attack backwards by gently lowering your foot back onto the sliding mat until your knee reaches the floor. Do 2-3 sets of 15 reps.
5. Reverse sled drags
You can find fitness sleds in the better fitness centers. Pulling the sled back is an excellent exercise for moving and increasing strength. This exercise certainly can not replace lifting heavy weights, but through it you can engage the muscles of the legs, even in the presence of knee problems. Also, this exercise is an excellent prevention against muscle loss.
Begin the exercise by standing behind the sledge. Ideally, the sling strap should be attached to your waist, not just your arms. You must hold the strap with your hands so that your elbows point back and down. The hands should be close to the body. Tighten your muscles and start stepping back. Choose a load on the sled depending on the knee pain. If your knees do not hurt when performing the movement, then the weight is correct. Perform the exercise for at least 3 minutes.
6. Deadlift on one leg
It is a variant of the deadlift exercise, which is aimed at stability. This means that your whole body – from the central part of the body, the quadriceps and the back thigh muscles must be in balance. Stand up, your legs should be next to each other. Grab a dumbbell or push-up with your right hand.
Transfer the weight to your left leg by keeping your left knee slightly bent. Then straighten your right leg behind your body so that your torso is horizontal on the floor. At the end of the movement, your torso and right leg should be relatively horizontal to the floor, as if you were trying to make a scale. Keep the muscles tight in the central part of the body and then return to the starting position. In the starting position, tighten the gluteal muscles, wait a while and repeat the exercise.
7. Glute Bridge
The bridge is an exercise that activates the gluteal muscles and thighs without straining the knees. If you also use a training rubber band, this exercise will also help you engage the lateral thigh muscles, which help stabilize the thigh.
Lie on your back, put your hands on the mat next to you. Bend your legs at the knees, with your feet shoulder-width apart. Put the training elastic around your thighs, just above your knees. Tighten the buttocks as well as the central part of the body and raise your thighs a few inches above the floor. In this way, your body should form a straight line from the shoulders to the knees. Hold for a while in the upper position and then slowly return to the pad. More variations of the bridge exercise can be found in our article.
8. Kettlebell Swing
Thanks to the swing exercise with a push-up, you can train the back thigh muscles and the buttocks. Stand up straight, feet shoulder-width apart. Hold the pudovka with both hands. Bend your knees and do a half-squat. Hold the pudovka between your legs as shown in the image below. By pushing the hips and swing with the pudovka stand up straight. In the upper position, tighten the gluteal muscles and return to the starting position.
9. Banded Lateral Walk
Lateral walking with an elastic band around the legs primarily involves the gluteal and thigh muscles. Stand in a semi-squat position with the training elastic just above your knees. Take a big step with your right foot to the right and continue walking as much as the space where you train allows. Then go back in the other direction.
In a similar way, the exercise “Monster Walk” is performed, ie the gait of the monster. Again, you should stand in a semi-squat position with a training elastic folded over your knees. In this exercise, you do not walk sideways, but move forward with your legs wide open.
10. Wall squats
Stand with your back to the wall, with your feet hip-width apart, standing approximately one step away from the wall. Start slowly bending your knees for squats, with your back and pelvis against the wall. Do not bend too much so that your knees form an angle of a maximum of 90 degrees. The knees should not cross the tips of the toes. Hold for about 10-15 seconds and return to starting position. If you feel too much tension in your knees, change position.
We believe that we have been able to help you choose exercises for the lower part of the body for knee pain. Try these exercises and write us as a comment what your leg workout looks like. We will be happy if you share tips about the joint products you use. If you enjoyed the exercises or helped you train despite the knee pain, support the article by sharing it. Remember that you should enjoy training, not pain. When performing the exercises shown above, follow your doctor’s advice and most of all listen to your own body. We wish you success.