If your knees hurt, go-to exercises like squats and lunges can turn a self-improvement session into a world of pain. Luckily, there are plenty of alternatives you can use to stay fit without putting undue pressure on your knees.
Banded lateral walk
If your knees are giving you trouble, it may not actually be their fault. In an article for SELF, Amy Marturana Winderl references physical therapist Brad Whitley’s opinion on the matter. He believes when patients experience pain during activities like squats or lunges, “it's often caused by lack of mobility or strength in the hips or ankles.” Winderl suggests an exercise called a banded lateral walk, where you place an athletic band around your lower thighs, then take 10 wide steps in both directions. Even if it doesn’t result in reduced knee pain overall, it’s likely to tone your hip and leg muscles.
The term deadlift may conjure images of bodybuilders hoisting 1,000-pound barbells over their heads, but they’re actually easy to do at home and quite kind to your knees. According to Kim Pieper from Get Healthy U, deadlifts are one of the best all-around exercises out there since they not only, “target your glutes and hamstrings, but also your low back, middle back, traps, calves, forearms and core.” To do them, all you need is a barbell or a set of dumbbells. Then, bend at the waist while holding your weight and return to a standing position, relying on your core muscles rather than your back or knees.
Running is one of the most popular forms of cardiovascular exercise. Unfortunately, it can also be a nightmare if you’re dealing with bad knees. But there are a lot of ways to keep up with your cardio without inflaming your joints. The easiest method is to take daily walks at your own pace. After a few sessions, you’ll know how far you can go before the pain crops up. Swimming is also a simple, low-impact exercise that will build muscles all over your body. You can also use an elliptical machine or a stationary bicycle to burn off some calories while sparing your knees the painful pressure of a treadmill.
One of the best — and easiest — exercises you can do at home without using your knees at all is the reverse hyper. All you need to do is lay face down on a flat, elevated surface like a weight bench or even a coffee table. Position yourself so your hips are right near the edge, then slowly raise your legs so they’re parallel to your back and hold the pose for two to five seconds. Cori Lefkowith from Redefining Strength specifies that you should only use your glutes to lift your legs and be careful not to “hyperextend your back and lift way higher than parallel.”
Living with joint pain isn’t easy, but these knee-friendly exercises can help you find a way to achieve your fitness goals in a way that works for you.