While it’s not always recommended to workout when you’re injured, there are times when old injuries or just the build of your body pose a problem to your fitness plan. You’re not injured per se, but if doing specific exercises causes pain, the result is both no fun and possibly unsafe. A good example are the knees. If you’ve got aches or discomfort where your legs bend, you may be more inclined to skip lower body exercises to avoid any issues. That approach is fine every once in a while, but doing so means you’re missing out big opportunities to burn fat efficiently, not to mention strengthening and toning.
Got Bad Knees?
There are plenty of lower body exercises that take the stress off of your bad knees, but before we dig into those options, it’s important to first understand why your joints are acting up. If you’ve injured your knee in the past, it’s possible it didn’t heal properly and thus may give you cause for pause. Any injury–new or old–should be reviewed and treated under the advisement of a medical professional. That said, not all knee pain is always due to damage done to the area.
- Shoes: Shoes are a lot like tools. In the same way you wouldn’t use a screwdriver to drive a nail into a stud, you wouldn’t wear high heels to run a marathon. All athletic shoes are not created equally, which means you may need to switch up your footwear depending on the workout you do. Wear the wrong shoes and your knees could suffer.
- Alignment: The position of your body can make all the difference on whether or not your knees will feel the pain. Proper form is a must in avoiding lower body exercise discomfort.
- Mobility: If you’ve been sacrificing stretching, both when you exercise and on your off days, your knees could be paying the price. The less flexible you are, the harder it may be for your body to maintain balance and stability, which can cause stress on your joints. To alleviate bad knees, improve your mobility.
Lower Body Exercises Despite Bad Knees
No matter what shape your knees are in–or what the cause–you can take them out of the equation with the following lower body exercises. Instead of lunges, squats, and running, try these less painful bad knee options.
Side Raises: Firm up your glutes, outer thighs, and obliques by lying down on your right side on the floor with your right arm beneath your head and your left arm in front of your midsection on the floor for balance. Slowly lift your left leg with your foot flexed as high as you can. Hold this position for three seconds before slowly lowering back to the starting position. Complete 3 sets of 12 reps on each side.
- Glute Bridges: To work your hamstrings and glutes (not to mention your core), lie on your back with your arms at your side. Bend your knees and place your feet about hands-length away from your butt. Lift your toes and press through your heels to lift your hips toward the ceiling. Slowly lower back down to complete one rep. If this feels too easy, place a dumbbell, kettlebell, or barbell plate on your pelvis. You can also raise one leg parallel off the ground to do your lifts. Complete 3 sets of 10 reps on both legs together or on each leg separately.
- Band Walks: Give your thighs, glutes, and hips a walking workout that compares to lunges without the pain. Place a resistance band around your calves (tied or a continuous loop) so that there is a little bit of tension when standing with your feet below your hips. Take 10 to 12 small steps to the right, increasing the tension when you step out, and returning to the starting tension when the next foot follows. Repeat the same number of steps to the left. Complete as many rounds as you can in three minutes.
Romanian Deadlift: Tighten your glutes, hamstrings, and quads with this easier-on-the-knees lower body exercise. With a barbell or dumbbells held at your front thighs (palms facing you) and your knees soft, slowly bend forward from the hip and lower the weight toward the floor. Squeeze your glutes together to raise your body back to the starting position. Complete 3 sets of 15 reps.
Don’t let bad knees be the reason you skip lower body exercises. Find ways to keep your glutes, quads, and hammies in the game and your fat-burning efforts will be better for it. What is your favorite lower body exercise? Share with others in the comments!