Build Muscle Even With A Bad Knee
Building muscle when youre over 60 is tough enough. It gets even harder when age-related issues like arthritis get in the way. I got some bad news recently. Im going to need a knee replacement surgery. Ive had a bad knee, bone-on-bone, for nearly 40 years. Arthritis finally got the better of it. Muscle building has had to take a backseat to pain for the past month.
Previously, the knee has gone out on me a few times every year but usually came back after a few weeks rest. Not this time, its not coming back and has left me limping around in constant pain.
So for the past few weeks, Ive barely worked out at all. That is really making me crazy! So, I spent some time researching lower body exercises for people with bad knees. Im going to do those on Leg Day instead of my usual routine.
The rest of my workout I can still manage as usual, at least until surgery time. But heres my new Leg Day routine. No weights or machines, just gentle body weight. And as with any exercise, dont do it if it hurts. Either modify and limit the motion, or drop the exercise and try another. No Pain!
I believe this type of gentler approach could be adapted for any other area of the body: Shoulders, Arms, Back, etc. If theres interest at looking at other alternative workouts, Ill follow-up on those next time. Let me know.
Strengthen Posterior Chain Muscles
Next, focus on strengthening your posterior chain muscles calves, glutes, hamstrings, spinal erectors, and lats and activating your quads.; This will keep your knee safer and add more stability to the joint.; Incorporating sled dragging variations , iso-hold lunges, step-ups to a short box , hip thrusts, glute bridges, and dumbbell RDLs will get all of the muscles surrounding the knee stronger with hundreds of contractions.;
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Is It Safe For Me To Exercise
Are you worried;that working out could cause more knee damage or pain? As long as your doctor says its OK, the best thing you can do is to strengthen the muscles that support your knee and keep them flexible. Start slowly, and build up over time. Talk to your doctor about which specific exercises are good for you.
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Rule #: Know The Mechanics
The knees will take on more or less stress depending on the angle at the shin while lifting weights. The further forward the knee tracks over the toe, the more quadriceps youll hit in your exercise. Doing your best to keep your shins perpendicular to the ground while training the lower body is important when it comes to keeping knee pain at bay. Here are some exercises to help with that idea.
Other Lower Extremity Strength Deficits
The loss of quadriceps strength has been one of the most commonly cited impairments associated with knee arthritis.; Much emphasis has been placed on the quad, however impairment of other muscles have also been identified.; Several papers have been published that demonstrate that patients with knee arthritis also have a:
- 4-38% reduction in hamstring strength
- 16% reduction in hip extension strength
- 26-40% reduction in hip flexion strength
- 27-40% reduction in external rotation strength
- 20-43% reduction in internal rotation strength
- 22-24% reduction in abduction strength
- 26% reduction in adduction strength
This are pretty big strength deficits that seem to occur in every plane of motion. ;I would imagine this again represents a general level of deconditioning associated with the development of knee arthritis.; Muscular weakness and imbalances can have a significant impact on the ability to develop and withstand forces without compensatory movement patterns that increase force applied to the static joint structures.
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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
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 youve mastered traditional glute bridges.
Exercise : Wall Squats
Stand with your head, back and hips against a wall, your feet about hip-width apart. Slowly bend your knees, and glide down the wall until just before you reach a sitting position. Hold the position for five to ten seconds and then slowly come up. Repeat 5-10 times as needed.
You should keep your abdominal muscles engaged and not allow your pelvis to slide down lower than your knees. Avoid bringing the knees forward over the toes.
This quadriceps exercise will strengthen your knee joint and build stamina along the entire leg.
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Best Leg Exercises For Bad Knees
Consider physiotherapy exercise for knee pain. The physical therapist will be able to give you specific exercises you can do that will not exacerbate your particular condition, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
However, the following exercises are less likely to irritate bad knees. Give each one a try and see what works for you. If an exercise is painful, don’t do it.
Move 1: Glute Bridges
These strengthen your glutes and hamstrings while opening your hips and strengthening your core.
Move 2: Reverse Hyperextensions
Reverse hyperextensions are another effective exercise for your glutes that don’t use the knees at all, according to ExRx.net.
Move 3: Single-Leg Deadlifts
What You Need To Start
Balance can be an issue for many people no matter what style of exercise theyre undertaking. If you have bad knees, chances are you might experience a sudden bout of knee pain, and having something to steady yourself can prevent a fall and potential injury. Thats why the first thing we recommend for these low-impact leg exercises is a steady chair that you can lean on. If you dont have a steady chair or you prefer to use something else, the wall is also a viable option.;
Adding a resistance band will also help give your lower body an extra workout. Medicine balls and free weights can help give your upper body a workout and add an element of cardio into your exercises. Of course, thatll only be feasible if you dont have balance issues. If youre unsure at all, the smartest way to go about it is to start without any additional tools and slowly add them in throughout the workout to make sure you dont overdo it.
Note: If you dont want to use additional weights or other tools, try out our Bodyweight Power Fitplan.
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Rule #: Tissue Quality Matters
Looking at the condition of the muscles that surround the knee joint is important when it comes to alleviating undue stress. Stretching can do some good, but whats more effective is to use a dense foam roller. This wont be the most comfortable thing to do, but pay special attention to the muscles of the quads, IT band, hips, and inner thighs when rolling. When your muscles get a chance to relax and let go, the knees wont be pulled as far out of position and maintain proper tracking. Remember, if the foam rolling feels like a cakewalk, its time for a denser roller!
Prone Straight Leg Raises
Lie on your stomach with your legs straight. Tighten the muscles in your bottom and the hamstring of one leg, and lift toward the ceiling. Hold 3-5 seconds, lower, and repeat. Do 10-15 lifts and switch sides. You can add ankle weights as you gain strength. You shouldnt feel back pain. If you do, limit how high you lift up. If it still hurts, stop and talk to your doctor.
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Best Exercises For Sensitive Knees
While squats and;lunges;are two of the most popular bodyweight exercises, they tend to be hard on people with sensitive knees. Luckily, there are;myriad other bodyweight exercises that can still give you a;great;workout but are more low-impact. Here, we recommend nine of those;bodyweight;exercises that will help you get in shape while still protecting your knees.
Some of our favorite moves will use equipment like;resistance bands, while others will incorporate a;stability ball.;Using equipment like this can help take away some of the strain placed on your joints while still helping you reach the full range of motion. So try one or all of these nine bodyweight exercises for when you want to tone, tighten, and get in shapewithout putting pressure on your knees.
What To Avoid If You Have Bad Knees
Exercises that involve excessive flexing, particularly those with weights, such as full squats or leg presses arent suitable exercises for bad knees. Jumping exercises or those which involve sudden stops, starts and pivots such as basketball or tennis can also be tough on the knee joint.
Walking is a good exercise for bad knees. Swimming and bicycling are also good, as they arent too strenuous or high-impact.
It is important to remember that not all physical activities or exercises will strengthen the muscles you need to support your knee joint. So, when planning your workout, be sure to include hamstring and quad exercises for bad knees.
Consult your doctor before you start any new exercise. Your bad knee may be better or worse than the next person, and you need to choose a workout that caters to your needs.
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What Causes Weak Knees
The quads and, most importantly, the vastus medialis obliques , are the muscles that run along the front and side of the leg and attach to the knee.
These are super important for keeping the knee straight and absorbing shock from running and other weight-bearing activities. A weakness here will lead to an unstable knee and increased pressure on the knee joint a big ouch factor!
When it comes to exercises to strengthen knees, working;the quads and VMO are key.
While you might be shaking your head and thinking, What does my butt have to do with my knees? the importance of the glute-knee connection may surprise you.
You see, the glute muscles are key players in hip adduction and abduction . Since they create this movement, theyre also able to resist it when necessary. Say, for example, when youre jogging the last thing you want is your hips and knees rotating the wrong way at the wrong time.
This is exactly what happens when you have weak glutes. And most of us have weak glutes because we sit so much and dont activate our glutes properly.
As a result, our;knees are not supported by the glute muscles during exercise, which can lead to improper foot landing and rotations. In turn, you get a ton of shock and pressure on your knee joints instead of your glute muscles, where it could be absorbed efficiently.
Lesson: give your booty the attention it deserves!
Exercises To Help Improve Bad Knees And What To Avoid
Many people with knee pain or knee problems have difficulty working out and finding ways to get physical activity. Sometimes it is hard to find workouts that dont cause pain and that are sustainable. ;Many people think that just because they have knee pain that they cant workout or that they shouldnt workout but that is not true. ;It is important for all people to get physical activity and the health benefits of working out are important for many health conditions. ;
So, what can you do to help improve bad knees ?
First of all, whether you have knee problems or not, all of us;should be mindful during any workout that knees stay in line with toes, not wavering in or out of alignment during an exercise. This includes when doing step exercises and when performing squats. The worst exercises for knee joints for people with bad knees include full-arc knee extension including using the machine at the gym, full-deep lunges, deep squats, and;Hurdlers stretches, because these exercises place excessive strain on the knee joints and can increase pain and cause injury. These exercises are especially harmful when;not performed properly, which can also increase risk of injury.;
Calf Raises can be performed near a wall or a chair for balance. You will stand with your feet about hip width apart and toes straight ahead. You will slowly lift your heels off of the floor, rising up on your toes, hold for 1-2 seconds and then slowly lower back down.;
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Modified Backward Sled Drag
This is modified simply because you dont perform it with your knees bent at 90-degrees as if you were sitting in an invisible chair. Instead, you sit your hips down by bending your knees only as much as you can without feeling pain, then drag the sled that way.
You dont even have to be as low as Susy Natal is in the video because, even if theres hardly much bend in knees, your quads still have to work hard to drag the sled. The nature of walking backwards is basically a standing leg extension.
Use the same weight-to-distance range provided above. Just make sure you find the heaviest weight you cant pull much farther than the target distance. So if youre going for the sled drag equivalent of a medium-rep range, use a weight that doesnt allow you to move the sled much more than 60 total yards on each set.
Its important to note that both of these sled drills involve other muscles than your quads. And yes, they certainly get your lungs burning and heart racing. Im including them here because theyre extremely quad intensive, especially at longer distances. Be ready for a quad burn!
Before You Get Started
Diagnosing and dealing with knee problems is a critical first step before you begin exercising. See your physician prior to participating in any knew exercises to get general health clearance. If knee problems or concerns have led you to muscle-building exercises, have the problem diagnosed and properly treated first. Your doctor might agree that strength training exercise can be an effective part of your treatment plan, or she might prescribe rest, medication or even knee replacement surgery. Including your doctor in the process ensures that the health of your knee is protected.
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Exercise Modifications For Bad Knees
Most leg joint pain actually stems from a lack of strength in your legs. Hows 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.
Follow along with this video as we show you the five great exercise modifications for bad knees, including glute bridges, squat alternatives for bad knees, and more.
Best Exercises For Bad Knees
Some of these knee exercises can be easily converted to high-impact or even plyometric exercises with the addition of an explosive jump. If you work on them for an extended period and your knee pain vanishes, you might be able to continue using some of these leg exercises to build and sculpt lower-body muscle. However, always make sure you consult with a physical therapist or personal trainer for their expert opinion before upping the ante.
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Build Healthy Strong Legs
Remember, you don’t have to give up on exercise if you have sensitive knees. These exercises will help your lower body get stronger without discomfort. If your;knee issues are just a result of lack of strength and joint stability, by doing some of these exercises, youll be able to strengthen your knees and surrounding muscles and graduate to squats and lunges in the near future.
Muscle Impairments In People With Knee Arthritis
A recent paper reviewing the muscle impairments associated with knee arthritis was published in Sports Health that I thought did a great job overviewing the current evidence on the subject.; Alnahdi, Zeni, and Snyder-Mackler;discussed several factors associated with muscle impairments and knee arthritis.
I thought I would take this article and combine it with some of my thoughts and recommendations from the The MOVE Consensus published several years ago in Rheumatology.
There are a lot of muscle impairments associated with arthritis, proper knowledge of these;impairments;should allow us to develop more;appropriate;rehabilitation and fitness programs for individuals with knee arthritis.
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