Over the past couple years, I’ve created a lot of ‘knee-friendly’ MFit workout videos. Recently these videos have become quite popular. Everyday, I work with clients who complain about achy knees or a sharp pain in their kneecap. It’s becoming clearer to me that this is a big issue for many people. So, let’s talk about how to workout with bad knees.
If your knees are bothering you, working out can be difficult. However, there are workouts you can do that will feel fine to your knees. In fact, exercising the right way can actually improve your knee pain!
A corrective exercise routine paired with low impact cardio will get you moving again. Follow these steps to create a safe and productive routine.
I need to say one more thing before we get to the list. These tips are for people who have knee pain that is unrelated to an injury of some kind. If you are injured, recovering from surgery, or currently in physical therapy, these rules do not apply to you. You should consult with your doctor before attempting any type of fitness routine. Okay, here is how to workout with bad knees.
1. Stretch & Foam Roll
Here are two things should be doing everyday. Knee pain worsens when your lower body muscles are tight. Stretching and foam rolling will release that tension in your tight muscles, which will likely ease some of your pain.
Stretch and roll out your quads (front of the thigh) and calves (back of the lower leg) every day. When those two areas are tight, the knee will ache.
Move through some active stretches before you do either of those things. Movements like leg swings and a traveling stretches are a good place to start. These active stretches will warm-up your muscles so they are more pliable during the static stretches and foam rolling.
Next, move into some static stretches. Hold onto a wall and do a quad stretch and use a stair to stretch out your calves. Once you’re comfortable with those stretches, you can move onto some more intense quad and calf poses.
Static stretches will feel great, but foam rolling will be the game changer here. Foam rolling and other self-myofascial release techniques will break apart the knots in your legs. Breaking apart these knots is very important. When those knots in your legs touch a nerve, you will feel sharp pain in your knee. This is a more common occurrence than you would think. Take about five minutes to slowly roll out your muscles everyday.
2. Low Impact Cardio
Many people are scared to do cardio when their knees are bothering them. But not all cardio is scary! I have dozens of low impact cardio routines on the MFit YouTube channel and in my home workout plans. These follow-along workouts can be done at home without hurting your knees.
Alternatively, swimming, biking, and using the elliptical are great low impact cardio options. Those activities are easy on the joints and should not cause you pain.
If you experience knee pain, it is really important that you do cardio. Cardio-based activity will help you lose and maintain your weight. Gaining weight can cause more discomfort in the knees. So, keep moving!
3. Lift weights
In addition to stretching and foam rolling, you can use weight lifting to improve your muscle imbalances. Most people I meet with knee pain need to strengthen their glutes and hamstring muscles. When those muscles are weak, the quads and calves take over during lower body exercises. As I previously mentioned, the quads and calves need to be stretched, not strengthened, to ease joint pain.
So, it is time to work your booty.
The MFit Peach Plan is a great at home workout plan to balance out the lower body muscles. The workouts in this 28-day plan will teach you how to engage your butt muscles if you quads/knees tend to dominate your leg workouts.
4. Slow & Steady
Finally, I just want to mention that if you are recovering from a knee injury or struggling with knee pain, it is okay to slow down. Ease back into exercise with the tips above and don’t worry about making too much progress right now. Your focus should be on getting better and fixing your muscle imbalances. All other goals should take a back seat for the time being.