3 Low Impact Exercises for Bad Knees

Published February 12, 2019
3-low-impact-exercises-for-bad-knees
<article> <section> <p>It’s not easy to improve your fitness when you have bad knees. The knee joint is responsible for movements like squatting, hinging (picking something up off the ground), and lunging. </p> <p>And if your goal is weight loss, it’s even harder. Unfortunately, those exercises are some of the best ones for improving cardio and strengthening lower body muscles.</p> <p>Luckily, there are low-impact workouts for bad knees that you can do. The exercises in this article are a great place to start and can be done several times per week in the comfort of your own home.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>What Causes Knee Pain?</header> <p>Chronic knee pain is an individual thing, but people trying to work out with bad knees usually fall into a few categories. Understand that we can’t solve everyone’s knee pain in a few sentences, and that chronic knee pain may require a doctor’s diagnosis<sup>1</sup>.</p> <p>Still, two very common causes are <i>valgus collapse</i> and <i>quad dominance</i>.</p> <div class="sub-head">Valgus collapse</div> <p>Perhaps you’ve heard the slang term for valgus knees, which is <i>knock-knees</i>. This means that your knees turn inward or collapse during any sort of weight-bearing exercise such as squatting or a cardio exercise like walking. And believe it or not, this issue starts in your hip.</p> <p><i>Internal rotation</i> of your hip is the twisting movement of your thigh inward from your hip<sup>2</sup>. We need this ability-heck, it would be tough to put on pants without it. But it can also put pressure on our knee joint during exercise and cause pain.</p> <p>If you’ve ever heard that a proper squat is done with your knee aligned to your toe<sup>3</sup>, this is why. Too much internal or external rotation will lead to an impingement-and eventually, pain</p> <div class="sub-head">What Solves a Valgus Collapse?</div> <p>The easiest fix for valgus knee problems is to change the way you move. Specifically, you have to learn to <i>externally</i> rotate your hip, activating your <i>glute minor</i> (butt) and <i>tensor fasciae latae</i> (outer hip)<sup>4</sup>. The three exercises detailed later in this article are perfect for fixing a valgus knee.</p> <p>Keep in mind that sitting in a chair for long periods of time can cause your hips to internally rotate.</p> <div class="sub-head">Quad Dominance</div> <p>The other common cause of knee pain during workouts is that your quads try to do too much at the expense of your hamstrings and your glutes do nothing at all. We call this <i>quad dominance</i>, which is a muscle imbalance that leads to knee pain because weight is not being equally distributed through the knee joint<sup>5</sup>.</p> <p>The truth is, most of us are quad dominant. Again, tight hips from sitting or imbalances from walking or running are culprits here. The solution is to incorporate exercises into your routine that work your hamstrings and glutes, which will help equal out the weight being distributed through your knee joint.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>3 Low-Impact Exercises for Bad Knees</header> <p>Here are three low-impact exercises<sup>6</sup> for bad knees you can do at home.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/tyler-low-impact-exercise-0076.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/tyler-low-impact-exercise-0076.jpf" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/tyler-low-impact-exercise-0076.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/tyler-low-impact-exercise-LR-0076.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="tyler-low-impact-exercise-0076"> </picture> <div class="sub-head">Level 1: One-Leg Balance</div> <p>Start by locking your foot firmly into the ground-spread your toes, then grip the ground with your toes. Squeeze your thigh and your butt, then lift the other leg off the floor. From here, make sure your hips are even and that you aren’t balancing to one side. If it helps, think of balancing a bowl of water on your head.</p> <p>You should feel your feet and hip muscles getting tired (be ready to step with the opposite foot if you get tired). </p> <p>A breakdown of this movement can be found in this video starting at 3:00<sup>5</sup>.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/tyler-low-impact-exercise-0076.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/tyler-low-impact-exercise-0076.jpf" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/tyler-low-impact-exercise-0076.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/tyler-low-impact-exercise-LR-0076.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="tyler-low-impact-exercise-0076"> </picture> <div class="sub-head">Level 2: One-Leg Drinking Birds To a Chair</div> <p>For the next progression of this exercise, you’ll need a chair for balance.</p> <p>Using the same cues, find the one-leg position with your hips square from Level 1. Again, squeeze your glutes and quads. </p> <p>Now, straighten the leg that’s off the floor behind you. This will cause you to lean forward, “spilling out” the bowl of water you were balancing. Place all ten fingers on the chair on front of you (reminder: your knee should be lined up over your toe).</p> <p>Over time, your goal is to remove all ten fingers from the chair, eventually balancing in this hip-hinge position without any support. Do this for thirty seconds, two to three times per day, slowly removing fingers from the chair.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/tyler-low-impact-exercise-0076.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/tyler-low-impact-exercise-0076.jpf" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/tyler-low-impact-exercise-0076.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/tyler-low-impact-exercise-LR-0076.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="tyler-low-impact-exercise-0076"> </picture> <div class="sub-head">Level 3: One-Leg Drinking Birds</div> <p>The final progression of the drinking bird exercise marries the two motions together without any support. </p> <p>Grip the floor with your foot and squeeze your glutes and quads. Straighten the opposite leg and bring it behind you, causing you to lean forward. Fight to stay in this hip-hinge position as you feel your hip muscles fatigue. After you’ve “poured out” the bowl of water, bring your straightened leg back to the balance position from Level 1. That’s one rep.</p> <p>Control is key with this exercise, so don’t rush. Start with three sets of ten reps on each leg, working your way to twenty reps per set over time.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>How Often Should I Do These Exercises?</header> <p>Regardless of where you start, these three exercises can be performed several times per week. Plus, you don’t have to drive to the gym or need a ton of fancy equipment to do them, so they’ll be easy to add into your home fitness routine.</p> <p>You may find that not only do your knees feel better, but regular movements like standing from a chair or squatting feel much stronger. This is because you’re strengthening your hip muscles and taking pressure off the knee joint.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Low-Impact Exercises for Bad Knees</header> <p>These three low-impact exercises can greatly improve knee stability, increase the strength of lower-body muscles, and reduce pain in the knee joint. Causes of knee pain are individual, but two common causes are valgus collapse (knock-knee) and quad dominance, a muscle imbalance that stresses the knee.</p> <p>For more at-home exercises and workout routines, check out our Warrior Made’s YouTube channel<sup>7</sup> and <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/" rel="noreferrer">exercise page</a>.</p> <div class="sub-head">Resources</div> <ol> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.healthline.com/health/chronic-knee-pain" rel="noreferrer">Chronic Knee Pain</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.healthline.com/health/hip-internal-rotation" rel="noreferrer">Improving Mobility with Hip Internal Rotation</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vEbu_uY16Hs" rel="noreferrer">Best Exercise for Knee Pain</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.healthline.com/health/hip-internal-rotation#muscles-activated" rel="noreferrer">Hip internal rotation exercises</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.healthline.com/health/knee-pain-when-squatting" rel="noreferrer">What Causes Knee Pain When Squatting?</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vEbu_uY16Hs" rel="noreferrer">Best Exercise for Knee Pain</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZjFDJI4B4l16uujibduMFA/videos" rel="noreferrer">Warrior Made</a></li> </ol> </section> </article>

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