When you develop bad knees, you may think your days of working out are over. After all, most exercises involve the movement of the knees in some way.
Some of the limitations you’ll experience will depend on the reason for the bad knees. You may find you must change your workout temporarily while you recover or you may need to find permanent alternatives to your favorite workouts.
Here’s a look at the best workout for your bad knees. You’ll take the pressure off, avoid too much movement, but not do so little that you can make your injury or ailment worse. After all, your knees will still need some movement to help avoid pain and issues.
You may be surprised to see that some of these exercises involve using your knees or kneeling on them. Your suitability for some of these will certainly depend on the problem. You shouldn’t feel pain when performing these exercises.
Cardio Workouts to Fit into Your Training
Most people believe that bad knees mean no more cardio workouts. After all, running or walking can aggravate your injury or leave you in pain for hours or days afterward.
You don’t have to give up all cardio. You’ll want to do a couple of sessions a week to help ease the pain, keep your joints working, and boost your heart health. It’s all about finding alternative workouts to walking or running.
Start with swimming. One of the best workouts you can do is swimming. This is suitable for everyone, and you will burn the calories. Build your stamina up in the pool.
Worried about getting bored? You can now get waterproof MP3 players. You’ll be able to download your favorite podcasts or music and listen to them while you’re in the pool. It’s almost like you’re still running.
One of the benefits of swimming is the lack of weight you’ll feel. The water holds up you, taking the pressure off your joints. You’ll find it easier to stretch, push yourself, and move your joints around. If you don’t fancy swimming lengths, you can take up aqua aerobics, do a little weight training with float weights, and even walk up and down the pool.
When you do swim lengths, especially if you’re doing front crawl, you will burn almost the same number of calories as you would on the run. It’s sometimes easier to push yourself when swimming since you don’t feel yourself sweat. The water will help to keep you cool. Just make sure you have a water bottle, as you will sweat and become dehydrated.
If you can’t move your legs that well, put a buoy between your legs and work on your arms. When you can use your legs well, and you want to improve movement, opt for a hand float instead and kick your legs to move up and down the pool.
A major benefit of swimming is that it will work all your muscles. You will tone your arms, stomach, back, legs, and much more!
Take up rowing. How about some time on the rowing machine? This is one of the most under-utilized pieces of equipment in the gym, but it one of the best. Like swimming, rowing will work your whole body. It’s excellent for building your shoulders, upper back, and leg strength.
But doesn’t it involve some pressure on your knees? When you row properly, not at all. The pressure is on your upper body and your upper back. The idea is to pull yourself. Your knees will bend as you release forwards, but you don’t need to put the pressure on your knees to pull yourself forwards.
While you can work your thighs, you’ll find there’s no impact on your knees. This is one of the issues with running, right? Your knees just keep moving, helping to circulate the blood and improve pain in the joints.
If you do find rowing too difficult right now, then you’ll want to move onto the next cardio workout idea.
Try the cross-trainer/elliptical machine. The cross-trainer is becoming one of the most popular machines in the gym. It helps you run without putting the pressure on your knees. In fact, you won’t feel any impact at all but get the same movement. It makes the machine perfect for bad knees.
You’ll want to get a machine that uses your arms too. These machines take time to get used to them, but they’re best for getting the same movement as you would get when running.
Play around with the settings on the machine. One of the benefits against the treadmill is that you don’t have the machine pulling your feet backward for you, so there’s no need to put a hill setting. You may want a resistance setting to help improve your leg strength, which can help improve your knee health.
Switch to biking instead. If you’re struggling with the cross trainer and the rower, you’ll want to look at biking. This is something you can do both outside and inside, depending on whether you use a real bike or you invest in a machine. Both offer the same benefits, but there are some advantages to opting for a machine.
Not only is the machine indoors, but you can get one with a seat with back rest. This helps those with knee and back problems and can help to take some of the extra pressure off the knees.
You will find that most doctors recommend biking for those recovering from knee injuries. You keep your joints moving, without the impact and risk of damage. If you do feel pain, you should stop, though.
Start with a machine if you’re not sure how your knees will cope with the movement. You can then play around with the settings, building your stamina and abilities. Then you can invest in an outdoor bike to take on roads and paths.
Consider some extreme sports. Did you know that your bad knees won’t stop you from doing some extreme sports? Some of them are excellent for reducing the impact and work that your legs will need to do.
One of the best is kayaking. You’re working your arms and upper body throughout the exercise—and you will feel it in your forearms after a while! This is one of the easiest exercises to do with bad knees since you’re sitting in a kayak and letting your arms do all the work. You have absolutely no stress on your knees!
Kayaking is an excellent cardio workout. You’ll want to take some training at first for safety reasons, but you’ll soon find that you want to get out on your own and enjoy the peace that comes from this adventure sport.
Depending on the issue with your knees, you could even try out rock climbing. Again, this is something that you’ll want to get training in first. Go to the indoor centers, where you can learn all about rock climbing safety and tips. The trainers will help introduce you to the equipment that can help to take the pressure off your knees completely.
You will need to have strong arms and legs. This strength does come. If you have problems with standing on your knees, you’ll likely want to give rock climbing a miss, though. Stick to the water sports.
Take Up Yoga, Pilates, and Other Similar Exercises
Moving on from cardio, it’s time to look at yoga, Pilates, and other similar exercises. Yoga is one of the best for those with bad knees, and there are just so many to try. While you carry out the yoga exercises, you will build your muscles, stamina, and flexibility. The pressure is taken from your knees, and there is no impact on them.
Pilates is slightly more energetic. Once you’ve developed your core with yoga, you may decide that it’s time to move onto this.
One of the best things about yoga and Pilates is that you don’t need to join a gym. Get a couple of home DVD workouts, find YouTube videos, or even pull out the Wii Fit. You’ll be surprised at how these home workouts can help you.
Yoga and Pilates aren’t just good for those with bad knees. They offer a range of health and fitness benefits, including boosting the mood and reducing overall chronic pain.
Consider Circuit Training
One type of exercise that is often overlooked with bad knees is circuit training. This is mostly weight training, with a little cardio involved. The downside is a lot of the cardio is traditionally running. You can cut out the running, steppers, and other impact exercises and focus on the weight training aspect of it.
Weight training is useful for a range of reasons. It doesn’t just build strength but will help to boost the metabolism. You work on specific muscle groups, helping to increase your overall fitness. You can get a cardio effect, but you get benefits that will last for hours after your workout.
Focus on specific muscles groups each day. Your muscles will tear and become damaged during the workout. This is normal, as it’s the way the muscles then repair and build back stronger. However, if you do too much in a short space of time on the one muscle group, you can hinder the rebuilding stage. It’s best to leave a week between each muscle group.
Spend one day working on your arms and then the next day working on your back. Work on your legs on the third day and your shoulders or chest on the fourth. Your fifth day of exercise is then on one of the cardio workouts that we’ve already mentioned.
Here are a few exercises to help get you started for your bad knees:
Straight-leg calf stretches. Start with the straight-leg calf stretch, which as it sounds will work on your calf muscles. When your calf muscles are stronger, they can take some extra weight when you stand. This can help to prevent some of the pressure on your knee joints.
Place the left foot a couple of feet away from a wall and then step back onto the right foot. Stretch the leg, keeping your right heel on the ground. You can then place your hands on the wall for some support, keeping your hands about shoulder height.
Push the right heel and keep your right knee straight. Hold this position for 30-60 seconds and then switch to the other side.
You only need to do two or three sets of this exercise. It will help to stretch out your knee joint, improving circulation. This is a good warming up and cooling down exercise when you’re doing any other type of exercise.
You can do something similar for your hamstring. Sit back on the back foot, keeping the front leg straight. Lean forward to pull slightly on the back of the hamstring.
Do your daily squats. Squats are one of the best types of exercises you can do for your overall health. The squats will build on your thigh and butt strength, helping to pull some of the pressure off your knees when you stand. You will also keep the knee joints moving, improving circulation and health.
Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes pointing forward. Bend the knees, not allowing the knees to go over the toes. You want to keep the back straight and sit as if you were going to a chair. If you are worried about falling backward, you can use a chair to you and have your butt touch the chair before you stand back up.
If you want to add a slight extra move to this, get a resistance band that you can put on your knees and turn your toes out. Press your knees outwards when you squat to work on the outside of your thighs more.
Alternatively, you can move onto the one-legged squats. Stand on one leg and squat down as you would on two. Keep your raised leg out in front of you, making it easier to put it down if you lose your balance. Do 15 on each side before you take your break.
When doing either type of squat, you’ll need to do 15 repetitions with a 30-60 second break. Then do another two sets of 15 squats.
Leg lifts are worth the core effort. It’s time to build on your core. Don’t do all the crunches and sit ups just yet. Opt for leg lifts instead.
Lay on your back, with your hands tucked just under your hips. Raise your legs together, so they are just off the ground and then raise them to the ceiling. The bottom part of your feet should face the ceiling, with a 90-degree bend at your hips. Lower the legs, so they’re just an inch off the floor and then repeat.
Do 10 reps with a 30-60 second break, and then do two sets of the exercise.
You can also roll onto your side and do single leg raises. Use your upper hand for support in front of you with your lower hand under your head to keep your spine aligned. Keep your upper foot flexed and raise a couple of feet off the floor and then lower to just a couple of inches off.
It’s also possible to work the lower leg, offering some support to your inner thigh. You won’t get the leg off the floor as high as the upper leg, but it’s worth trying.
Make your double leg raises slightly harder by adding in scissor or butterfly kicks. With your legs, a couple of inches off the floor, open your legs out and then back in. Do as many reps as you can, aiming for at least 10. Butterfly kicks go the opposite way to scissor kicks. One leg will move up to the ceiling, and then you lower it to an inch off the ground and raise the second leg to the ceiling.
You Can Still Work Your Body
Having bad knees doesn’t mean you can’t do anything anymore. While some exercises will be off limits, they’re not all. With the workout ideas above, you have a five day a week workout to follow. It’s time to get your fitness levels back, find new exercises that you enjoy, and improve your lifestyle and knee health.