Bad knees? Try these exercise modifications.

It’s never fun to exercise when your joints are aching, but you can still get a great workout in by making a few small changes to the exercises you are set on doing.  Making modifications can take the pressure off your joints and help your muscles do the work.  So if you have problematic knees there’s no need to skip leg day, you can get a workout in without the pain that you think you have to endure.  Try these modifications of some of the classics: 

1. Box Jumps

Jumping helps keep bones strong, but you need to start with small jumps, and work your way up to bigger one in order to save your knees. Modify box jumps for aching knees by starting with standing jumps first.  You can then progress to split jumps.  Make sure to limit the number of jumps to something that is doable and doesn’t hurt.  For a “jump-free” option, you can step up onto a box instead of jumping.

2. Squats

Squatting can be hard on anyone with knee problems because going lower than what your muscles are strong enough for can put a lot of the pressure on your joints especially the knees.  To help reduce that strain and pressure, add a physio ball behind you while you squat down.  Once you get to about mid squat the ball will support you so that pressure will not be on your knees and you can slowly gain strength to do squats unassisted.

3. Burpees

A deep squat required in this exercise can be very harsh on your knees, and adding jumps to it can strain your tendons and ligaments.  So if you want to save your knees, make sure you practice your squats first and maintain good form with your chest forward, back straight and butt back.  If your weight is in the proper place, in your heels (not your toes), then you should be able to avoid straining your upper legs and knees. Building up to burpees from squats, then single leg squats will help improve strength.  Once you graduate to burpees make sure you don’t do too many at once.  Make sure to build up.

3. Kickbacks

Since kickbacks are done on your hands and knees, this could be a strain for anyone with knee problems.  If there is not enough padding around your knee, then you will run into issues and pain trying to support your weight.  This is easy to resolve however by just adding a second mat or spongy pad under your knees for more support.

4. Lunges

This move is rough on many people, and it’s mostly due to a lack of strength in the surrounding muscles around the knees, or you are just doing more reps than you can currently handle.  The key is to build up and make sure it’s not your joints that hurt but your muscles that burn.  You can relieve some of the pressure lunges put on the knee by doing stationary lunges instead of moving ones. Also make sure you are the right form here and you knee is directly over you ankle while you lunge.