The Best Lower Body Exercises for Knee Pain (and the Worst)

Of the many reasons why people choose to skip lower body exercises (or leg day) at the gym, knee pain has to be the most common. Even after investing in knee pain compression sleeves to help reduce some of the discomfort, people assume it makes sense to avoid anything that might strain their knees, because they don't want to deal with the pain. While it's true that you probably won't get an effective workout if your joints are hurting so much that you can't perform a proper repetition, the answer may be looking for lower body exercises for knee pain that strengthen your knees, without injuring them - instead of giving up entirely.

Though solutions to chronic knee pain, and new options for pain relief are now on the horizon, for now, the tried and tested treatments may still be the best.  Rather than forgoing moves that target your lower half, out of fear of possible discomfort, remember that much of your pain might actually stem from a muscle imbalance or lack of flexibility in the lower body. In other words, the only way to address your key issue, is to start to strengthen your knees, and remedy the problem by training with lower body exercises for knee pain.

Lower Body Exercises for Knee Pain

Pro Tip: Start with a Warmup

Before we cover some of the best, and worst lower body exercises for knee pain, it's worth giving some note to the process of warming up before a workout. Although the effectiveness of warmups in some circumstances has been questioned, they can be a particularly important part of your routine if you suffer from knee discomfort.

Strap on your knee pain compression sleeves and find a warmup that bends and moves your muscles without causing too much strain or discomfort. Remember, our joints quickly become stiff after we've been stationary for a while, so it's important to get things moving and ready for a workout before you jump straight into a routine.

What's more, as always, remember to check with your doctor before you start any of the exercises listed below.

The Best Lower Body Exercises for Knee Pain

Typically, the best lower body exercises for those who suffer from joint pain are going to be those that focus on helping you strengthen your knees, and the muscles that support your knees. Try a routine that includes some of the following.

1.     Glute Bridges

Glute bridges represent one of the easiest ways to get started in strengthening your hamstrings and glutes. Because the exercise takes place with you lying on the ground, the pressure on your knees is reduced to a minimum, which is perfect for people attempting to get fit after suffering an injury. You can get an insight into proper form for this move here.

To begin, lie on the ground with your feet flat against the floor, and your knees bent. Keep your arms close to your sides, point your toes towards the ceiling, and push down through your heels to raise your hips away from the ground, shaping your body into a straight line from knees to shoulders.

2.     Box Squats

While traditional squats form the basis of a lot of exercise regimes for typical gym-goers, they're not ideal for those who suffer with joint problems. Though they're fantastic for helping to strengthen your knees, glutes, and quads, they can also put a lot of strain on those already aching joints. Fortunately, with some knee pain compression sleeves and an idea of proper form, you can reduce some of the issues by squatting to a seated position on top of a seat, or box.

When it comes to lower body exercises for knee pain, this one pushes you to lead with your hips, and keep your knees exactly where they should be.

3.     Single-leg Romanian Deadlift

Finally, this move is one of the ultimate lower body exercises for knee pain, because it's great at targeting your glutes, hamstrings, and hips. As "Breaking Muscle" explained, it targets the functional movement in your hips to reduce everyday stress on your knees. What's more, because you work on each leg separately, you can strengthen your knees while smoothing out any possible muscle imbalances.

Once you've got form figured out, and you're using knee pain compression sleeves mainly for structure and support, you can begin performing this exercise with kettlebells, dumbbells, or a barbell. All you need to do is hold a weight in each hand, and stand with your weight on your right leg, and your left leg situated just behind the heel of the other. Push forwards from your hips to bring your upper body parallel with the ground, and let your arms dangle downwards, then stand back up to the standing position. For a better diagram, look here.

The Worst Lower Body Exercises for Knee Pain

Now that we've covered some of the best lower body exercises for tackling knee pain, it's worth addressing some of the worst. Ideally, you should attempt to stay away from any workout routine that increases your discomfort. Usually, this will include high-impact activities, deep squats, and significant inclines - such as climbing stairs or running up a hill. Each of these exercise can cause wear in the surrounding cartilage which leads to inflammation.

The best solution is to focus on the exercises we addressed above - those that strengthen the knees, by building the quadriceps, and hamstrings. The stronger the muscles in the front and back of your thighs become, the more you can work to reduce the strain around your knee and provide better shock absorption. In general, you should avoid:

  • Hurdler's stretches
  • Deep Squats
  • Traditional lunges
  • Full-arc knee extensions

Give Your Knees a Break

Part of giving your knees a break means knowing when to stop exercising, and knowing when to support the joints with helpful solutions like knee pain compression sleeves. On the other hand, choosing exercises deliberately to ensure they don't aggravate existing pain will help to keep you active, and manage discomfort at the same time. Remember, regular exercise helps to improve the range of motion in your knee, and strengthen the muscles that support it. Try out our selection of knee-friendly workouts, and let us know if you have any other moves in mind that work for you!


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