Knee pain is one of the most common types of chronic pain people experience, but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with when your joints ache. That pain is even tougher to handle when you want to keep up with your lower body training routine.
Physical therapist Daniel Giordano, DPT, PT, C.S.C.S. of Bespoke Treatments has solutions. Here, he teams up with personal trainer Vaughn Gray, NASM-CPT to demonstrate how you can still train your lower body even when your knees aren’t at 100 percent. As always, consult with a doctor or physical therapist before starting a new workout routine and/or if you have severe knee pain.
Before jumping into the movements, Gray demonstrates hip hinging. With a band around his feet, he shoots the hips back, starting the movement from the hips. “Once we can transfer that mechanical stress to the hips, it allows [us] to take pressure off the knee while moving the body,” said Giordano. You can watch this move in action in the video above, along with the workout series, described briefly below.
5 Exercises That Help You Train Around Knee Pain
Lateral Band Stepping
Step out with one foot to the side and back in with mini band around the top of your feet, keeping the other foot steady in place. Do eight to 12 repetitions on each side, “to get those glutes fired up and take pressure off of your knees,” says Giordano.
Standing Fire Hydrant
Keep the mini band right below your knees. Bend your heel towards your glute, and lift that raised leg off to the side. “What we’re doing here is we’re working the gluteus medius muscle again, and those glute muscles to take pressure off the knees,” said Giordano. “The stronger we get those glutes, the less pressure there will be on the knees.” Do eight to 12 repetitions on each side.
Loaded Step Up
“Now that we have those hips fired up with those banded movements. Now we’re going to start doing a loaded step-up in the goblet position,” said Giordano. Grab a weight and a step or platform. Keep one foot on the step and lock that heel down, then with the other foot go straight up, step up, tap, and then slowly come back down. Take care not to transfer the pressure forward on the knee because you want to keep mechanical stress in the hip right now, before you start to reload the knee, explained Giordano. Feel the contraction through your glutes as you go before you come down off of the step. Do eight to 12 repetitions on each side.
Now it’s time for reverse lunges. Hold the weight in front of your torso, then step back, press through the front foot, and then step back up. “One of the common mistakes that I see is people start to push through the back foot. We don’t want that to happen,” says Giordano. “We want to step back into that reverse lunge and push up through this heel activating the glute on that side. Stronger glutes, less pressure on the knees.” Aim for eight to 12 reps on each side.
Elevated Heel Goblet Squat
For the fifth and final exercise in this series to strengthen your hips while you have knee pain, hold onto a weight for a goblet squat with your heels elevated. Like we practiced with hip hinging, initiate from the hips and then come back down keeping your chest up and core tight. This keeps the weight load on the glutes.
“Some of you might ask why the elevated heels because we want to decrease the activity in the calf muscle so there’s less pressure on the knee as that knee starts to heal,” said Giordano, adding you should focus on less activities on the calves. Do eight to 12 reps on each side.
Giordano leaves us with helpful parting words in this session: “Remember in the beginning, let’s take mechanical stress and put it in the hips, strengthen the glutes, so you can train through that knee injury.”
Perri is a New York City-born-and-based writer; she holds a bachelor’s in psychology from Columbia University and is also a culinary school graduate of the plant-based Natural Gourmet Institute, which is now the Natural Gourmet Center at Institute Of Culinary Education. Her work has appeared in the New York Post, Men’s Journal, Rolling Stone, Oprah Daily, Insider.com, Architectural Digest, Southern Living, and more. She’s probably seen Dave Matthews Band in your hometown, and she’ll never turn down a bloody mary. Learn more at VeganWhenSober.com.
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