Lunges and squats kill my knees!
So many lower body workouts are all about lunges and squats and I just can’t do them. It produces sharp pains in my knees.
What are some effective alternatives?
What are some effective alternatives?
What goal are you trying to accomplish by doing the lunges and squats?1
Toning and firming.1
AnnPT77 Posts: 27,605 MemberI have bad knees, experience pain with most forms of lunges and squats. For some unknown reason, machine leg press is a little more tolerable, but still chancy. I can row or cycle, and those will "tone and firm" to a certain extent, but much more slowly and less efficiently than things like lunges/squats. To get continuing progress, it's necessary to make the rowing/cycling progressive through duration/frequency, and/or technique+power (in the case of rowing, boat or machine), resistance (in the case of stationary biking) or hills (in the case of actual biking).
Also, just because I can do those things without further aggravating my particular knee problems doesn't mean you'll have the same experience. Have you considered asking your doctor for a physical therapy referral, getting advice from a profe,ssional?
ETA: When I say I have "bad knees", I mean I've been formally diagnosed by an orthopedist as having knee arthritis and a torn meniscus for which the medical intervention would be surgery (but I'm deferring the surgery as long as I can manage the discomfort level, with the orthopedist's approval). I worked with a physical therapist who agreed that weaknesses in the relevant muscles were not a significant causative factor in the discomfort/pain. I agree with the guys below, if you don't have a medical problem. If you might have a medical problem, get a diagnosis.4
What issue do you have with your knees? Squats done correctly don't hurt knees.
Another thing (which may or may not make a difference for you, but helps me) is to do reverse lunges (i.e. step backwards, not forward).4
Does the same happen when you lean forward more when doing especially squats? We're always told to keep an upright upper body, but if the ratio between upper body and leg length doesn't work out it's not possible. It's also more difficult/impossible if your lower legs happen to be substantially shorter than your upper legs. Other than that: Need a form video.1
I also can't do squats or lunges due to bad knees (like really bad knees).
I can do regular and kettle bell deadlifts, so I do those along farmers walk, military press (and various upper body lifts). That along with 3-4 times a week on the spin bike is what I came up with for a lower/full body workout.
Just a note that I am not a trainer and have no qualifications - I came up with this plan myself to try to activate as many muscle groups as possible within my limitations, because as you have probably noticed most people will tell you that you can do squats even when you tell them you can't.
MikePfirrman Posts: 3,292 MemberI have about as bad of a right knee as it gets. I was told 14 years ago that I needed a total knee replacement but was too young (after a devistating knee injury -- shredded the meniscus off the bone).
I worked my way up, starting by relearning to walk over 2 years. Ended up doing a lot of stationary bike during rehab. Long story short, I got to the point I actually did 10 mile trail races within 4 years. Very slowly, but I ran for around 7 years until my good knee developed chronic runner's knee.
I do what I can. Some things bother me, some things don't. Goblet squats are usually safe for most people. Also, if I do lunges, I like to do them wide and walk forward. Reverse lunges are tougher (though I've gotten to the point that I can do them now). If you have access to a Stairmaster, I love those. I walk up two steps at a time, it's similar to a lunge. I also like Plyo boxes -- not for jumping, but for step ups. If you don't have a Stairmaster (and I don't have a gym membership any longer), Plyo Boxes can replace that for stepping up and building muscle. I also bought an X3 Bar imitation for like 70 bucks that allows me to do lighter deadlifts. I also do a rowing machine for around 5 to 6 hours a week and have an Assault Bike and a LateralX. Every cardio machine I have works the legs. I've slowly built a cardio gym to help keep the lower body strong.
My knee is still crappy, but the muscles that support my knee are now ridiculously strong. I even have taken up a tough Vinyasa Yoga class on Tuesday nights with my daughter. So much of that class is standing lunges and triangles. It can get better, trust me. Just do what you can, don't do what you can't. But do work your legs and knees. Inactivity is the worst thing for any joint.5
4legsRbetterthan2 Posts: 19,560 MFP ModeratorI agree, probably something in your form is off.
For lunges - I used to have alot of knee pain as well, it was a result of putting my feet too close together, it's a little odd at first but your feet need to stay hip width apart as you place one foot forward, for me it felt more normal to move them closer togethe so it was more like one foot in front of the other, but that creates some odd angles and pressures side to side when you sink down. If you look at your legs strait on knees should stay over your toes.0
I appreciate all of your replies. There are several of your tips and suggestions that I plan to try.4
Look up knees over toes guy.0
cwolfman13 Posts: 41,336 MemberSo many lower body workouts are all about lunges and squats and I just can’t do them. It produces sharp pains in my knees.
What are some effective alternatives?
Could be a form thing. Also could be that you just need to do a workaround for those things. I don't do traditional back squats much anymore due to a disk issue in my upper back that makes my lower arms and hands go numb. I would definitely prefer them, but I generally do leg presses instead or do goblet squats.
I have a really hard time with lunges because I've broken my big right toe about a million times and it hurts like hell when I bend/flex it too much...my sub for that is Bulgarian Split Squats.
I also have a hard time with barbell bench due to a crapped out right shoulder...but I've found that incline bench or using dumbbells for flat bench don't bother it.
Sometimes you just have to find some alternatives that do basically the same thing but don't cause issues. It could also be a matter of just needing to strengthen the muscles around the knees before trying to load up a barbell by doing bodyweight squats or using dumbbells for dumbbell squats or goblet squats.3
Do you get the pains if you just do bodyweight squats? Have you tried squats with bands?2
Another small thing to look at is foot placement and knee tracking.
When I was first starting most instruction had the toes turned out to some degree with toes tracking over. That gave me knee pain.
Once I adjusted to feet straight out and knees tracking all was well. I walk with my feet straight out and knees forward so the strain of trying to turn my knees out was incredibly uncomfortable.
I can now squat with toes out a bit, but my preferred squats are straight. Maybe, if you have no known knee problems, look at how your feet track walking and standing and emulate that.
Lunges are legs slightly wider than my narrow hips and straight feet.
Not a doc or PT just giving my own experience as a recreational lifter.
When I started lifting, squats were a problem due to knee pain. But a friend suggested I try sumo squats instead with my feet further apart and toes pointed out, and those I could do no problem.
I also find while a stationary bike hurts my knees after a while and running jars my knees and hips, doing the elliptical doesn't hurt my joints at all.6
I've been dealing with knee issues since 2009. I no longer attempt a traditional lower body workout.
This time of year I spend hours gardening, and am often either in a very low squat or stretching my hamstrings.
As long as I'm careful and don't overdo it, I can do squats and lunges that are part of a yoga routine. The form is different for the squats. The lunges aren't lunge lunge lunge lunge ... but lunge, hold, downward dog, transition, downward dog, lunge and hold on the other side.
I regularly do yoga warmups and all my PT exercises for knees and hips, and less regularly Sun and Moon salutations.
I also do this regularly, and throw in some extra downward dogs:
Since the above is challenging for me, in between the exercises I throw in these (and also some pliés.)
So I had this problem after my muscles atrophied because I was struggling with my health and I over came it. Hear me out, you might not be strong enough for those exercises. I had to switch to walking and swimming which massively toned my legs over 6 months and I increased my speed in both over time. After that I could do weighted squats and regular squats but lunges still irritate my knees so I do step ups instead. Sometimes you need to work on foundation flexibility and foundation muscles before doing these exercises.5
As other's have stated it could be a form issue....which is impossible to know without pictures or video of you squating/lunging. But you could look up some videos just to check your form is good.
It also maybe depends on why your knees are hurting --- do you have knee issues? Because sometimes the knees can hurt if you have weak glutes/etc....muscles. So doing squats/lunges will HELP with the knee pain.
I'd suggest getting some resistance bands to see if that can help --- when wearing one it's a good cue for you to push outward with your legs and it can make you feel more steady on your feet --- make your knee feel more stable while doing those exercises.
If you want to work on your glute muscles without squats/lunges ---- you can try glute bridges, hip thrusts, donkey kicks, fire hydrants, and hip abduction/adduction machines too. Most of those moves can be modified/done with resistance bands as well to increase the resistance as you get stronger.....then you can try squats/lunges again to see if it's helped.2
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