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Question for those with bad knees


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I have bad knees.  That means squats, lunges and other difficult leg moves are almost impossible for me.  Can anyone recommend some great leg/butt/thigh exercises for someone with no tolerance for bad knee pain?

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If you have access to a gym, you could use the leg press machine there. I've found that they put less pressure on my knees while still working the same muscle groups as lunges.


I'd also recommend swimming and/or water aerobics. I just recently got back into it and it always did wonders for my legs. Bonus, swimming is a total body workout, so you get to work all the muscle groups and being in the water means it's very low/no impact.

I have bad knees too and my doctor told me to do stationary cycling at a low resistance to strengthen the muscles around my knees.  I still can't do squats and those types of exercises, but it has made it easier for me to climb stairs and do all that everyday stuff that used to give me a lot of pain. 

I have bad knees and have found cycling to be great for toning butt/legs.

you can also do squats and lunges in the pool, there's less pressure on the knees that way :)

What's wrong with your knees? What does your doctor/therapist recommend for exercises?

I have a bad knee and I can do squats and lunges without major problems.

you might try stationary reverse lunges. That has worked for me in addition to other low impact cardio, e.g. stationary bike & elliptical and leg extensions/presses. No matter what remember to push through your heel, especially with th leg press. Keep your feet high and push through your heel. I generally lift the ball of my foot to ensure I don't strain my knee (the right one)

 Prior to this journey, I have never had knee problems but my knees started constantly hurting and burning.  What I have found is the big exercise ball is amazing for so many different parts of the body.  It is inexpensive and feels so good.  You can google ball exercises and you will learn so many.  Also I use the elliptical more than the treadmill.  When I do exercise at the gym it was hard mentally to walk past certain machines.  But I have learned what I can use and am happy to report my knees are so much happier.  Good luck to you. 

My doctor recommended "No Weight Bearing Activities" for my knee condition. (so no lunges, squats, or any kind of resistance while my knee is in the bent position and absolutely NO running or uphill activity)

As much as I think he was trying to help... I also think there is a lot to be said for strengthening the muscles around my knee to help support it. And so that is the approach I have decided to take with great satisfaction (my workouts have resulted in a stronger leg and so I have reduced flare-ups and knee pain)

Swimming can be great but if you don't have access to a pool try doing straight leg lifts to help slowly strengthen your thighs (different lifts = different muscles - use resistance bands for more of a challenge), and donkey kicks for your butt.

I would highly recommend getting some suggested exercises from your doctor or a physio - or even a personal trainer at a gym should know some 'safe' exercises for you to try.

I've slowly built up to being able to use the leg press, squats and lunges - but I have to be extra careful to "listen" to my knees and not push any harder than they can manage. Muscle soreness = good pain, Joints = bad pain. Stop if it is bad.

T-tapp helped my knees a ton! I hate to say it because I really dislike Teresa Tapp as an instructor/fitness guru and I dislike the videos, but the exercises are actually great for bad knees. I can't fully endorse T-tapp because I think she makes unfounded claims and is generally annoying and self-important, but if it were any other person in any other format teaching the same exercises, I would probably be all for it. The videos are poorly (to put it lightly) cued, and they encourage you to pay to go to a workshop to learn how to do the stuff well. Lol this has turned into a rant about T-tapp but the bottom line is, their exercises really improved my knees when I could stand to do them. Try their free exercises that they have on the site.

Talk to your doctor about your pain before starting an exercise program.  I had knee pain for about 9  months before I started working out, and my doc had me start a round of physical therapy to help improve it.  There's a lot that can go wrong w/the joint, so be careful with whatever you do; you don't want to injure it more!!

My success story:  after 6 weeks of therapy, biking on flat surfaces (or low resistance on a stationary bike), and personal training, my knee *almost* feels like new.  In my case, the muscles supporting the joint needed to be strengthened, and I did that thru supported squats, various theraband exercises, and lifting weights under supervision. 

My at-home PT exercises (for the meniscus):

Heel slides (lie in bed, slide your heel back and forth 100 times)

"Suzanne Summers" (lie on your side.  cross top leg over the bottom leg, "SS" style.  do 40 reps)

Straight leg lifts (lie on your back, one knee bent if needed.  Lift the other leg in a straight position to 90 degrees.  lower, do 40 reps)


Good luck!

i have a bad knee.. and the treadmill KILLS me.. my knee swells up like a balloon the next day.. i've haven't spoken to a dr about it but i can go on the elliptical for an hour a day without any pain in my knee. as long as i take it at a slow pace (<4mph) it's fine. and i still burn a lot of cals and my legs have gotten a lot of tone from it. and i do some really light weightlifting with my legs. like 20lbs or less and i feel like it's helped. and i can do leg presses with up to 120lbs with no problem. my gym has machines for that..

i also can't do squats or lunges.. it hurts soo bad. but like someone else said the leg press machine is great for that.

but i don't know i'm sure everyone is different and i'm not sure how severe your knee injury is.

@reaganleigh:
if I were you I'd definitely get that knee checked. I only just went to a doctor yesterday because I started feeling pain in my right knee after running. well he gave me a bandage and said I had to reduce running to 1 to 2 times a week and I'd be fine. I'd only need to get it x-rayed if it gets hot or swells up, which yours apparently does, so you might want to have a doctor look at it before you end up doing some serious damage to it!

My knees are a bit dodgy from having taken dance classes for four years in high school on a cement floor. We didn't have the budget for a proper studio or dance floor. I know people are going to think I'm a fanatic for recommending this form of exercise now twice in a day/forum, but Bikram yoga seriously helps to build strong knees. I started walking (a lot!) about two years ago and found my knees would start to ache after about a mile and a half. Now, I can walk ten miles without any pain whatsoever. The only time I find the slightest pain anymore is when I am wearing 4" heels. That I can deal with. Besides, any time I am feeling a bit sore after wearing the ole high heels, I head to a Bikram class and the pain vanishes within 90 minutes.

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