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How to Modify Your Workouts For Bad Knees

Matt Skeffington

Matt’s primary role at Dynamic Strength and Conditioning is to make sure that our coaches and clients are consistently improving, all while operatin...

Matt’s primary role at Dynamic Strength and Conditioning is to make sure that our coaches and clients are consistently improving, all while operatin...

Oct 15 7 minutes read

You're ready and motivated to workout and lose that weight you've been holding onto since quarantine. 

You're ready to feel better, happier, and have more energy. 

There's one problem. Your knees aren't having it. 

Maybe you have an old knee injury that just won't go away or they've gotten more stiff and painful over time. 

You've tried to get your workout routine started again but they kept acting up. 

You go to the local gym, hop on the treadmill and go through the same old routine. Or you dust off those running shoes and hit the pavement but over the next few days and weeks you're in pain, frustrated, and your motivation drops.

It seems like every time you try to get started you're just left with pain and frustration. You end up quitting and the cycle continues.

Maybe those knees just aren't made to workout right? 

That is the same thoughts many of our members and biggest transformations had before joining DSC. 

And if this story sounds familiar, this is the article for you.

Here at Dynamic Strength and Conditioning it is our mission to change the way you experience the gym forever. 

Every day we have new members starting with us with a variety of past and current injury histories. In fact, most members who start with us are dealing with some kind of current or old injury, ache, or pain. Many of the people here are dealing with a history of painful knees.

I'm here to tell you there is a better way.

With the right guidance and exercises you can get into the best shape of your life no matter what your past or current knee health looks like. 

Today we're taking you through the exact steps we take with new members in helping them get started, work around their knee pain, and get into the best shape of their life.

Good-bye knee pain and frustration, hello results. 

Let's get into exactly how to modify your workouts for bad knees.


1| Do no harm and avoid these exercises

Step one is removing any movements that cause or can potentially cause knee pain. 

Keep it simple: If it hurts, don't do it.

It is amazing how much better our members feel when we simply remove the exercises or movements that have been causing them pain. 

Think of it like picking a scab: if you don't stop, it's never going to heal. By backing off the things that bug your knees, you allow for a reduction in pain and inflammation and time for recovery.

The good news is, there are plenty of exercises that will improve your total-body strength, fitness, and fuel your fat-loss without causing more pain and damage to your knees! 

In fact, I would recommend looking at this time as a positive. It's a time to introduce and improve other movements! 

Here is a list of exercises to avoid for the time being:

  • Running
  • Sprinting
  • Jumping
  • Lunges
  • Squats
  • Lateral movements
  • Any movements that hurt

What should you do in place of these exercises? We'll get into that!

2| Do this knee friendly warm-up

Step 2 is to never start another workout without our knee friendly warm-up.

It is specifically designed to:

  • Decrease stiffness at and around your knee

  • Promote blood flow and healing

  • Loosen specific muscles that can pull on and irritate your knee

  • Lubricate your knee and increase its temperature

  • Strengthen the muscles that support your knee

  • Increase overall workout performance 

During your warm-up, our same "if it hurts don't do it" rules apply. 

The warm-up below is specifically designed to reduce knee pain and stiffness by warming it up, improving the flexibility of the muscles that attach to the knee, and activating the muscles that support the knee. 

We want to hit certain muscles that can tug on your knee like your quads (thighs) to loosen up, and certain muscles like your glutes to get stronger to better stabilize the knee. 

Start slow, take your time and complete each exercise below for :30 and hit 2-3 rounds. 

Checkout your warm-up below. Take your time and complete each movement for :30 and make sure to exhale through each movement. 

3| Do this knee-friendly strength workout

The most important stabilizing muscles of your knee are your hamstrings (back of your leg muscles) and glutes (your butt). They work to control your knee, keeping it strong, in proper alignment, and safe during movements like walking, climbing stairs, running, and exercising. 

For strong, pain-free knees, we need strong hamstrings and glutes.

The great thing about this is that most hamstring and glute strengthening exercises can be done pain-free. We can shift our focus to target these muscles which are typically weak in most individuals due to inactivity and still get some GREAT calorie-burning workouts in.

What we want you to do is a combination of glute and hamstring strengthening exercises and still target improving the strength of all your other body-parts. We can also focus on building the strength, shape, and tone of your shoulders, chest, backs, arms, and core. 

This is going to be crucial for keeping you working towards your health, fitness, and weight-loss goals.

Give this knee-friendly total-body strength workout a try!

1st - Knee Friendly Warm-Up

2nd - Knee-Friendly Total-Body Strength Workout (video demonstration of each exercise below)

Complete 3-5 rounds of your Knee-Friendly Total-Body Strength Workout. 

1. Kettlebell (KB) RDL or KB Swing x10

2. Push-Up or Kneeling Push-Up x10

3. TRX Row x10

4. KB 1-Leg Deadlift x5/side

5. 1 or 2-Leg Hip Bridge x10

6. Front Plank or Kneeling Front Plank x:30

Set a timer for 10-20 minutes and complete as many rounds as possible. 

4| Do these cardio workouts

Even with knee pain, you can still get into the best shape of your life. Yes you can still get your heart-rate up, burn calories, improve your health and fitness, and lose weight.

For the time being, shift away from high impact cardio exercises like running, sprinting, jumping, and movements that make you work side to side. The great thing though is that with the right plan of action and recovery, you can get back to doing some or all of these exercises.

Focus instead on cardio exercises that are lower impact, keep your feet grounded and stay away from deep knee bends for now.

Checkout the videos and sample workouts below for some great knee friendly cardio ideas.

1. Knee Friendly Body-Weight Cardio Workout

Complete each exercise in order for :30 followed by :30 of rest. Complete 3-5 total rounds.

1. Knee Friendly Medicine Ball Cardio Workout

Complete each exercise in order for :30 followed by :30 of rest. Complete 3-5 total rounds. Start with an 8-12lb medicine ball. 

Ready to get started?

You can now try DSC FREE for 14-days!

Available with our in-person or online classes.

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