Want to find a way to grow your lower-body and improve your physique WITHOUT putting more stress on your knees? This is what you need.
We’d wager a bet that knee pain has stopped hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of people from going all out in the gym. Especially when it comes to training their lower body as people either opt for extremely low impact exercises or avoid training their legs altogether, but the thing is, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Sure, knee pain can be a problem and can impact some of the exercises that you do, but it shouldn’t stop all activity.
More importantly, it shouldn’t stop you from training your legs as it is still possible to grow your lower body, and change your physique, even if you like using heavy barbell exercises.
The good news is if you struggle with knee pain and you worry about training legs, you can relax, because, in this article, we’re going to tell you how you can grow your legs, even if you get knee pain.
Training your legs doesn’t just mean squatting and working your quads, you also have your hamstrings, glutes, and calves to worry about and they all play a part in determining how you fill out a pair of jeans, can move and function in everyday life and of course, how effective you will be in your athletic pursuits.
One of the common problems people face with their knees is having weakness around the joints, therefore if we can build up the supporting muscles, we can often go a long way to strengthening the knee as a whole. Another is they put themselves in awkward positions, often with weights that are too heavy, and they don’t know how to correct themselves.
Our advice is to try each move on this list and see what you can do and how you feel. You should start slowly, with a very low weight (maybe even bodyweight), and take it easy as you work your way up to a more comfortable level.
To ensure your technique is correct we also recommend working with a coach where possible or practicing with a competent friend.
So let’s take a look at some of the best exercises you can do to build your legs, without hurting your knees.
Many people face knee problems due to weaknesses around their calves, and ankles. By targeting this muscle you can improve your lower body strength and possibly address some issues with your knees.
The calves are unique muscles that can be targeted in a range of ways, whether standing with a weight on your back, seated with a pad on your knee or laying, and pushing on a leg press. But one thing’s for sure, training your calves, building your body, and strengthening this muscle is going to help your physique and strength.
Step-ups / Lunges
Any type of exercise that requires you to stand on one leg could be a worry, but it’s actually much more effective than you may think. The way your body stabilizes and supports the muscles in your leg and around your knee can lead to great success in training the legs. Step-ups are a perfect example of that. Using dumbbells, you can isolate all the muscles in your lower body and change your foot position to ensure you’re hitting the right muscles every time you train. Steps ups are also great at addressing muscular imbalances in the lower body and building unilateral strength.
Lunges work in a very similar way and they also have different variations to make it easier for you to find one that is right for you. We recommend starting with a traditional stationary lunge and mastering your technique to ensure you’re not putting extra stress onto your knees.
Depending on what the cause of your knee pain is, the leg press can be fantastic or agony. While some people who have knee pain struggle with this type of knee flexion, others can load the weight up and feel great. However, for many people, the reason why this is better than a squat is due to the position of the movement. Rather than holding the weight on your back and squatting down, putting immense pressure on the knees, you’re in a much more supported position that allows you to push the weight away. It is however important to note that there are different types of leg press machines, all at different angles, and some may be better for you than others, but if you find the right type, it could be a perfect way of building your entire lower body without dealing with excess pressure around your knees.
A key example of this is Dwayne ’The Rock’ Johnson, who doesn’t squat due to an old injury. He still uses the leg press machine, with very heavy weights, and claims that leg day is his favorite training day, despite having some issues with his knee.
Our advice to you, especially if you’re not sure what the cause of your knee pain is, would be to start light and build slowly, testing yourself as you increase the weight to truly see what you can do.
RDL/ Stiff-Legged Deadlift
The hamstrings are very important for strengthening the back of your legs and creating a stronger lower body, they also help to fill out your legs and create a bigger, thicker, more powerful frame.
Romanian Deadlifts or Stiff-Legged Deadlifts are fantastic exercises that directly target the hamstrings and can work wonders for building lower body strength and the good news for you is they don’t require any flexion of the knee at all.
Due to the lack of knee flexion, there shouldn’t be anything holding you back from lifting heavy weights, so you should be able to push yourself with this move and bring about some fantastic leg gains.
Hip thrusts can target the hamstrings, glutes, and hips and is another exercise that doesn’t put any pressure on the knees. This exercise not only builds strength and power, a key component of any athletic activity, but it also helps to strengthen the glutes, hamstrings, and hips, which can help with stability, function, and efficiency in everyday life. Most athletic movements originate from the hips, so by building yours, you can ensure that you’re building strong muscles and a strong body.
Struggling with knee pain doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to lower body exercises and you can certainly target all of your major lower body muscles, including your quadriceps, you’ve just got to figure out how.
With the exercises above you have everything, you need to design a good program and the perfect foundations to build your legs. Exercises for the hamstrings, glutes, and calves should be fairly straightforward as they should be fine on your knees whereas it could be a little harder to train your quads, especially if your knee pain Is severe, however, it’s worth remembering that once you do find an exercise that works your quads, and doesn’t put stress on your knees, there’s no reason why you can’t stick to it and build your quads solely through that move.
The key thing to remember is that knee pain doesn’t have to spell the end of your lower body training routine.
Our advice is simple, get a proper diagnosis of why your legs hurt, then get back in the gym and try out what you can do.
The moment you’ve figured it out, focus on doing more of what you can and continue to build your legs in a pain-free way.