Before I jump to it, I want to ask you a couple of questions…
1. Is your knee pain holding you back from working out?
2. Does the idea of lunging and/or squatting make you cringe?
If you answered “yes” to either of those questions, get excited because these four strategies will help keep your training sessions pain-free — whether you’re currently rehabbing from an injury, or battling regular knee pain.
Let’s get to it.
4 Strategies to Implement in Your Training (if You’re Suffering from Knee Pain)
1. Ensure there is load sharing between your quadriceps and hamstrings
Both of these muscles help to stabilize your knee, however if one muscle group is working harder than the other, there will be dysfunction… which often presents itself as pain.
Many people are quad dominant, which can prevent the hamstrings from functioning optimally. For example, when descending into a reverse lunge, you should feel your quads stabilizing on the way down and your hamstrings on the way back up. If you are constantly working through your quads and feeling little to no muscle fatigue elsewhere, this might be you.
A good first step to address this is to incorporate some quadricep foam rolling and a 1/2 Kneeling Hip Flexor Mobility Drill into your warm up. This will help to inhibit your quads and better allow the posterior chain of your body do it’s job, which is what you want.
It is also worth taking a look at your foot position. If you find yourself constantly rocking to the balls of your feet and leaning forward (as seen in the left of the picture below) rather than driving through your heel when you lunge, (as demo’d in the right image below) you’re limiting the amount that your hamstrings and posterior chain can contribute to this movement, which maybe why you’re experiencing pain.
2. Ensure there is load sharing between your medial and lateral quads
The lateral quad will often overcompensate for a weaker medial quad, (specifically the vastus medialis muscle) which can result in painful patellar tracking issues.
To combat this, try a Terminal Knee Extension exercise below, focusing on engaging the vastus medialis (VMO) muscle, located on the inside of your quad.
Band Resisted Terminal Knee Extension
3. Work on your hip stability
Gluteus medius and hip stability training have been shown to alleviate medial knee pain. So if you’re currently experiencing pain, it’s a good idea to start working on your hip stability.
Band Walks are a favourite of mine for lateral hip stability, because they’re pretty failsafe and you get a lot of bang for your buck. However, if you feel like you’re dominating the exercise with your quads and not the side of the hips, then checkout THIS post for some of clamshell variations that might work better for you.
4. Explore hinging movements
If movements with a lot of knee flexion are causing you discomfort, I highly recommend focusing on movements that you can complete pain-free until you are able to return to more knee dominant movements. Exercises with emphasis on hip hinging often involve less knee flexion and can thus place less stress on your knees.
Examples of hinging exercises include most deadlift variations, Glute Bridges and Hip Thrusts… to name a few. But if I had to pick a favourite hip hinging exercise, I’d choose the Single Leg Romanian Deadlift.
Check out this tutorial for some helpful Romanian Deadlift tips 👇🏽
One final note.
Squatting and lunging movements are not bad for your knees, but you will need to modify how you perform these movements if they cause pain.
Many of our clients who used to experience knee pain when squatting or lunging are now able to complete them in full range of motion (without pain) by simply addressing their injury, muscle imbalance, or making simple corrections to their form.
Despite popular belief, you can still get a good workout in while rehabbing from an injury – as long as you’re pain-free and not doing anything to contraindicate your condition, or set you back. If you have questions about this or want to schedule a consultation with me to discuss how you can workout while rehabbing from your injury, please don’t hesitate to send me an email (at firstname.lastname@example.org) or schedule an assessment HERE.
Everyone has unique imbalances and the suggestions above are generalized for a broad population. For your best results, get your movement screened and a corrective exercise program individualized to your specific needs. If you need help with that, send me an email and I will help get you set up.