Have Bad Knees? Try These Exercises!

Do you have joint pain or an old injury, such as bad knees, that give you trouble? Do you have an area on your body you have to take special care of to avoid “tweaking” and aggravating? Does it prevent you from working out the way you’d like?

The older we get, the more likely we have an area that needs a little TLC. Aging is fun, isn’t it? 😉

For some it’s a bad ankle, shoulder or back pain. For many it’s their knees. But, the good news is it doesn’t have to bring you down!


My old injury, knee pain and how I work around it

If you have to take special care of your knees, I can relate! I’ve had knee pain since the early 2000’s. Before beginning my career as a personal trainer I spent years as a runner. While running isn’t necessarily bad, it can be detrimental when you don’t properly take care of your body.

During my high-mileage running years I ran races, trained for a marathon, but did not give myself the proper amount of rest days or supplement my running with other exercises. I did not incorporate appropriate strength training or flexibility workouts to round out my workouts or prepare and maintain my body for the volume of running I was doing. Over time this resulted in an injury followed by knee surgery, which ended my running career 🙁 I have problems with my knees to this day.


Even now, besides the exercises I demonstrate for clients, I don’t do squats or front lunges in my own workouts. I also wear a knee brace to keep my knee joint stabilized while I exercise. In addition, I’ve continued my at-home physical therapy exercises for years to keep my legs and knees as strong as possible, in hopes I won’t need additional surgery one day.


Before I was educated in workaround exercises for my knees (and the value of knee bracing for my condition), I used to avoid workouts that heavily targeted my lower body. This left me unable to participate in some of the activities I wanted to do and also left my body unbalanced. Not to mention, I was not able to tone my legs and glutes the way I wanted!

The game-changer, though came after getting educated as a personal trainer. I’ve come to learn no matter what areas cause you trouble, there is usually a work around and you can still exercise with modifications.

That’s what I want to share with you – some workarounds for leg exercises that put less strain on your knees!


Knee-friendly lower body exercises

I know I’m not alone in my knee troubles. Hands down the #1 thing new clients share with me on their medical history questionnaire is about knee pain (shoulder and back pain are a close second).

For some people with knee issues, traditional leg and glute-toning exercises (like heavy squats or lunges) are not viable exercises for those looking to tone their lower body.

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with squats and lunges and many people (even those with knee issues) may be able to do them with no problem. If you tolerate those exercises well – keep them up! They are great for you.

But for some of us, we have to be creative. Here’s a lower body and glute-toning workout that’s easier on the knees than traditional squats and lunges.

Of course, with all my workouts I share with you… this can be done at home!


Barb’s Lower Body Leg & Glute Toning Workout (easy on the knees)

Repeat the 3 exercises back-to-back. Rest when needed between exercises. I like to repeat this entire circuit 3-5 times.

  • Reverse Lunges (dumbbells optional) – 16x  note: stepping backwards into a reverse lunge is generally tolerated better on the knees than front lunges. Also, you don’t need to bend deep, as in this video if you aren’t able. A simple step backwards with slight dip (optional) can help raise your heart rate and still target leg muscles!


  • Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift 10x (each leg) note: hold onto wall, counter or chair for balance. 


  • Floor/Glute Bridge – 15x  note: hold up 2 seconds on each repetition and keep weight in heels instead of toes


Of course, check with your doctor first before starting any of these exercises, especially if you are being treated for knee issues.

Let me know how you do.