Although lunges and squats do great things to our thighs, our knees . . . not so much! If you're worried about extra strain on your knees from weight training or simply want a few alternatives to these basic moves, here a few exercises that will do just that. Without letting your backside off the hook, exercises like step-ups and leg presses are more gentle on the knee yet still work the same muscles. Consider some of our favorite moves below and give your workout a leg up the next time you hit the gym — after all you only have one set of knees!
- Leg Presses: A great alternatives to squats, leg presses on the machine work the major muscles of the leg in a very controlled manner. Make sure you start with your knees at a 90 degree angle, or greater, and only use a high resistance if your knees are injury-free.
- Step-ups: Step-ups work a lot of the same muscles as lunges but because you are stepping up onto a box or platform, you can control how deeply you bend your knee, based on the height of the platform, to better protect the joint. Plus, since your foot is stationary at the start the exercise, the knee joint is more stable as you put weight on your leg. Not only do they effectively work your legs and glutes, step-ups offer a cardio component, too!
- Reverse lunges: Reverse lunges are safer on the knees because the front leg is planted, allowing you to monitor your alignment as you step back. They are also a good way to complement all the forward movements of everydaily life.
- Deadlifts: If at first you think bodybuilder at hearing this exercise, think again. Similar to squats and lunges, deadlifts are an effective move for your lower body, especially your glutes, hamstrings, and quads. Since your feet are fully planted on the ground, your knees remain stable as your bend your torso forward, and engaging the core will also take pressure off the joints in your legs. Keep this guide to deadlifts in mind before you next workout.
- Lying hamstring curls: Using an exercise ball is a great way to switch up your routine while protecting your knees. With lying hamstring curls, you target the butt and hamstrings without putting significant pressure on the knees. This is also a great move for core stability and balance.
Remember, while these exercises do take some of the strain off your knees, they don't let them completely let them off the hook. If you are having significant knee pain, take proper precautions by visiting your doctoring and taking the necessary rest needed to heal.