I hear all the time from people who say they can’t do any squats or lunges because they have “bad knees.” And while it’s certainly true that squats and lunges may not be the first step in your program if you have a clinically diagnosed orthopedic injury, there are many ways to rebuild your knee health with safe, progressive loading.
I came across this post from my friend Tim DiFrancesco, who shows us a simple, effective way to load your knee joints in a static split stance to improve their function and reduce pain. He also uses one of my favorite tricks, combining upper and lower body exercises into one movement to save time and give you more bang for your training buck.
You can check out Tim’s video here. Tim is the founder of TD Athletes Edge and spent six seasons as the head strength & conditioning coach of the Los Angeles Lakers … so he knows how to train athletes safely and efficiently.
Depending on your shoulder and thoracic spine mobility, you could progress this movement to single-arm dumbbell presses from a split stance. After four weeks of static loading, it would be time to progress to assisted squats and lunges with a TRX (like this, and this). Finally, you could begin to incorporate bodyweight squats to a box or bench, and rear-foot elevated split squats (bodyweight first before loading). After about eight weeks of progressions, you could begin loading the squat pattern with a bottoms-up goblet squat, which is a great exercise to rebuild the squat pattern and begin safely loading the movement.
Again, if you have a clinically diagnosed orthopedic injury, consult with your doctor before beginning any type of training program. But for non-specific, generalized knee pain, start with static loading to begin building durability and resilience in your joint surfaces. Let us know your feedback in the comments.
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