Best lunges for knee pain
The lunge is a staple of exercise regimes for many of us and although it seems a simple and effective full-body movement it can not be underestimated.
It is quite hard to master, especially if you are recovering from a knee injury or have had an extensive knee injury in the past.
When performing a lunge there are some issues that many of us face. People can be prone to putting their knees in vulnerable, weight-bearing positions.
They can also move too fast in and out of the lunge or increase the intensity before they have built up strength.
Other parts of your body may also contribute to the misalignment in this exercise. If you have weak hips or quadriceps then you may be placing unnecessary stress on your legs.
But if you improve the lunge position then you can make this exercise more comfortable for your knees.
The following are some modifications you can make to the lunge in order to take into account your bad knees and build strength in these muscle groups.
1. Partial Lunge
As you begin your lunge you may find it to be easy and comfortable. However, the closer you get to the ground the less balanced you will find yourself.
You may also lose your posture, which can have detrimental effects on your knees.
If you are in recovery you may want to first try the partial lunge. This is when you only go one-fourth of the way down as opposed to the regular lunge. This works within the pain-free range.
This way you can gradually work towards getting to the full lunge. This can also work if you experience knee pain from squats. You can start by going a portion of the way down and working towards the full exercise.
2. VMO Dips
Knee pain with lunges can occur because of weak knees or a knee injury. To help with this the muscle above the front knee, known as the vastus medialis oblique (the VMO), needs to be built up before attempting a full lunge.
This is where VMO dips come into play. If you incorporate VO dips into your routine it will prepare you for more intense workouts in the future.
Stand on an elevated surface, for example, a box, and step up with the opposite foot hanging off the side. Bend the knee of the leg standing on the box and slowly begin to dip up and down. Continue as long as you are not experiencing pain.
If you need help with your balance then you may wish to hold a nearby wall for support. Repeat for three sets with 10-12 reps for each leg.
3. Shorter Stride
The range of your lunge may cause aggravation to your knee joint. As with the partial lunge, starting off slow can do your recovery a world of good.
As a beginner or someone with a knee problem, you may wish to start with a shorter stride length.
This can help to build up strength in the essential muscles and your distance.
Start with a shorter length and allow your joints and muscles to get used to the movement and over time this stride length will extend to increase the physical demand.
4. Lunge with a Wedge
Overpronation is a common condition which can result in knee problems. To see if this affects you, stand with your feet slightly apart and look at your heels. If one leans in a bit more than the other then you may have overpronation.
This is when the arch of your foot does not maintain the proper shape. Your big toe will hit the ground faster than it should when you step.
This will affect your knees in the long term and may be the cause of some significant injuries as it can disrupt your alignment.
Placing a small wedge or folded towel on the floor to cushion the inside of your forefoot on the landing when you are doing lunges.
It can slow the knee’s movement from going out of alignment while you are performing this exercise.
5. Reverse Lunges
If you struggle with form and knee pain during forward lunges then the reverse lunge could be the solution.
Going backward instead of forwards can allow you to focus on your form and understand where you should and should not be applying pressure.
It is a simpler stance to tune into your biomechanics. Keep the weight on your front leg, reaching your opposite toes behind you.
Rest on your back toes for support and squat on your front leg.
6. High Knee Walks
If you are recovery from extensive knee surgery or even a serious injury then you may experience too much knee pain from lunges.
This will of course prohibit you from doing lunges or squats at all.
This will mean you will have to switch them out for something that is more manageable.
It will need to be less intense on the knees while also providing some of the same benefits, such as correcting balance issues and strengthening the core muscle groups.
You can swap out lunges for high knee walks instead. To do high knee walks bring your knee up to a 90-degree angle and then bring your foot back down to the ground in a walking motion. Do not go too fast or hold for too long.
It will still act to work your range of motion without putting the additional pressure on your joints.
If you still experience knee pain after performing this exercise you should seek your doctor’s advice. They may have some guidance on how to adjust the exercise to suit your personalized needs.
Frequently asked questions
Why do my knees hurt when doing lunges?
When you step forward into a lunge your knee will naturally push forward too.
This can be due to the fact that your hips are weak and therefore the knees push out farther than your toes because the hip muscles are unable to keep them in line. It puts added pressure on the knee.
The second reason may be that you have weakened gluteal muscles, which are not doing the work that they should during this exercise.
This means that your knee will not be able to stay aligned and bends inwards during a deep lunge. It will most likely not stay aligned over the middle of your foot.
You should see if your knee bends inwards during a lunge, especially if you experience pain during lunges.
Are lunges bad for your knees?
Those with knee arthritis will find that lunges pose the same benefits and risks as deep squatting.
They can help to improve overall strength in the knees and the muscles that surround them. But just like when you squat with knee pain, it may cause pain and discomfort.
This is especially true if the exercise is practiced incorrectly. To ensure that you do not suffer from any unnecessary pain, do not allow your knee to extend past your ankle.
What is a knee lunge?
A knee lunge is when you perform a lunge with the supporting leg on the ground balancing on your knee.
This puts less pressure and strain on the knees by a considerable amount.
This is why they are a preferable option for those of us with significant knee pain.
You may try this alternative if you find that the traditional lunge leaves you with pain or discomfort in your joints.