If joints in the human body were to be ranked in order of importance, the knees would probably take top spot. Those working out regularly would likely be more confident about beating a shoulder or an elbow injury, but the knee is a different kind of serious. It carries the load of your body, it lets you walk, run, skip, and do most basic movements. When it comes to the knee, you should heed its warnings.
If you have had a knee injury, however minor or serious, whether it’s recurring or one-off, it will affect the way you approach your workouts. Heavy leg days are out of the question, conditioning work is highly recommended, and careful management of the injury with ice and stretching will make things easier. Having a regular physiotherapist to see you through the phases of progress is also important.
So if you’re returning from an injury or feel a general weakness in the knee/s, here are some workouts that you can still do (after consulting your doctor and/or physio).
20-minute HIIT with Abby Pollock
Apart from some compound lifts, what a knee injury will make you miss the most are HIIT workouts. Abby Pollock comes to the rescue with a routine which follows a 30-second on, 30-second off pattern. With moves ranging from boxer bounces, rotating bear planks, and power jacks, this workout is an excellent alternative to cardio which does not involve running. You get the interval training benefits as a bonus.
No squats, no lunges, no jumping HIIT workout with Heather Robertson
Managing a knee injury may also mean you may have to let go of squatting, lunging, and jumping. But that doesn’t mean you cannot put your body through a slightly heavier workout. Of course, there could be restrictions in how much weight you can lift as well, along with a ban on overhead presses. But if you’ve been cleared to use dumbbells and take some weight on the knee (for bodyweight exercises), then Heather Robertson’s HIIT workout is an advanced version of the one above. It is also more difficult given there is very little rest time. Instead, she divides her minute between a difficult exercise and an easy exercise. Feel free to add more rest time during her breaks.
Leg day workout with sore knees by Jeff Cavaliere
Say you have recovered from knee trouble and are able to lunge, squat, and perform exercises that involve minimal jumping or explosive movement. In that case, Jeff Cavaliere’s leg workout that focuses on creating stability is a must-try. He recommends doing isometric squat holds instead of constant lifts, and uses a medicine ball with feet locked into a base behind to work the hamstrings, and also includes weighted glute bridges in the routine. Remember to keep the weight moderate and never rep through pain, make sure you are activating the right muscles during an exercise, and there is full freedom to define the reps and sets according to your fitness. As Cavaliere says, “play around with this workout a bit.”
20-minute knee-friendly pilates with MVMT by Cailin
Knee rehabilitation exercises, like for any other joint or muscle, can get repetitive and boring. After the initial pain barrier is gone, one can always figure out a schedule which includes knee-strengthening routines. This pilates video helps you do exactly that, by concentrating on exercises that will make the knee stronger while also working on the core. But it’s not going to make you sweat, or feel sore, or give you a pump. This is a slow movement based workout to make sure your knee is strong enough to be the foundation to continue your physical activities unhindered.
Full leg workout without squats by Richard Duchon
This final workout caters to those for whom the only restriction is squatting. This may not be only because of knees, but also because of a back injury. But if squatting is the only thing you’re not meant to do, then this leg workout will make sure you can continue building muscle on leg day. It has all the favourites, including Romanian deadlifts, leg curls, and even single-leg presses. Not easy on the legs or the core at all, but you can also do these with ultra-light weights so as not to risk hurting yourself again. It is a fairly advanced workout which will need a gym, so make sure you are fit enough to try this one.
Pulasta Dhar is a writer and football commentator.