If you suffer from hip, knee or lower back pain, swap out some of your usual weightlifting routines for any or all of these guaranteed leg trainers.
Training miles add up. When little soreness turns into a chronic injury, squats and deadlifts can do more harm than good.
Not lifting weights is not an option. Neither does chewing ibuprofen. So what should we do? Ideally, we can address aches and pains while also building strength, muscles, and elastic joints.
Exercises that are good for your joints reduce the stress on your joints in the highest tension positions (the bottom and top of each movement) while still creating overload. Here are six to try:
This is a great alternative to traditional lunges because it places less stress on the joints. It reduces the amount of knee flexion needed to perform the exercise. There is less tension on the knees, which is great if you’re dealing with knee issues.
Also, by going backwards rather than forwards, this lunge variation puts less shear on the knees, which can help reduce the risk of knee injuries and improve joint health over time.
Additionally, using dumbbells allows you to use a more controlled and stable movement pattern, which minimizes joint strain.
- Start by standing on a small platform 3-6 inches off the ground. Stand with feet hip-width apart and place dumbbells by your sides with palms facing inward.
- While keeping your chest and core up, step your left foot back and lower your body into a lunge, bending your knees to approximately 90 degrees.
- Pause for a second, then push up back to the starting position.
- Repeat for the desired number of repetitions, then switch sides.
Split squats provide a greater range of hip motion and help improve hip mobility. It also reduces stress on working knees, which is beneficial for those suffering from knee pain or a history of knee injuries. And unlike traditional squats, you can use a more upright position, putting less stress on your lower back.
A single leg squat will help you put enough tension on the targeted muscles (glutes, thighs, quads) without stressing the spine. Exercising each leg separately will improve your balance and joint stability.
- Release the barbell and step back with your right foot while keeping your left foot in place.
- Drop your body straight down until your left thigh is parallel to the floor and your right knee is hovering above the floor.
- Push your left heel back to the starting position.
- Keep your torso upright and your core engaged throughout the exercise.
- Repeat on the other side.
Use longer stances to increase glute and hamstring tension. Use shorter stances to increase quadriceps activation.
this side squat Targets your quads, glutes, and adductors while improving balance and coordination. To do this, you will move in the frontal (left-right) plane, improving athletic performance.
Unlike traditional squats, which primarily work in the sagittal plane, lateral squats engage different muscle groups and movement patterns while preventing muscle imbalances and reducing the risk of injury.
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and arms extended in front of you for balance.
- Take a big step with your right foot to the side. Keeping the toes pointing forward, place the left foot on the ground.
- Bend your right knee and hip, and lower your body down and out to the side, as if sitting in a chair.
- Keep your left leg straight and your foot firmly on the ground.
- Lower yourself as far as you can, then push back to the starting position with your right foot.
- Repeat on the other side.
Do steps to develop lower body strength, stability, and flexibility while minimizing the risk of joint pain or injury.
The vertical calf position helps reduce stress and tension in the knees and allows you to load the quadriceps more while maintaining an upright torso. This means you won’t add stress to your lower back or spine. Like other unilateral exercises, step-up exercises help improve joint integrity by improving balance and stability.
The biggest mistake people make when lunging is pushing the back leg instead of the front foot.
- Start with your left foot on the box near knee height.
- Maintaining control, simultaneously engage the quadriceps and push through the left heel until the body is fully lifted onto the box.
- Lower your body by placing your left foot on the box until your right foot returns to the ground. Use the step down as a concentrated centrifugal movement. This will maximize control and weight on the forefoot.
- Pause for a second before repeating.
- Avoid bouncing the right foot off the ground and use the momentum to start the next movement.
Like split squats, Bulgarian Or rear-foot-elevated split squats provide a host of benefits for injured joints.
This exercise is more demanding because your rear foot is always elevated, requiring a lot of stability. This requires greater recruitment of the smaller stabilizer muscles and reduces the amount of weight you can use for the exercise. This reduces stress on the joints and lower back.
By counteracting the weight and keeping it on the side of the working leg, you increase the stability needs not only of the ankles, knees and hips, but also of the spine. This makes your joints more elastic and helps reduce annoying pain.
- Holding a kettlebell or dumbbell in your left hand, place your right foot on the bench behind you (lace up), and step your left foot forward.
- Lower until your left thigh is parallel to the floor and your right knee is hovering above the floor.
- Return to the starting point through your left heel.
- Keep your torso upright and your core engaged.
If you want to really hammer your legs without the negative effects of the barbell squat, then the hack squat is for you because it takes a lot of stress off your knees and lower back.
In traditional barbell squats, you put a lot of weight and stress on your knees. This can be problematic if you have knee pain or are recovering from an injury. Hack squats, on the other hand, create external stability with the machine while allowing the squat to work the quads.
Traditional squats can also put a lot of stress on your lower back, especially if you have poor form or a weak core. Hack squats relieve this stress by keeping your torso upright and supported by the machine.
With this machine, you can focus on isolating your leg muscles without worrying about your balance or form. This is especially helpful if you’re trying to target a specific muscle group, or if you’re working with a physical therapist to repair an injury.
The backside hack squat makes the movement more joint-friendly.
The purpose of the reverse strap is to help take the pressure off the knee at the bottom of the exercise. The elastic straps help you as you start to lift, but then unload (slack) as you get closer to the top. This further loads your quadriceps, which creates more tension at the top of the move.
- Secure a resistance band around the non-moving part of the hack squat machine. Loop the other end of the strap around the moving sled.
- Hack squats like normal.