What Workouts Are Good For Bad Knees?

If you’re dealing with bad knees, you might be wondering what workouts are good for bad knees. Here are some exercises to try and what to avoid.

Warm Up

Before doing any kind of exercise that involves your knees, it’s important to warm up. This will help loosen up your joints and muscles, reduce stiffness, and prepare your body for the upcoming physical activity. A good warm-up should include light stretching, light jogging, and a few dynamic exercises that focus on the muscles that support your knees.


Stretching is important to incorporate into any exercise program, but particularly so if you have bad knees. Before trying more strenuous activities like running or jumping, a good stretch of the muscles can prevent injury and can also warm-up the body so you’re ready for harder exercises. It’s important to focus on stretching your hamstrings, quads and hip flexors as these are all muscles that affect knee movement. Additionally, practice stretching your calf muscles and tendons as tightness in these areas can be contributory to knee pain. Gentle hamstring stretches can help reduce pressure on the legs by improving flexibility in the lower limbs. Quadriceps stretches should be done with a resistance band or with your own bodyweight (for example, using a wall) in order to build strength whilst increasing mobility at the joints. Whilst stretching, it’s important for you to listen to your body and work within your threshold of comfort; stop if any exercise becomes too painful or uncomfortable.

Foam Rolling

Foam rolling is a form of self-myofascial release, or massage using a foam roller on tight muscles and connective tissues, that can be helpful in alleviating knee pain. Combined with stretching, foam rolling releases tension built up in the muscles and helps to loosen up the area around the knee joints. As a result, this relieves some of the stress that is put on the muscles and tendons when exercising. Additionally, it improves movement to your connective tissue and muscles surrounding the knee by breaking down scar tissue. To begin foam rolling for bad knees, set yourself onto the foam roller with your body weight slowly rolling from your thigh towards the top of your knee. Hold for several seconds then roll back quickly away from or across your kneecap before stopping again to rest for a few seconds. Start slowly focusing on just a few areas around your knee and then add more areas as you become comfortable with it. When you are done foam rolling, end with some stretching exercises specific to targeting tight muscles in that area such as hamstring stretches or quad stretches to further reduce tension around the joint and reduce pain levels.

Low Impact Cardio

Low impact cardio workouts are a great option for people with bad knees as they provide an effective workout without putting too much strain on the knees. These low impact exercises typically feature movements that are not too strenuous on the body, so they can be easier for someone with knee pain to perform. Examples include walking, cycling, swimming, yoga, and more. Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of low impact cardio for bad knees.


Swimming can be a great low-impact form of exercise for people with bad knees. It is an ideal activity because it is not weight bearing and relieves pressure off the knee joints while providing an excellent workout. Swimming helps build muscle strength and increases cardiovascular endurance, while exercising the entire body while remaining low impact. Exercising in water creates enough resistance to work all areas, including the arms and legs. Additionally, because water supports your body, swimming can be a good exercise choice for people of all ages who have intermittent pain with their knee problems.


Walking is one of the most accessible low impact cardio workouts available and can be done almost anywhere. It is low-impact because it puts minimal strain on the joints, particularly the knees. Studies have even shown that a 45 minute brisk walk a day can help reduce inflammation in your joints and improve your overall physical health.

If walking, try to switch up the terrain – incorporate hills, surfaces like sand and grass (as opposed to concrete or tarmac), and pathways in nature – as this further reduces stress on your knees. Additionally, if you are able, invest in shoes specifically designed for walking that support your foot and ankle whilst providing cushioning for comfort. Lastly, ensure that you stay hydrated and keep your energy levels stable throughout with healthy snacks such as nuts or nut butters as you go.


Cycling is a great low-impact cardio workout that is easy on the knees. Whether it be stationary or regular bicycles, this type of exercise can provide a great cardiovascular workout while limiting joint strain on your knees. An indoor cycling bike is great for those with knee issues, since you are still getting the same ride and resistance of a bike outdoors but in the comfort of any room inside. Additionally, the slower speeds can reduce stress to the joints for bad knee cases, allowing for greater intensity without risk of harm or pain. Depending on your fitness level and goals, you can create an aerobic or anaerobic workout. You may want to consult with your doctor before starting in order to make sure it’s done safely and effectively for your knee condition specifically.

Strength Training

Strength training doesn’t necessarily have to involve large amounts of weight. In fact, there are several types of strength training exercises that are beneficial for people with bad knees. These exercises focus on exercises that target the muscles surrounding the knee joint, such as the quads, hamstrings, glutes and abdominals. This type of strength training not only strengthens the knee but can also help to support the knee joint and reduce the risk of further injury. Let’s take a look at some of the best exercises for people with bad knees.


Squats are one of the most effective exercises for building leg strength and mobility. They are also known as one of the low-impact exercises that can help strengthen the muscles around weak knees without aggravating them.

Safe squatting form is key when doing squats if you’re trying to isolate your knee joint. Make sure your feet are shoulder-width apart and slightly angled outward, not straight forward. This creates more space in the knee joint, reducing pressure on it. As you lower down into a squat, keep most of your weight on your heels so you can control knee movement better — avoid placing any weight on the balls of your feet or leaning too far into your toes when squatting as this can place strain on weak knees. Keep an eye out for proper knee alignment; it should stay in line directly over top of every footstep so your kneecaps don’t move beyond the toes when you push off with them or risk heel lift.

In addition to helping build leg strength and mobility, squats can also improve balance and balance control around unstable knee joints with consistent practice even those with bad knees may be able to perform full squats under correct supervision by a certified personal trainer. It is hence important to check with a physician before attempting this workout as everyone’s capabilities vary depending on how weakened their joints are before starting strength training exercises such as squats that involve deep ranges of motion at the knee joint. Ultimately, here’s how many reps you do will be dependent upon what level of fitness you’re at and the intensity(light, moderate or high)of workout desired based upon individual capability at any point in time under doctor/injury specialist supervision if necessary.


Lunges are an excellent exercise for strengthening the muscles around the knee. This helps relieve pain from poor knee health by providing greater stability and support, as well as maintaining flexibility. Because of its low-impact nature, it is appropriate for both beginner and advanced fitness levels.

When performing a lunge, begin with both feet hip-width apart. Step one leg forward until the thigh is parallel to the ground and bent to about a 90-degree angle. The back leg should also be bent at a 90-degree angle as it rests on the ball of your foot. Make sure not to lock your knees on either side while in this position. Increase the intensity of your lunges by slightly jumping off your feet before returning back to your starting squat position, or by performing walking lunges which involves taking steps while moving in a forward or backward direction while in lunge position.

You can modify this exercise if you have bad knees by using light dumbbells when lunging or doing less repetitions overall. Additionally, ensure that you maintain good posture throughout each repetition — stay upright with core engaged and chest held high — for optimal results. Lunges are an effective way to strengthen important muscles around knee joints helping decrease pain and maintain overall health!


For those looking for a low impact exercise to give them the benefit of strength training when working with bad knees, step-ups are an excellent choice. Step-ups specifically target your hamstrings,Quads, glutes and calf muscles while going easy on the joints of your lower leg and body. This makes them an ideal option for those looking to strengthen their muscles without putting too much or any strain on their knee joint.

When performing step-ups you should strive to keep your torso upright throughout the move as this will cause your leg muscles to work harder while providing support for the knee joint. Step-ups are also beneficial because they can be done with either one or two legs depending on your level of fitness and/or comfortability with the movement. Additionally, you can adjust intensity by raising each step higher which increases the amount of stress put on each muscle group being used in the movement. Ultimately, step-ups provide a great way for those with bad knees to add strength training into their life without it having an detrimental effect on their overall health and wellness.

Core Exercises

For those suffering from bad knees, core exercises are the best way to strengthen your muscles and improve your mobility. Core exercises don’t require any heavy lifting, they focus on your abdominal and back muscles which is key to maintaining good balance and body alignment. Core exercises can help to reduce the strain on your knees and provide you with the strength and support you need to improve your knee’s condition.


Planks are an excellent core exercise and can be a great way to strengthen your knees for improved mobility and performance. When performed correctly, planks can help to support the knee joint and surrounding muscles, reducing the risk of injury and strain. They also help naturally correct posture which can improve circulation throughout the body, leading to improved strength and endurance.

To perform a plank correctly, begin by lying flat on your stomach with your arms bent and hands flat on the floor so that only your elbows and toes are touching the surface. Lift your body up into a plank position using only your hands and feet – making sure to keep your core tight, spine straight, shoulders down, chest open, head parallel to the floor. Maintain this position for as long as possible without letting you hips drop or arching back or breaking form in any way – this also engages small supporting muscles around the knee joint for increased stability. You may notice that it takes some practice but eventually you will be able to hold a plank for at least one minute or three 20 second intervals – amping up from there if you’re able!

In addition to planks, there are a variety of other core exercises that can improve knee strength such as bridges and mountain climbers that may be safer for those with existing knee issues. Make sure to listen closely to your body during these exercises adjusting posture or intensity level accordingly. It is also important to warm up before beginning any workout routine – starting out slowly before picking up speed when exercising around bad knees is key!


Bridges are one of the most effective exercises for strengthening your core and glutes. This exercise also has a positive impact on knee health as it strengthens muscles around the joint, helps improve balance and coordination, increases range of motion, and decreases any current discomfort in the knee. To perform a bridge exercise properly, lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor or a mat. Keep your abdominals pulled in tight throughout the entire exercise and lift your hips up toward the ceiling. Pause at the top for two seconds before slowly lowering your hips back to starting position. Add weights or resistance bands for additional challenge. For the best results, aim to complete 2-3 sets of 10-15 bridges 3 times weekly.

Side Planks

Side planks are an effective core exercise for strengthening the torso and improving balance, but they can also be beneficial to individuals with bad knees. This is because of the improved core strength that can provide greater stability to the lower body area. By practicing side planks regularly, you will be able to position yourself in such a way as to reduce any strain on your knee joints while still allowing you to work your abdominal muscles.

To do a side plank, start by lying on your right side and prop yourself up onto your right elbow with your legs outstretched and at a 90-degree angle from your torso. Your left arm should be against your left hip. Hold this position for 15–20 seconds, then switch sides and repeat 3–4 times. As you become stronger, you can work up to holding each side plank for up to 1 minute. Remember that it is important to keep correct form throughout the exercise so that it does not cause any additional stress or pain on your knee joints or other parts of the body.

Cool Down

Cooling down after exercising is a crucial part of any workout routine, but it is especially important for individuals with bad knees. Cool down helps to reduce muscle fatigue and promote blood circulation in the muscles and joints, which can help to reduce soreness and improve overall recovery. Let’s take a look at some of the best cool-down exercises for people with bad knees.

Static Stretching

Static stretching involves holding a position for a certain amount of time, usually in the range of 10-30 seconds. When you’re stretching your muscles, you should focus on keeping your body relaxed and in control. You want to avoid jerky movements that could cause injury. It’s best if your breathing is slow and deep throughout the stretch.

Static stretches can be used to improve flexibility in your joints, which helps prepare them for the exercise ahead while reducing the risk of injury. Examples of static stretches are touching your toes (calf stretching), leaning forward and attempting to reach both hands onto your back (hamstring stretching) and attempting to touch both elbows behind your head (tricep stretch).

On days when you’re doing low impact or no-impact workouts with bad knees, like walking or swimming, static stretches are an easy way to stay limber without undue stress on the knees. Start with 5 minutes of dynamic activity such as slow arm circles or side-to-side leg swings; then switch to static stretches that target hamstrings, hip flexors/ quadriceps, calves and shoulders as needed. Holding each stretch for 10–30 seconds a few times throughout can help improve overall mobility and flexibility while minimizing knee pain during exercise.

Foam Rolling

Foam rolling is a popular form of self-myofascial release (SMR)—using a tool or implement to massage tight muscles and improve mobility. For those with bad knees, focusing on the hamstrings, glutes, quads, hip flexors, IT band, and calves can help reduce pain and improve range of motion.

Start by resting on top of the foam roller with your weight evenly distributed on the surface. As you roll along the length of the muscle group, it may be unpleasant—like having a knot massaged with pressure—but it should not be unbearable. When you find an especially tight spot (which will feel like a knot), pause for 30 to 90 seconds to let your body sink into it and soften any adhesions. Keep rolling and take several deep breaths as you go. Afterwards, check for improved mobility in that area.

Foam rolling is best done on a regular basis or as needed when pain begins to return. You can also use foam rollers or rolled-up newspapers to work larger areas like your back or chest in only minutes before jumping into bed at night;a perfect cool-down after any workout regimen!

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