Few things can ruin your progress in the gym like a bad knee. Not only does this leave you unable to squat but it can also affect every other aspect of leg day, your cardio and even some upper body work. Deadlifts are out of the question!
So what do you do? Of course the best treatment for knee pain will vary depending on what is causing the discomfort in the first place. You may have patellar tendonitis, osteoarthritis… the list goes on.
But if you understand the differences between these various issues and if you can identify which is afflicting you, then you may be able to design your workouts around them. What’s more, you may be able to find some exercises that will help you to reduce the pain.
Identifying Your Knee Pain
So, how do you find what the cause of your knee pain is?
One method is to look at the type of pain you experience and at what causes it. If your knee pain is caused by a torn ACL for instance, then you may experience pain during ATG squats and deep lunges. There, the tibia translates forward onto the femur, causing instability in the knee and tilts the shin during these movements.
On the other hand, if you have patellar tendonitis or patellofemoral syndrome, then your tibia will be displaced forward during movements. Likely you’ll notice this kind of pain when you lean forward on your knee and this might be felt when moving up or down stairs, when lunging etc.
Osteoarthritis also causes knee pain, often as a result of the cartilage having been worn away. If you find yourself with this kind of pain then dropping down too low will again be the main trigger of pain often – such as during ATG squats.
Finally, when your knee pain comes from a torn meniscus, this might again be felt when you plunge too deep during your exercises. This creates a ‘pinching’ feeling in the meniscus.
Leg Exercises to Avoid and Treat Leg Pain
As you can see then, specific moves will likely exacerbate specific types of pain. The good news is that this means you can often avoid the knee pain by simply selecting your movements correctly – in many cases just using shallower exercises such Bulgarian squats or even kettlebell swings can reduce pain. Likewise, for those experiencing patellar tendonitis, simply taking care to keep the shin straight during movements can help a lot.
So what about actually treating this pain? Well actually, any exercise when performed observing the above recommendations can help to gradually improve your knee pain. The mistake many of us make is to stop moving and to stop exercising completely, which actually only exacerbates matters. Instead, try to gently take your legs through the movements regularly in order to build more control and stability. Even lightly sitting on the leg extensions and performing slow repetitions can be great for speeding up recovery. Good luck!