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Knee pain after squats and lunges can sideline you and discourage you from exercising. “No pain, no gain” is a saying someone coined to promote “powering through the pain” of exercise. However, in some cases, when you are starting with a bum knee, knee pain after exercise can be debilitating.


Science supports the idea that one of the best things you can do for arthritic joints is to exercise. Many good reasons exist for why squatting or lunging may be on your list of things to do to stay in good health, but if you are suffering from knee pain after squats and lunges, you should change up your routine.

Understanding Knee Pain After Squats and Lunges

Squats and lunges can be tough on the knees. The repetitive knee bends, especially when weight-bearing is involved, can cause terrible pain—and unfortunately, they can cause further damage to an already damaged knee. Many people make the mistake of overworking their knees with lunges and squats.

Is It Normal for Knees to Hurt After Squats?

Mild discomfort to the mid-knee is normal. Other pain is not. You know your body better than anyone else. If you experience knee pain after squats and it includes any of the following, it may be an indicator that you are further damaging your knee:


  • Sharp pain in one or both knees: This can be an indicator that you have caused some damage
  • Difficulty with weight-bearing: If you are having difficulty with weight-bearing after you finish the squats and the lunges, this can mean that your pain is not within the normal discomfort range
  • Slow pain recovery from squats: If your knee pain after doing squats persists for days rather than hours, this may mean you’ve done some damage to your knee


If you are experiencing knee pain from squats that include any of the scenarios above, STOP to avoid further damage to your knee. You may be wiser to use exercise equipment that is easy on your knees.

Do Squats and Lunges Damage Your Knee?

According to the experts, anyone with osteoarthritis should avoid deep squats and only do modified lunges such as:

  • Quarter lunges
  • VMO (vastus medialis oblique) dips
  • Shortening your stride length
  • Cushioning the inside forefoot to avoid overpronation
  • Keeping your weight on the front leg
  • Doing reverse lunges
  • Doing high knee walks instead


Any physical therapist will tell you that lunges and squats do not target the knees. Squats and lunges strengthen the glutes and quads. You may get some benefits from the bend and straighten motions required to perform these exercises, but the pain and damage often outweigh the benefits.

Can I Do Squats If I Have Knee Pain?

Can you, or should you do squats if you have knee pain? The answer is usually no. Knee pain from squats and lunges is your body sending you signals that this may not be the proper exercise for you.

How Do You Fix a Sore Knee When Squatting?

Many physical therapists recommend that you lean against a wall when squatting if you have arthritis in the knee. Taking some of the pressure off the knee may help. However, they also recommend that if the knee pain after squats and lunges feels heightened, you should not continue with these exercises.

The Easiest Way to Avoid Knee Pain After Squats and Lunges

Many people have found that the easiest way to avoid knee pain after squats and lunges is to avoid the exercises altogether. However, low-impact exercising can be the best joint pain reliever. Here are some other exercises that you can do that are kinder to your joints and deliver excellent results, especially if you have bone on bone contact due to loss of cartilage:


  • Using a rowing machine. Rowing machines can help to build strong knees by building up the quads and the hamstring equally. Rowing also provides a great cardio workout.
  • Swimming. Swimming is a great exercise that takes stress off the knee while providing a whole body workout.
  • Bicycling. A stationary bike can be a great exercise tool for people who suffer from knee pain.


Many seniors have found that an in-home rowing machine is the best low-impact exercise solution. It works both the upper body and the lower body, and most importantly, it is very gentle on the knees.


To stay healthy and maintain a long life, you should never stop exercising. It is the best way to ward off aging and keep your joints moving. The secret to exercising when you have knee pain is to find the right low-impact exercises for your body.

The material on this website is intended for educational information purposes only.  It should not substitute or delay medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.