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If you’re looking for a great way to strengthen and tone your lower body, squats are the perfect exercise. Even so, if you have bad knees, they are likely to hurt. If done incorrectly, squats put excess weight and pressure on the knee joint.

That’s why it’s important to use proper technique and range of motion to avoid injury. Luckily, there are several modified squats for bad knees that will still give you all the benefits of the traditional squat without any knee pain.

Squat Alternatives for Bad Knees

Pain from knee injuries is a common condition for athletes and amateur exercisers alike. One study found that 25% of adults suffer from chronic knee pain. For some, it’s simply an annoyance that decreases their performance or affects the frequency of their workouts; but for others, knee pain can be debilitating.

The good news? There are steps you can take to ensure that your workouts, especially knee-intensive ones like squats and cardio, do not worsen your knee injury.

Stability Ball Wall Squats

Stability ball squats are modified squats for bad knees that allow you to stretch your hamstrings and provide strength training without exerting pressure on your knees.

Here’s how to do a stability ball wall squat:

  • Place the stability ball between your back and the wall with feet shoulder-width apart in front of you.
  • Lean into the stability ball slightly for support.
  • Slowly lower yourself down until your thighs touch near or at 90 degrees.
  • Come up again smoothly without releasing all the pressure from that contact point on the ground.

If you do the above range of motion without experiencing any pain, you can add some dumbbells and other hand-held exercise equipment to make this squat regimen harder and more effective for strength building.

Box Squats

Box squats are great squat alternatives for bad knees. They focus on your ankle and hip mobility, so you can maintain perfect form when lifting loads that would otherwise be too heavy for these areas of the body and your knee joints.

An important aspect of box squats is their ability to increase balance and stability while reducing the load from the bar. To perform this exercise properly:

  • Start by standing in front of a sturdy bench or box with a light weight on top (5-10lbs).
  • Keep your chest high and back straightened out as best possible without arching over backward.
  • Use your abdominal muscles as much as possible during movement instead of relying on lower back strength alone.
  • Place your legs shoulder-width apart with knees slightly bent but keep them locked at all times, then bend down until your butt touches the box.
  • Repeat as per your tolerance levels.

Goblet Squats

Goblet squats offer some unique advantages over back- or overhead-loaded squats. They put more emphasis on an upright torso position (which means there’s significantly less stress placed onto the ligaments inside the knee joint). The lighter load will also help those with chronic shoulder issues maintain their range of motion by reducing the pain associated with heavy lifting.

To do a goblet squat:

  • Hold a kettlebell or dumbbell with both your hands in front of your chest.
  • Gently squat while holding the load in your hands; your elbows should come in between your knees.
  • Repeat as necessary and to your tolerance level.

Other Effective Exercises for Bad Knees

Apart from these modified squats for bad knees, people with knee pain can also take up other exercises that provide strength training, cardio, and endurance training. Rowing is an excellent exercise to incorporate into your everyday exercise regimen if you have bad knees because it incorporates squat-type movement with lower risk.

Since there is no weight directly on the knee joint and any stress on the knee is adjustable, you can use a rowing machine without worrying about worsening the pain and swelling in your knee.

Final Words

Squats are a functional movement you will see in your daily life and can be painful if you suffer from a knee injury, trauma, or muscle issues. However, with some practice, alternative techniques like modified squats for bad knees help decrease the pain while improving your strength.




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