Tips to Protect Your Knees While Working Out

powerlifter shows how to protect your knees with proper form

Are you experiencing unpleasant pain in the knee while training your legs? In this article, we are going to tell you how to protect your knees from any unpleasant injuries as they are very common.

Your legs are one of the most important parts of your body. As athletes and/or gym rats, we must train our legs regularly, even though it can be quite unpleasant at times. Training legs is not always fun, and is sometimes a bit painful, causing many beginners and even novice athletes to neglect them. Personally, I love deadlift day, I don’t care much for squat day, and I abhor lunge day for the reasons mentioned above.

Today we will share some tips and tricks of the workout trade, used by coaches and athletes that you can use to protect your knees from inflammation and injury.

Keeping Your Knees Healthy, Happy and Functional

For maximum effects, legs must be trained heavily and/or repetitively until exhaustion. A serious injury in the area of the knees can stop your muscle growth and prevent you from training properly. Here are some tips from industry experts.

1. Warming up is MANDATORY

Lifting heavy weights has an enormous effect on your body and not preparing yourself for that can injure you heavily. You must always warm up with lighter weight before increasing it. Never do squats or leg press with extremely high weight without warming the body up.

Improve the blood circulation in your body by warming up with dynamic stretching first such as t-spine rotations and hip mobility drills, then low-impact bodyweight exercises such as bodyweight squats and lunges, and finally perform a few sets of 5-7 reps of your target exercise or a related exercise with lighter weight before busting full-bore into your work sets.

2. Never lock out your knees during exercises

Never lock out your knees while doing a leg exercise due to the fact that the weight will be transferred to the joint and the stress can lead to an injury. There are probably a few exceptions to this rule but generally, when training your legs you’ll want to keep at least a very slight bend in the knee.

By avoiding lock-out you will keep the tension on the muscle, which can lead to increased power due to the stretch reflex. Where the stretch reflex doesn’t apply, such as with deadlifts, locking out can be detrimental to your knees by transferring the full load onto that joint rather than keeping some of the tension in the upper legs and posterior chain. People, who are not able to complete certain exercises without locking their knees, should consider decreasing their weight.

3. Always Maintain Proper Form

Girl squats

The biggest problem related to squats is that many individuals have not learned the proper squatting form and that’s where many injuries start. This is also true of deadlifts, lunges, and heck, even box jumps. Proper form is one major key to protect your knees and avoid injury in pretty much all exercises, lower and upper body alike.

  • First of all, you should rarely allow your knees to come forward as you lower. Attempt to keep your knees behind or in line with your toes 95% of the time.
  • Secondly, your back should be flat and tight. Knee and back injuries can occur when performing lower body exercises under heavy load with a rounded or overly arched spine,
  • Third, for most exercises, you want to sit back into your glutes and drive forward with your hips. Using those 2 cues will help with the first two points above as well as maximizing your strength and power in compound lower body exercise.
  • Lastly, when ascending, your power must come from driving through your feet and not through your toes. Interestingly, you can master the technique by squatting with moderate weight barefoot. It’s true!

4. Don’t Squat More Than You Can Handle

You don’t always have to squat with more weight every workout to make any gains. Instead, you should be able to perform the full motion with nearly flawless form while doing the exercise. You can’t cheat yourself because results won’t appear on your body. Lower the amount of weight and do the exercise properly to help protect your knees.

A good strategy is to alter your rep ranges to decrease reps and increase weight over time through linear periodization. For example, here’s how you might construct a 10-week routine to increase your squat PR.

Week 1 – 4 sets, 12 reps

Week 2-3 – 4 sets, 10 reps

Week 4-5 – 4 sets, 8 reps

Week 6-8 – 4 sets, 5 reps

Week 9 – 3 sets, 8, 6, 4 reps – slightly reduced volume to prepare for PR test week

Week 10 – set a new PR: 5-7 sets starting at 5 reps with sub-maximal weight and working to a PR for whatever rep range you want to test. Some folks prefer to keep their rep range above 3, some others like strongmen and powerlifters like to test their one-rep max from time to time.

5. Endurance Cardio Can Harm Your Knees

If you have an existing knee injury, you can make things worse by running or doing other cardio exercises. Running at a steady state, on hard surfaces, for sustained periods, with poor footwear, is a recipe for knee trauma and can also lead to back, hip, ankle, and foot pain.

Endurance running and, oddly enough, golf are 2 of the most misunderstood causes of injuries, including knee, hip, and ankle pain, and back injury.

Riding any kind of bike, specifically a stationary bike, can be less irritating for your knees. Some equipment manufacturers claim that elliptical trainers are safest for your knees, but there is a bit of evidence that elliptical training is no better than standard cycling for knee health. Rowing, swimming, and weighted walking or hiking tend to be some of the safest forms of endurance exercise.

Final Thoughts

Follow our tips shared by experts, and you will be able to train your legs intensely and also protect your knees. These tips should help you prevent any future injuries or reduce the pain from existing issues. You can also try high-quality knee sleeves that will provide more protection during workout sessions.

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