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Bad knees? Effective Exercises to Manage the Pain and What to Avoid

Motion is Lotion - Just Make Sure You Get the Good Stuff

painful knee
By Cheryl Coppa

Knee pain is SO common! Not just for mid-age and beyond but young athletes as well. The most common injury in sports. Aside from injury, there can be knee pain from poor mechanics, overuse, and all the forms of arthritis. Movement feels painful and often extremely painful. I believe you when you tell me this! And I know it makes you avoid certain movements.  

Movement is medicine! You just need the good stuff, the right stuff! Proper exercises for knee arthritis are key to reducing pain and maintaining function.

According to the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center, Physical activity is essential to optimizing both physical and mental health and can play a vital role in the management of arthritis. Regular physical activity can keep the muscles around affected joints strong, decrease bone loss, and may help control joint swelling and pain. Regular activity replenishes lubrication to the cartilage of the joint and reduces stiffness and pain.

No matter what kind of arthritis you have, they all come with joint pain and stiffness. Your goal is to do all you can to preserve and restore as much function as possible.

Exercises You CAN Do to Improve Your Situation

Let's discuss exercises you can do to improve your situation and alternatives for physical training or class. Because I for one, would not want you to miss out on leg day! (LIVE, every Monday at 8:30 am EST/ 5:30 am PST and on-demand) This training has the best benefits, especially if fat loss is part of your fitness goal.

There is a time to rest and a time to move. If your doctor tells you to rest, then rest. Your doctor certainly won't mean to rest forever! Limiting your movements will progress your condition and the other conditions that come with aging, such as osteoporosis and weight gain. We want to keep you fighting these and to do it safely and effectively.

The Goal of Less Pain in Your Knees Will Include:

Knee strengthening exercises. The video below shows you a few exercises that help strengthen the knee itself. Easy to add to your day. Get a timer for 30 seconds and do them all three times through.
Every week I teach a “Stretch” Class. In this class we work on not just stretches but the common muscle imbalances such as the shoulders, hips, knees, and feet. This clip was taken from the stretch class we did last week. When it comes to strength and function in any part of the body including the knees, it takes strength and mobility. This is why I strongly suggest adding a stretch class to your movement prescription. You have to do the small stuff (which happens to feel good ) to do the bigger things.

Strengthen the surrounding muscles. Something that aggravates hurting knees is when the surrounding muscles are not doing their part. I am referring to the hamstrings and the glutes. Working on these muscles is going to take pressure off your knees. The glutes are the largest muscle on your body so they must do their job otherwise the knees and the lower back will surely suffer.

A simple Glute Exercise: the standard Glute Bridge is easy to do and very effective in strengthening the glutes. My favorite Hamstring exercise is the Hamstring Curl. A very helpful piece of equipment would be the booty band. Get strapped in and we can target even more muscles on the outside of the knee and hip to work towards even more stability. Get the goods! If you are an Ola Ka Ola member, you get 50 % off ALL equipment.

LUNGE ALTERNATIVES: Ah lunges! Love them, hate them, love to hate them, they are a part of many fitness trainings. If your knees are hurting, don't do them. Form is very important so if you are doing them, we want to make sure you are getting stronger by doing them right. If you are not sure, have your trainer check your form. If you cannot do lunges … I would not have you miss out on LEG day training and benefits! Especially if fat loss is part of your goal. Check out this video for alternatives to different lunges so you can still get the muscle benefit while being extra gentle on the joint.

DO NOTS With Knee Pain:

Jumping, running, burpees, or anything that causes pain.
At Ola Ka Ola, we don't have any of these. ALL our training and programs are designed for the female body 40 and beyond, and we have a better way of getting the job done without the excessive force of these movements.

If you are overweight, losing weight is a must! I know this is a challenge especially if you are experiencing pain, I believe you! Let’s get you out of pain. Do the knee exercises, we can build the muscles around the knee and do alternative exercises for the ones you cannot do. We can do cardio, which will be great for lubricating the joint with movement.

“It is estimated for every pound you lose, you take 4 pounds of pressure off your joint. So if you lose 10 pounds, that is like taking 40 pounds of pressure off your joint! That's a BIG DEAL!”  

Whenever I say cardio I’m referring to the way we Cardio at Ola Ka Ola. We do this through HIIT training. This means we work in small increments of time and we switch what exercise we are doing often! You are never in one movement or exercise for very long. Compared to something as if you were biking or jogging or treadmilling or elliptical. The repetitive motion can be hard and painful on the knee, so when we HIIT, we keep our body moving in many directions with many benefits. Motion is lotion! It is estimated for every pound you lose, you take 4 pounds of pressure off your joint. So if you lose 10 lbs, that is like taking 40 pounds of pressure off your joint! That's a BIG DEAL!  

Our Beginner Classes at Ola Ka Ola never have lunges in them. So this is a good place to start in getting you moving and learning the alternatives so you CAN progress, you CAN lose weight and you CAN manage your pain and move better!

Every Wednesday we have a knee-friendly leg class. This is a class where we work the legs without squats and lunges. Great option for anyone with knee pain as you learn other ways to get stronger legs and build strength in the surrounding leg muscles to support your knees. This class is every Wednesday at 10:00 am EST/ 7:00 am PST. Like all our classes and training sessions, they're uploaded to our on-demand library, allowing you to access them at your convenience. Find under “Lower Body“.


About Cheryl Coppa

✔️ A certified Core Confidence Specialist (Core and Pelvic Floor retraining)
✔️ A certified Personal Trainer specializing in women's fitness over 40
✔️ Low-Pressure Fitness / Hypopressive certified by creator Dr. Tamara Rial
✔️ Pre/postnatal corrective exercise specialist
✔️Instructor of the Pelvic Floor Health program, Ola Ka Ola    
✔️ 41 years young, wife & mother of 3


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