Explosive Leg Workout for People with Bad Knees

You probably know the type; massive upper body and the tooth pick legs strutting around the gym like he owns the place.  These guys are typically the brunt of jokes and stifled laughs in the gym.  No one wants to be that guy.  The benefits of a strong leg routine are numerous, but what are you to do when bad knees prevent you from doing heavy leg lifts like squats? 

Sometimes you can just gut it out and wrap your knees and hope for the best.  Although more often than not, this is just asking for trouble.  After years of working out your knees are going to give out on you.  Don’t completely avoid your legs and become toothpick legs.  Get creative and you will find you can always work your lower body without straining your knees.

Leg Presses – Start with leg presses.  A sample workout would include 4 sets of 12.  However, for each set, situate your feet differently on the press.  Try feet shoulder width, feet together, toes angled out, feet spread wide.  This will hit your quads from multiple angles.

Hack Squats – Use a weight that allows you to do 25 reps.  Grip a barbell with an overhand grip, but keep the bar BEHIND you.  Keep your chest high and squat down slowly.  Alternate foot positions here too.

Leg Extensions – This is a good exercise that will blast your quads without putting too much stress on your knees.  Sit at the machine and adjust the seat accordingly.  Try to do 3 sets of 15, with no more than 60 seconds rest between sets. 

By performing these three exercises you can reap the benefits of the traditional squat, without further damaging injured knees.  Injuries to the knees are extremely common, especially as we age.  Knowing ways to get around an injury is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and avoiding a loss of motivation in the gym.


3 comments so far

  1. jva on

    Enjoying your blog, thanks for writing. I don’t claim to be an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m surprised to see you recommending leg extensions for people with bad knees. Everything I have read in the past two years has indicated that the leg extension machine is one of the worst machines in the gym period, much less for people with bad knees.

    “blast your quads without putting too much stress on your knees”. What??? “When you perform a leg extension, the major lower-leg bone, the tibia, slides forward. That stretches an important ligament in the knee, the anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL. ”

    This seems like very dangerous advice to me.

  2. shareitfitness on

    Thanks for your response. I realize there are always going to be differing opinions, especially in the fitness world. While you are correct that leg extensions stretch the ACL, the simple act of stretching is not equivilant to the stress endured by performing a high impact form of exercise like running, or a high stress movement such as a squat.

    I try to scan the web for the most up-to-date and legitimate content available to back up my claims before posting. For this particular article I based my claim off of content found in the following articles…



    Again, there are certainly sites out there with differing viewpoints. I did however find both NBC and Lance Armstrong’s LiveStrong website to be credible sources and based my claims on their findings. Thanks for your concern and hope you continue to follow the blog!

  3. pre dpt on

    The act of light stretching may not cause immediate harm, but continous over stretching of ligaments and tendons will take their tole over time. Ligaments such as the anterior/posterior cruciated ligament(stabilizes front to back), and the medial/lateral colateral ligaments(stablizes laterally), are meant to keep your petela in the grooves of your femur and tibia. Over-stretching of these ligaments, causes instability of your knee cap. Also, full leg extensions done with heavy wieght place a great amount of force on these ligaments and petela. Since our legs are a third class lever system, if you look at it in a physics point of view, you can see why it places so much force and pressure on your knee cap. Due to this reason, only partial arc leg extensions are done in rehab.

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