"I can't do single-leg exercises because they hurt my knees."
If you've ever said this about a single leg exercise, or all single leg exercises, you are not alone. Many trainees bemoan the sight of single-leg exercises in their workouts because they experience knee pain while doing them.
The good news is that you can often eliminate the pain or discomfort with a few adjustments to your workout or exercise. Below are some tips and modifications you can make to single leg exercises so that you can perform them with confidence without discomfort.
To be clear, there is no "Avoid this at all costs if you don't want your knees to explode!" mistakes, and there isn't "one thing" that will cause everyone discomfort or pain (for example, saying that the heel coming off the ground "destroys" or "will destroy" your knees. is not true - it can cause pain for some people, but none for others). The tips you'll see below are just the modifications and adjustments I've implemented with trainees over the years to help them perform single-leg exercises without pain. If one thing doesn't work for you, move on to the next.
The tips are explained and illustrated in the video below, or just keep reading.
1) Warm up before working on one leg with a bilateral exercise. You may not be able to jump straight to single-leg exercises when training your lower body; you may need to warm up your legs and joints first. Try this simple warm-up: Perform a few sets of bodyweight squats (something like 3 sets of 10-20 reps), then move on to the one-leg exercise. This a simple warm-up is not only great in helping you squat lower, but that may be all you need to perform painless single leg exercises.
2) Control the lower part of the exercise. Too many trainees essentially fall to the floor when doing squats and lunges. Do not do that. Control the lower part of the exercise - take 2-3 seconds to descend. then slowly reverse the movement to return to the starting position. This trick also alleviated many knee pain issues in trainees.
3) Keep your heels on the ground. (Note: some exercises require your heels to come off the floor, like the sissy squat variations, but I'm not referring to those here.) When doing one-leg exercises like lunges and split squats, the heel of the forefoot must not come off the ground.
Be careful and see if you are doing this, and it might not be terribly blatant; it can be subtle. If your heels have come off the floor with single-leg exercises, you may notice that your knees feel great when the heel is stuck on the floor. There is nothing “wrong” or “dangerous” about having the heel off the ground, but for some trainees it can cause knee pain.
4) Adjust your position. Sometimes a little adjustment can make a huge difference. For example with a raised split squat on the back of the foot (which may have its own easy-to-resolve issues), your front foot may be too far from the bench or too close. While there are plenty of trainers to say that there is only one 'perfect' way to exercise (which isn't true), it's okay to play with your position to find what works best. is the best for you for you. You may find that your knees are completely painless with a narrower or wider stance.
The image above is an example of a wider or narrower position with the raised split squat on the back of the foot. Having the front foot a few inches further or closer to the bench can make a difference in how you feel about the exercise.
5) Stop fighting to balance. You may experience discomfort in your knees as most of your focus and energy is spent on balance and not rocking. If balance is a key issue, take it out of the equation so you can focus on exercising. If you're doing interval squats, rear-foot raised split squats, or a reverse lunge, hold onto something like an upright weight bench, power rack, or barbell securely in your body. a feed support. This way you don't have to work so hard to balance and can focus on the movement.
If you need to add weight to the exercise to make it harder, hold a dumbbell in one hand while holding something with the other, as pictured above. (Another option is to perform single-leg exercises with a Smith machine so that you can easily add weight while also removing the balancing component of the movement.)
6) If you use external charging, don't go too heavy. Some people can do heavy exercises on one leg for 5 to 8 repetitions; others cannot without discomfort and pain. You can try increasing the rep range so that you use less resistance. For example, if you are doing walking lunges with 25 pound dumbbells for 8 to 10 reps per leg and you experience knee pain, drop down to 10 or 15 pound dumbbells and perform more than 15 reps per leg and see how that feels.
7) Do not force a variation of exercise. Make any adjustments you want, but there may be an exercise that on time just won't work for you. For example, regardless of your posture, lowering under control or using less external load, you may not be able to do forward lunges without knee pain. Don't try to force it. Perform a different variation instead, such as reverse lunges or step-ups. As you get stronger and better conditioned, or just over time, you may be able to perform lunges before and while walking.
If you have knee pain with certain single leg exercises, apply the tips above and see if it helps. Remember that what works for someone else may not work for you. Don't be afraid to play around a bit until you find out what works best for you.
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Plyometric exercises, like box jumps and squat burpees, are a one-way ticket to feeling like an all-around badass because not only will they help you build strength, but explosiveness ( or power ), speed, and agility, too. Those last three perks don’t come from strength training alone, so it’s key to round out your sport routine with jump training ( another name for plyo ).
All plyo movements require your groupes musculaires to stretch and contract at a rapid pace, which helps them become more explosive. So, unsurprisingly, they’re considered a intensity workout. The benefit of firing up your muscles this way, though : It spikes your heart rate ( oh hey, cardio ) and burns *all* the calories.
Before you jump into plyo training, you want to feel solid when it comes to stability, balance, and core strength. But aside from that, the beauty of it is that you can scale plyo to your fitness level and that it is totally beginner-friendly. Can’t jump up onto a three-foot-tall box ? Start small ! The most important thing is that your movements are quick; they don’t have to be BIG. As you feel more ne change pas and powerful, amp it up !
I like to incorporate two or three plyometric exercises into the beginning of my workouts after my warm-up. Since they demand so much of your bod, you don’t want to go into them already fatigued from a bunch of other moves. Want your entire workout to have plyometric vibes ? You can do that, too. Just be ready to feel the burn in ways you’ve never felt it before.
Start standing facing a plyo box ( about two-feet away from it ). Rise up onto balls of feet and swing straight arms over head, then bend knees and push hips back into a hinge position and swing arms back behind body to gain momentum to explode up off floor and jump up onto the box. Land in a squat position, with knees bent, feet flat, and hands in front of chest. Then stand up straight and step back down to starting position. That’s one rep.
Start in a plank place, then jump feet forward outside of hands. Drop butt below knees, lift torso up, and raise hands to chest level. Reverse the movement to return to start. That’s one rep.
Start standing with feet under hips next to a plyo box, bent forward to place both hands flat on the top of it. Press through hands, brace core, and kick feet up and back towards glutes to hop body over to opposite side of box. Reverse the movement to return to start. That’s one rep.
Start standing with hands at sides. Hop up into the air. Upon landing, squat down, press hands into floor, and kick feet up into air higher than shoulder height. Let feet land directly under body, then hop back up. That’s one rep.
Start standing with feet under hips to the right of a plyo box. Rise up onto balls of feet and lift arms overhead, then with momentum, push hips back into a hinge place and swing arms back. Use this oomph to press through feet while swinging arms forward to explode up off floor. In mid-air, rotate entire body 90 degrees to the left and land in a slight squat position with hands in front of chest on top of the box, knees bent and feet flat. Stand up straight, then step back down to starting position. That’s one rep.
Start in a plank place with shoulders stacked over wrists and core engaged. Drive right knee toward chest, then return to plank and quickly repeat with the left. Keep alternating sides as quickly as possible. That’s one rep.
Start standing on right foot at far right end of mat or workout space with left leg bent, left foot lifted and crossed behind right leg, left arm bent and crossed in front of body, right arm behind back, and torso tilted slightly forward. Take a big hop to left switching arms and legs to mirror move on opposite side. Jump back to start. That’s one rep.
to start, stand with feet together and hands at sides. Then, lift arms out and overhead while jumping feet out past shoulders. Without pausing, quickly reverse the movement to return to start. That’s one rep.
Start standing with feet just outside of shoulders holding one dumbbell with both hands in front of body, arms extended straight toward floor. Lift right foot up off mat and behind body while bending at elbows to swing weight over left shoulder. Quickly hop from left foot to right while straightening arms and drawing dumbbell diagonally across chest toward right hip, torso and gaze follow weight. That’s one rep. ( Make sure to switch your starting foot for the second round. )
Get into a plank place, with shoulders stacked on top of wrists. Keeping core engaged, tap right shoulder with left hand while jumping both feet out wide to sides. Return to start, then repeat on the opposite side. That’s one rep.