No matter why you need knee-friendly exercises, this is a great list that will help you strengthen your lower body. There’s a lot of muscle down there that can be strengthened to boost your metabolism and help you lose weight! We don’t want achy or funky knees preventing you from utilizing this built-in metabolic powerhouse!
Try them and check out the lower body workout at the end!
#1: The Deadlift
Don’t let the name or reputation of the exercise scare you off. If you’re new to the deadlift it may quickly become your favorite exercise.
Muscles worked: Gluteus Maximus, Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Erector Spinae, Adductors
Prep: Feet about hip-width apart. Be mindful of looking forward and keeping your neck/head in line with your spine. Soften your knees and keep them slightly bent. Hold dumbbells, kettlebells, or a barbell.
Instructions: Hinge at your hips and bend at your waist, going until your back is almost parallel with the floor. If you can’t go that far, go as far as you feel comfortable with. Try to keep your back straight (neutral spine) the entire movement. Squeeze your glutes and hamstrings to bring you back up. Your core should be tight, but the movement doesn’t come from your back. These is a great knee-friendly leg exercises.
#2: The Glute Bridge: Knee-Friendly Glute Exercise
Muscles worked: The Glutes, Hamstrings, Adductors, Rectus Abdominis, Erector Spinae
Prep: Lie on the floor with your back flat and heels as close to your butt as you feel comfortable with. Keep your hands out to the side.
Instructions: Keeping your core tight, and not letting your back arch or sag, push your heels into the floor. Your feet can be flat or just your heels can touch- whatever feels more natural. Try to press up until your mid-back to knees are in a straight line. Squeeze your butt at the top, pause, and slowly lower back down and repeat. Make it harder by doing single leg bridges.
#3 The Butt Lift
This is a simple exercise that will strengthen your glutes and help you burn calories. I wouldn’t rely solely on this exercise, but it’s a great way to end a workout after doing some of the other exercises- OR a great way to get a great butt while doing the dishes.
Muscles worked: Glutes, Hamstrings, Core
Instructions: Stand (balancing yourself on a wall if necessary) and have your feet hip-width apart and your back straight. Keeping your leg straight with your knee just slightly bent, lift your heel straight back as high as you can. In a slow and controlled movement, bring your foot back on the ground to just touch your toes and repeat the movement with the same leg.
#4 The Hip Thrust
This is one of my favorite exercises for a nice caboose! ;)
Muscles worked: Glutes, Hamstrings
Prep: Using a bench (or couch/chair), position yourself with your shoulder blades on the bench and feet flat on the floor, in line with your hips. You can start with your butt on the ground and knees bent.
Instructions: Press your heels into the floor and squeeze your glutes to lift yourself up. Pause at the top, when your torso through your knees is in a straight line. If your knees go over your toes step your feet out until your ankles are under your knees. Slowly lower yourself down to just above the floor and repeat. Placing weight across the hips (using a towel or pad if needed) is my favorite way to do the hip thrust. You can also try this one-legged!
#5 The Bridge with a Leg Extension
I love that this is exercise an upper body and core workout too!
Muscles worked: Quadriceps, Glutes, Hamstrings, Core, Deltoids, Triceps, Trapezius
Prep: Sit down on the floor with your feet flat and legs bent, with your arms supporting you from behind. Keep your hands under your shoulders as much as possible and point your fingers behind you or to the side, whichever is more comfortable.
Instructions: Push your heels into the floor and squeeze your butt to bring your torso up, trying to keep it parallel with the floor. Your knees should be over your ankles, not your toes, so walk them out if needed. Straighten your right leg and lift it up until it’s perpendicular with the floor. Lower until your heel touches the floor and repeat. After completing your reps, repeat on the other leg.
#6 The Fire Hydrant
Muscles worked: Glutes (specifically the Gluteus Medius), Adductors, Abdominals
Prep: Get down on the floor on your hands and knees, with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
Instructions: Contracting your core to keep you stable, lift your bent leg up and out to the side until your thigh is parallel with the floor. Slowly lower back to the starting position. Try to not let your body twist as you lift your leg.
Still Want to Squat?
One of the most popular lower body exercises is the squat. This is not in my knee-friendly list, but I wanted to share some tweaks with you to make it more knee-friendly. The squat itself is not harmful to your knees with proper form, however if you already have knee pain it may aggravate it. It’s a great exercise and something that we do every day anyway!
Tweak #1: Hip Hinge
You might be hurting your knees because you’re leading with your knees as you squat down. Hinging at your hips helps you ensure that your knees are joints and not the driving force behind your squats.
Tweak #2: Toes Pointed Out
Take a wide stance and point your toes out- play with the angle a bit until you find something comfortable. This simple tweak helps many people squat without pain.
Tweak #3: Stand on Dumbbells
This tweak is only for the pros and for those who have good balance or chairs to hold on to ;) Standing with the arches of your feet on dumbbells helps to ensure the hip hinge will happen, and that your glutes will be a main force behind your squat. I personally wouldn’t do this with weight. It’s a big challenge on your lower back!
Knee Friendly Lower Body Workout
You can combine these exercises into a lower body workout in many ways. If you wonder how you can make them harder, easier, or want to know how to do more exercises, start your two-week FREE trial of The Fit Tutor. You get workouts and instruction from a personal trainer, anywhere, anytime, for only $11.99/mo!
Try this workout:
This is a pretty intense workout. Doing these all in a row will make you feel. the. burn. Wooo!
What are some of your favorite knee-friendly exercises?