9 Best Bodyweight Exercises for Bad Knees

Knee pain is a common complaint that affects people of all ages. Whether due to injury, caused by carrying excess body fat, or brought on by medical conditions such as arthritis or osteoporosis, knee pain can sideline you from regular activity and make you feel limited in your daily exercise. But you don't have to take a break from exercise when you know which moves can give you a great workout without hurting your knees.

Why Knee Pain Doesn't Have to Mean the End of Working Out

Learn how to get a great bodyweight workout in despite knee pain.

While squats and lunges are two of the most popular bodyweight exercises, they tend to be hard on people with bad knees. Luckily, there are a myriad of other bodyweight exercises that can still give you a great workout but are more low-impact. Here, we recommend nine of those bodyweight exercises that will help you get in shape while still protecting your knees.

Some of our favorite moves will use equipment like resistance bands, while others will incorporate a stability ball. Using equipment like this can help take away some of the strain placed on your joints while still helping you reach the full range of motion. So try one or all of these nine bodyweight exercises for when you want to tone, tighten, and get in shape—without putting pressure on your knees.

And if your knee issues are just a result of lack of strength and joint stability, by doing some of these exercises, you’ll be able to strengthen your knees and surrounding muscles and graduate to squats and lunges in the near future!

Hamstring Roll-ins On The Stability Ball

Perform a stability ball hamstring roll-in.

1. Begin lying on back, arms by side and feet on top of stability ball.

2. Squeeze glutes and abs and lift body up so you are in a straight line with only shoulders and head relaxed on mat.

3. Pull heels toward glutes, rolling ball in, then push the ball back out. Continue to pull ball in and out for desired number of reps. Slowly lower body back to the mat. 

Targets: hamstrings, glutes, back, core

Resistance Band Alternating Glute Squeeze

Perform a resistance band glute squeeze to get a great workout.

1. Hold handles next to hips with elbows bent and place both feet on the band hip-width apart.

2. Lift right foot and press the band back at an angle, squeezing your glute. Keep leg straight. Release and switch sides.

Targets: glutes

Resistance Band Tick Tock

Use a resistance band to get a good workout in when you have knee pain.

1. Stand on band with feet shoulder-width apart and hold handles next to hip bones.

2. Keep legs long as you press right leg out to the side, then set right foot down and press left leg out to the side. That is a total of one repetition.

3. As you alternate pressing legs side to side, be sure to keep your abs tight so your body stays tall and doesn’t “tip” over to the side.

Targets: legs

Resistance Band Outer Thigh Press

Try an outer thigh press with a resistance band to go easier on your knees.

1. Lay on your back with legs straight in the air above hips.

2. Place the center of the band around the bottom of your feet and hold handles together at your chest.

3. Press the feet wide open until legs are in a straddle position and band is tight. Release slowly.

Targets: legs

Leg Lifts

Leg lifts are a great low-impact exercise.

1. Start on all fours with right leg extended long on mat.

2. Squeeze right glute and hamstring to lift right leg up towards the ceiling. Slowly lower and repeat for desired number of reps. Make sure to keep abs tight and back straight.

Targets: glutes, hamstrings, core

Glute Kickers

Glute kickers are a great bodyweight exercise that can still be performed by those with knee pain.

1. Kneel on all fours and bring right knee off mat holding the right heel above knee with foot flexed.

2. Squeeze right glute and press right leg towards the ceiling. Release slightly down and squeeze up again. Repeat for desired number of reps, then switch sides, keeping abs tight throughout.

Targets: glutes, hamstrings

Stability Ball Single-Leg Lift and Lower

Single leg lift and lowers can be made low-impact when done on a stability ball.

1. Begin lying on back, arms by side with right foot on top of stability ball and left leg extended into the air

2. Press foot into ball as you lift your body up so you are in a straight line with only shoulders and head relaxed on mat. Left leg doesn’t move.

3. Slowly return to floor. Repeat for desired number of reps and switch feet.

Targets: hamstrings, glutes, core

Resistance Band Butt Blasters

Resistance band butt blasters are a great exercise that's low-impact on the knees.

1. Kneel on floor and wrap band under right foot, and place hands down under shoulders holding handles against the floor.

2. Lift right knee off the floor slightly and push right foot back to extend leg straight against the band, squeezing your glute.

3. Release slowly bringing knee back in to a bent position. Continue for desired reps and switch feet.

Targets: glutes

Fire Hydrants

Moves like the fire hydrant are great bodyweight exercises that are easy on the knees.

1. Begin on all fours.

2. Using the outer thigh muscles and glutes, lift one knee out and up keeping your knee bent at a 90-degree angle.  Lower your leg and repeat on the other side.

Targets: glutes, quads, thighs

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