Four Exercises That Might be Making Your Knee Pain Worse (& What to do Instead)

Even if you love boot camp fitness classes, your knees might have a different opinion.

While boot camp classes are great for getting your heart rate up, building strength, and burning calories, they also are often comprised of exercises that, when done incorrectly, are not great for your knees.

Listed below are four highly common boot camp fitness exercises that could be causing your knee pain or making it worse.

1. Running

Ever heard of runner’s knee? Even if you are not a long-distance runner, you can still struggle with this condition if your boot camp classes involve a lot of running. This can especially be an issue if you run up hills or do lots of sprinting during class.

There are two variations of runner’s knee (both of which are repetitive strain injuries):

  • Patellofemoral syndrome typically affects the front of the knee – where the femur (thigh bone) meets the patella (kneecap).
  • Iliotibial band syndrome typically affects the outer portion of the knee.

Running, especially if you have not warmed up properly or are running more than you are used to, places a lot of strain on the knee and the surrounding ligaments and tissues.

You do not have to give up running altogether if you start experiencing knee pain, but it is important to rest and give your knee a chance to heal. Warming up properly before your workouts can also help minimise strain and keep your knees feeling their best.

2. Lunges

Whether you are doing forward lunges, reverse lunges, walking lunges, or stationary lunges, they can be pretty hard on your knees if you are not careful.

Not maintaining good form while you lunge can easily lead to too much weight being placed on the front knee. This, in turn, can irritate the cartilage and tissues that surround the knee and cause pain and inflammation.

Mastering proper lunge form is key if they are going to be a regular part of your workout.

Some basic form cues to keep in mind include:

  • Do not let your front knee extend past your ankle;
  • Make sure your back knee moves straight down toward the floor;
  • Keep your back straight with your shoulders and hips in line; and
  • Pull your shoulders back and engage your abdominal muscles to stay balanced.

3. Squats

Like lunges, squats, when done incorrectly can easily hurt your knees. The solution is not to skip out on squats altogether – if you do, you will be missing out on an awesome full-body functional and strength movement. Instead, it is to master the form.

The following are some form cues to keep in mind when squatting, whether you are doing bodyweight squats, goblet squats, or barbell squats:

  • Keep your weight in your heels as you bend your knees;
  • Keep your back straight and chest lifted;
  • Extend your arms in front of you or up above your head to strengthen your back muscles;
  • Press your shoulders down and keep your head in line with your spine; and
  • Make sure your torso and shins are parallel.

4. Plyometrics

Finally, it is important to exercise caution when doing plyometric exercises like squat jumps, tuck jumps, and burpees.

These exercises are highly advanced and require a great deal of coordination and force production. They are high-impact, too, and can easily stress out your knees if they are done incorrectly or too frequently.

You should not attempt them until you have mastered the basic exercises that comprise them, e.g. push-ups, squats, etc.

It is also important to make sure you are resting long enough in between these kinds of exercises. At a minimum, you should be resting for around 2-3 minutes in between sets.

Repetitions should be low, too. In most cases, these minutes doing only 1-5 repetitions per set.

How to Heal Knee Injuries

If you are already dealing with a knee injury, these tips will help you minimise pain and get back to your workouts faster:

  • Keep your knee elevated and apply an ice pack or heating pad (or alternate between the two);
  • Take a break from high-impact exercises and focus on bodyweight or resistance band movements;
  • Use a pain cream designed to reduce inflammation; and
  • Wear a knee brace to provide extra support and gentle compression, both of which are necessary for proper healing.

Knee pain and knee injuries are frustrating, and they are quite common among fitness enthusiasts. If you keep these guidelines in mind, though, you will be able to reduce your chances of having to sit on the sidelines while you deal with them.


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