5 Training Strategies for Knee Pain

Posted on by Ben Bruno

Today I’ve got a guest blog for you from Grant Lofthouse about training strategies for knee pain. Grant reached out last week after reading an article I wrote about dealing with knee pain and offered to give some further suggestions. I’m always down for new ideas that have worked for people, so I’m glad to share his thoughts. I’ll now turn it over to Grant.

5 Training Strategies for Knee Pain

Hey what’s up Grant Lofthouse, I’m a trainer from down under and have been following Ben for a good year or so now.

Ben’s first article that I ever read was his 9 Training Strategies for Knee Pain on T-Nation. The reason why it caught my eye was because I have suffered from knee pain myself. You see, I dislocated and had surgery on my left knee at the age of 16 from a sporting accident. Then 9 months later I did the exact same thing, but this time it was on my right knee.

By the age of 17 I had knees of a 70 year old. So for the next few years I stood clear of the squat rack simply because just looking at it caused me pain. But as I grew in confidence, and came across Ben’s article, I started to reintroduce lower body days and I can now happily pistol squat pain free.

The point of this blog post was to thank Ben, but also provide you with 5 more training strategies for bad knees that I learnt along the way during my knee rehab.

Deadlift

Ben already covered that you need to perform more hip dominant exercises. For me it’s about a 3-4:1 hip to knee dominant ratio. So for every set of squats I do 3-4 sets of deadlifts.

Over the past 2 years I feel in love with the deadlift. Simply because I found that the more I deadlifted, the better my knee felt.

Now if you are a tall dude like me, well. we aren’t built for the deadlift. So I have 2 solutions to fix the problem.

1. Stretch
2. Switch to sumo stance

The first recommendation is obvious. If you fail to get down to the bar without hunching over like Hunchback of Notre Dame, you’ve got some issues. Start with your hammies and hip flexors.

The second recommendation – switching to sumo stance, allows you to get down to the bar a lot easier because you’re shortening the distance between you and the bar.

Swing

As an RKC I am a little bit biased when it comes to the swing. It’s the foundation for kettlebell training and as Shaun Cairns, Senior RKC said to me “if you’re not swinging then you’re not kettlebell training”.

The swing is just a faster deadlift the projects the force horizontally. I’m not a fan of high rep deadlifts so the swing fits in perfectly to get in some higher rep stuff. Glute bridges, leg curls, hip thrusts and all the other crazy posterior chain exercises you see Ben do are also fine.

But for me it’s the swing that does the job.

Goblet Squat

The Goblet Squat, invented by Dan John is one of the only bilateral knee dominant exercises I can do now. For me when I back squat I can’t turn on my ‘core’ so other muscles have to make up for it, and then those muscle aren’t doing their job and then I get knee pain. It’s like a domino effect.

But when I squat with something out front (front squats, goblet squat, and zercher squat) my ‘core’ turns on like crazy which for me helps stabilize my knee. Again because I’m an RKC, I will always lean toward kettlebell exercises ;)

Feed the bad movement

Reverse lunges are one of the very few unilateral exercise I can do pain free. However, if I’m not super switched on I can get some nasty valgus collapse (knee falling inside the body) so I use this trick from Gray Cook. I don’t know exactly what he calls it (note from Ben: RNT, short for reactive neuromuscular training), but for the sake of this blog post will call it feed the bad movement.

So the idea behind this concept is if my knee collapses in we use something else (a partner or a band) to accentuate the bad movement even more by pushing my knee even further in. The immediate reaction is to push out against that feedback resulting in my glute firing and a more stabilized knee.

Back stroke swimming

“Backstroke swimming could be the new fountain of youth” – Andrew Read, Senior RKC.

It’s pretty safe to say that we are fairly quad dominant, with tight hip flexors, abs and pecs and support weak posterior chains.

What’s one exercise that ‘opens you up’, gives you hundreds of posterior chain reps and is low impact on the knee???

Backstroke swimming.

Concluding Thoughts

Look, knee pain sucks. I’ve dealt with it for most of my twenties and I can only imagine how much more it’s going to suck in my 50’s and upward.

If you do suffer from knee pain, don’t neglect your lower body training days because you think you can get away with wearing pants all the time. Try some of this stuff out and if systems persist see your health care professional ;)

Thanks for reading, and again thank you Ben for helping me with my knee.

Grant Lofthouse is an RKC and the founder of Cardio Haters Training. He specializes in getting people sexy without cardio and has a current mission to help 100,000 cardio haters set themselves free from the treadmill grind. Grant is Australia’s Women’s Health & Fitness “weight training advisor” and has been also featured in Muscle & Fitness and Oxygen magazine. For more info visit http://www.cardiohaters.com/.

  • http://www.facebook.com/aizan Aizan Suhaira

    Excellent post, Grant! As a fellow knee-pain sufferer, I tend to gravitate towards the deadlift rather than the squat. But the deadlift does not develop glutes as well as squats do. Any suggestions of knee friendly alternatives that would also build the glutes?

    • Claire

      Could I suggest barbell hip thrusts?I can’t squat at the moment so I do these.. I have to elevate my feet as my right knee is injured(ACL tear) but they work really well,,,have a look at Bret Contreras’s site

    • www.mitchcalvert.com

      Most ham isolating exercises don’t cause knee pain. Emphasize the stretch on movements like Lying curls, seated leg curls and stiff leg deadlifts. Partial reps on the eccentric portion really blasts the hammies. Look up “leg curls with intensity” on mountaindog1 YouTube channel for an example.

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