"Bad Knees" are frequently linked to poorly functioning hips in terms of lack of mobility as well as poor glute strength/function. With that in mind doing exercises like quad rocks, 1/2 kneeling adductor/hip flexor mobility drills, and various glute- hip bridges both double leg and single leg versions, are good for building strenth. You must have good hip mobility and strength in order for your knees not to rebel as they will be asked to do things and bear loads they aren't designed to do well. The same goes for ensuring you have good ankle mobility to protect your knees.
Bob Mittleman – Owner, Fitness Together Cold Spring Hills, NY
When creating a plan of action for a client with bad knees, its best to look for exercises that will strengthen the area around the knee to prevent injury and protect the area…. while decreasing stress on the knees.
With Body Weight:
--Partial Squats….best if using a stability ball
--Short Arc Knee Extensions….using a ball (basketball size) under a knee while performing an extension of the leg
--Hamstring stretch…using a rope
With Ankle weights:
--Side Lying Leg Lifts
--Inner thigh leg lifts
--Deep Knee Squats – beyond 90 degrees
Vanessa Ocasio, Owner / Fitness & Nutrition Coach, Fitness Together Auburn, AL
First of all, if you have bad knees and you're overweight, the biggest help for your knees would be for you to lose some weight.
Second, you must do squats and do them properly. The "I have bad knees so I can't do squats" is the oldest yet misguided excuse in the world.
I have a friend that was complaining about "cracking" knees every time she did squats at home. When I asked her to show me how she would do a squat, I saw how her form was all wrong... no wonder she was complaining about her knees! And so many people do this. They put most of their weight on the balls of their feet and let their knees come far in front of their toes. All they're using are their quad muscles (hence more stress on their knees) and no posterior chain muscles (i.e., hamstrings and glutes). When I showed her how to properly due a squat, I used a chair because I knew what was going to happen. When she did it properly, she pretty much fell on the chair because she had no strength on her posterior chain.
So if you have bad knees:
1. Learn how to do proper squats, driving yourself through your heels and coming down as if you're going to sit down. Bench and box squats (or a chair for that matter) help in this training.
2. Do not do deep squats. Keep them at 90 degrees at most. Do not go any deeper than that.
3. Strengthen your posterior chain muscles my doing Romanian DeadLifts and Pelvic Bridges.
4. Do not use fixed movement machines such as the leg extension machine. In fact, don't use these machines at all for anything! (That's a topic for another discussion).
Deron Lindquist, Owner Fitness Together Edina, MN
For had bad knees, swimming laps is great for cardiovascular training. There is no impact on the joints and tendons.
For strength training, a person is really going to have to see what works for them. In this situation, you really need to invest in a personal trainer to see what exercises are going to fit with your knee condition. Trial and error is the best way to see what is going to work for your particular situation. With a certified and four year degree trainer in Exercise Science, you will limit the errors. Probably the worst thing you could do is to do nothing, which will then lead to muscle atrophy in the legs.