Favorite Lower Body Workouts

The secret to fixing bad knees is to strengthen your lower body (for me, specifically, it was the glutes). Read this post:  A Runner and Her Injuries. It has a lot of good physical therapy-type exercises to fix some of those types of injuries. Or this one: R is for Runner’s Knee.

I avoid lunges at all costs. I used to do them a lot and I’d be crippled for days (hamstrings) but I kept telling myself it was a good thing. Then I started having knee issues…too many rounds of physical therapy to count, I stopped doing lunges at the advice of several physical therapists. They all said lunges were not the best exercise for someone with knee issues. So…I stopped. I do sometimes do side lunges, which don’t bother my knees.

Here are some of the standard exercises that I rotate through my weekly weight routines:

Squats

I go back and forth between doing weighted squats with a bar or just doing body squats. Both are very effective and help me a lot. It’s good for your glutes, hamstrings, core strength, helps with flexibility and strengthens your entire lower body. It really is one of the perfect exercises you can do. Just make sure you do it right. I was slightly off when I first started doing squats but a quick chat and demonstration with a trainer fixed that for me.

20120530183534-squat properly

1 Leg Romanian Deadlift

I’ve raved about this exercise many times on the blog. It has helped me a lot with my knee issues and it’s a really good move to incorporate into your gym session. It’s effective and it doesn’t put as much stress/pressure on your back like a regular deadlift can. It works the glutes, hamstrings and hips. Done correctly it’s also a good core workout. What I find beneficial is that it also helps with balance. I notice when I take a break from doing this exercise and then start back up again–balance is gone! But if I do this move consistently in my workouts, my balance improves!

10 Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift

Slam Ball

This a fun exercise! I love it and need to do it more often. Like jump squats (see below), this one ALWAYS makes me a little extra sore when I do it. It works your core: abs, back, quads and glutes. You’re basically doing a squat with a heavy ball. It’s such a good workout!

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Leg Press Machine

I started incorporating this machine in my routine after a physical therapist recommended it. He had me do it in a few different ways. First, the normal way–both feet on the platform. Second, he had me practice doing it one-legged. That is a LOT harder than it looks! And it WORKS. It helped my knee stuff so much. It focused the work on my glutes one at a time. I prefer this machine:

upright-leg-press-machine

Over the one that you lay down on. Although, now that I’m pregnant I’m finding it harder and harder to do this machine so I will soon be switching to the leg press machine you use laying down.

Side-Step

Here is another physical therapy exercise that has worked it’s way into my fitness routine. My physical therapist had me do this to strengthen my glutes to fix my knee issues. I found it so beneficial that I kept doing it even after I got better. It’s really easy and all you need is a stretchy band. SideHopsWithRB1

Standing Hip Adduction

Another one that started because of physical therapy…noticing a theme? My knees needed work!! This one strengthened my glutes and hips and helped with overall balance. If the machine at your gym doesn’t have the attachment seen below in this picture, you can still do it. My gym doesn’t have this ankle strap so I just put my foot through the round hand piece. It works because my feet are kind of small.

Standing Cable Hip Adduction

Step Up with Weights

I like this one because it gets my heart beating pretty quick and it’s kind of a full-body exercise. I wanted to include it, though, because I’ve noticed it’s helped me with balance and strength. I do it slightly differently–I step up, then I do a bicep curl, then step back down. You can vary this exercise a lot but it’s a good base if you want something basic. You can use a taller step, you can add more weight, you can lift your leg like the below picture:

DB-Step-up-1

Lots of variations!

Squat Jump

This one will get you EVERY TIME. So be prepared. No matter how many squats you normally do in the gym, do a bunch of jump squats and you WILL BE SORE. I started doing this workout at The Warrior Room and then incorporated it into my own gym routine. Seriously, I don’t know why this one makes me so sore, but it doesn’t matter if I do 10 or if do 50. Same level of soreness afterwards! But you sure feel like a badass when you do it! If you have knee issues, you might want to talk to your doctor first. Listen to your body and stop if it hurts. It rarely hurt my knees, but I was always conscious of it and made sure I didn’t land too hard when I jumped.

Double-Pulse-Jump-Squats-20-Reps

What about you? What are some of your favorite lower body workouts?

2 Responses

  1. I have chondromalacia in my knees and the exercised that help me strengthen best are seated leg raises.

    I also am a huge fan of the dead lift and step ups. I used to love the barbell squat, but after I hurt my back and had the nerve damage in my leg, the weakness on that side makes it hard to balance the barbell on my shoulders, so I decided that was too dangerous to do anymore. So, back to dumbell squats.
    Lori recently posted..Weekend ramblings

    1. I had to google chondromalacia–yikes. 🙁 I’m sorry to hear you have that. I have to second that many knee issues can often be helped with strength training certain areas (like the glutes). I’m glad you found things that you could still do despite your injuries.

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