Dr. Phil Shares: What Is the Best Workout for Those With Bad Knees?

Posted on December 1, 2016 by


person with knee pain holding

“What’s a good workout if you have bad knees?” – Martha W.

The Short Answer:
“Bad knees” is a broad term, but in general, the more you can work your knees, the stronger they will get. Unfortunately, this turns into a Catch-22 when your knees hurt during exercise. You need to exercise to relieve the pain, but the pain is caused by exercise.

The key is patience. Seek expert medical advice and follow the rehab exercises they give you. Then, when you’re ready, return to your regularly scheduled activity, following the advice of your therapist. If that activity happens to be a Beachbody program, you’ll find additional advice below.

The Long Answer:
Here’s a five-step rehabilitation plan to help with those aching knees.

Step 1 – Talk to your doctor. Some doctors, whether through laziness or fear of liability, shell out advice akin to “if it hurts, don’t do it.” Unfortunately, most of us have knee pain at some point in life. If we don’t work through it, the situation gets worse.

Regardless of your doc’s optimism, your rehabilitation begins with a diagnosis. That’s why you need a doctor. Whether your knee pain is debilitating or just nagging, it’s well worth your time to find out exactly what is going on. The alternative solution is trial and error—and that can make your knees worse.

Step 2 – Do your rehab. No matter what your problem is, your doctor will recommend some physical therapy. Like Doctors, some Therapists are better than others, but do what they say regardless. Even archaic protocols shouldn’t hurt you. A good Doctor/Therapist will just push you harder and take you further. Either way, you must do your rehabilitation before moving on. I know, it’s boring (everyone says this), but if you’re serious about fixing your knee issues you need to take this step seriously. It’s the foundation for everything else!

Step 3 – Think holistically. Most chronic knee problems don’t begin with your knee. Unless you’ve had an acute injury, most knee (and back) pain radiate from imbalances in your pelvic girdle (your hips). The simple exercises and stretches in these videos should be incorporated into your regimen as soon as you’re cleared from your PT. Hopefully, they’re similar to what you’ve been doing with your Doctor/therapist.

Step 4 – Assess your doctor’s clearance advice. This is where the steps diverge, as all knee issues are not the same. Eliminating knee pain follows a “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” rationale, meaning that the more you’re able to handle training-wise, the quicker and more effective your comeback will be. Along with that advice, however, is the more important logic that you don’t want to re injure your knee. That is first and foremost, and should dictate all of your actions.

For simplicity sake, we’ll use the two most-common diagnoses: 1) You are cleared for any activity, and 2) Avoid anything that puts excessive stress on your knees, like running.

Step 5, part A – If you are “cleared for any activity.” Congrats! Go start exercising! However, if you want to make sure this doesn’t happen again, I strongly recommend a round of P90X2, by far Beachbody’s most effective workout program for knee issues. It’s designed around protocols used to keep professional athletes on the field—and keeping knees healthy is the biggest challenge they face. The program targets stabilization, especially in the hip area, and building a super-solid foundation.

Whether or not you’re fit enough for X2 is a different discussion. It has an extremely modified version (hotel room modifications), so you can do the program if you aren’t super-fit, but it’s still very advanced. If you’re in reasonable shape, this would be your go-to. If you are unsure, try the P90X Fit Test, which you’ll find here. If you can handle P90X, you should be fine with P90X2.

If you can’t do the Fit Test, start with an easier program (see below). Body weight is stress for your knees, and losing extra weight will function in the same way as making your body stronger. So even if you’re cleared for anything, if you have a lot of weight to lose, pretend you’re cleared for limited activity.

Step 5, part B – If you are “cleared for limited activity.” Again, congratulations! (Sort of.) This diagnosis usually happens after an acute injury or for those who’ve ignored pain for years and lost knee cartilage. You still have the same bio mechanical goals of stabilizing your body, but you have to be more careful about how you do it.

Almost any Beachbody entry program might be right for building knee strength in this situation, depending on the severity of your condition. The rule to think on is this: Whatever you do that doesn’t make you worse, makes you better. So every time you finish a workout without pain, or pain worse than you already have (if you’re at a constant dull level of pain but still cleared to move), you’re improving your ability to eliminate the pain altogether. Also, every pound you lose is less stress on your knees, which will help lessen strain, and, thus, pain. So watch your diet, and move as much as you can. Your body will respond in kind.

Here’s a rundown and synopsis of some options to consider, from easiest to hardest.

Tai Cheng This is a great mobility and stabilization program that almost anyone can do. Downside is that it won’t burn many calories or quickly change your body composition. Upside is that, no matter who you are, it will improve your knee issues.

21 Day Fix – Currently, Beachbody’s best entry-level, knee-friendly program for those who need to lose some weight. While there is some jumping in this program, and even a “plyo” workout, there are always modifiers you can follow.

Hip Hop Abs – This predecessor to INSANITY takes jumping out of the equation, combining basic hip hop (you don’t need to know how to dance) and a lot of ab and hip work in the entry-level weight loss program.

Brazil Butt Lift – There is some light jumping, and a lot of squatting, but if you can handle it, this program focuses on your butt and hips and greatly improves the stability of your pelvic girdle. This makes your body “track” better, reducing the strain on your knees.

Body Beast – Controlled weight training is a great way to change your body composition without putting a lot of stress on your knees. If you want to lose weight, don’t follow the “bodybuilding” focus of the nutrition guide. You can both lose weight and strengthen your knees effectively pumping iron with Sagi.

PiYo – Chalene Johnson’s combination of yoga and Pilates is great for hip stability and core strength, both vital for combating knee pain, making it a good choice for those who don’t have specific ACL/MCL (or lateral) knee issues, as there is a lot of twisting at speed.

P90X3 – While it’s a hard program, you can modify every move in every workout and have it serve as an effective entry point. This program, like X2, builds a super-solid foundation. It lacks the specified stabilization movements (because it doesn’t use stability balls) but that also makes it a bit easier to adapt to.

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health

Thanks To Beachbody.com