Knee Injury Exercise Selection


This is in the "never healed - bad knee surgery" category.

Female. 46, 5'10", don't know body fat: Generally good except lately-have mini tire, otherwise can do elliptical (though found out through your website that I should not rely on it for cardio).

What to do at home?

I may quit the gym due to cost, and I probably use too many machines at gym, though very limited in extension: 1 1/5 #s bad side, 2 1/5 on the other (beat up from working too hard for bad one for 25 years).

Oh yeah, I had the old bad 7" scar knee surgery after a dance slip and fall and dislocation.

They didn't know what they were doing, performed a retinacular release and re-attachment of something. There was so much discussion, I hardly remember, ACL, medical collateral?

Then I had arthroscopy for grade 4 chondromalacia. Must be grade 10 by now!  Can't straighten my leg all the way with grimacing through a bad line up through the knee.

The guy at the gym couldn't help me at all except to tell me NOT to do 100 reps of low weight extensions even though it was the only way I could maintain ANY muscle. I think I'm a lunge-type of gal!  Can't run. Downhill is torture.

If lunges can only be performed 1/2way, meaning only part way down toward the floor (due to pain, bone grinding and catching, and weakness), are they still useful, and is there any chance of causing damage doing a "truncated" version?

Like, causing imbalanced muscle relationships?


Answered By:

Mike Behnken, MS, CSCS ANswers the Fitness Question

Qualifications of Mike Behnken

polar heart rate monitors


Sorry to hear about all of your knee issues, must be extremely frustrating.

The elliptical is a great cardio machine. The negative aspects of being non-impact does not apply to your situation. Remember your cardio intensity is based on your heart rate.

Monitor your heart rate and try to push yourself constantly to improve and your body will thank you by losing fat and appearing more tone. If your elliptical does not have one, you can pick up a heart rate monitor at your local sporting good store or online at places such as amazon.

Always Perform Exercises Within your Envelope of Function

The previous statement was from a physician who operated on a client's knee. It may sound slightly complicated but it simply means, if it hurts, don't do it.

It sounds like your knees will never make a full recovery. The #1 priority for your knee injury exercise selection should be prevention of any more knee problems.

Your chondromalacia which is an overuse injury characterized by softening under the knee cap, may have been due to compensation from the the previous surgery. Nonetheless, make sure you avoid letting your center of gravity/femur travel forward during your lunges.

You can read about why on the Best Leg Exercises page. Your half way lunges are still a great exercise and in no way will cause muscle imbalances. Again, if anything hurts your knee (more than usual) don't do it.

As far as exercises you can do at home, you will most likely be able to do bridge exercises such as the bridges on the floor (right) and on exercise balls.

Isometric contractions (no muscle lengthening or shortening) of your leg muscles are good to help maintain muscle mass. Try to squeeze your muscles under resistance at different joint angles to get the most benefits.

The guy at the gym was right. Isolating a muscle for 100 reps will most likely cause muscle imbalances as well as overuse injuries.

Stick to functional exercises within your envelope of function such as the lunges which you seem to enjoy and give different bridge exercises a try with proper form. Always ask your doctor before you attempt anything new as well.

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