Bad Knees, Good Program
By Raymond Shipley
In all my years training clients, there has always been a constant injury that surfaces: bad knees. There are bad backs, bad shoulders, heart conditions, hormonal imbalances and everything else imaginable, but bad knees is almost a given when it comes to new clients.
Most Americans are overweight. "According to the most recent data, adult obesity rates now exceed 35 percent in four states, 30 percent in 25 states and are above 20 percent in all states. Louisiana has the highest adult obesity rate at 36.2 percent and Colorado has the lowest at 20.2 percent," says stateofobesity.org. And obese and overweight are not the same. In fact, a person can be overweight without being obese, as obese requires an individual to be 20% over their ideal weight. With so many Americans that are heavier than they should be, it is no wonder such pressure is being placed on such a delicate joint.
Clearly exercise is beneficial in a person's weight loss endeavor, and the loss of excess weight will help with knee pains. But not all exercises and training styles are created equal. As has been stated in a previous essay about impact exercises, a client with joint issues should always opt for low and no impact styles of training. Cardio, which is very precarious when it comes to joint issues, is ideally performed in water. When this isn't a possibility, or if it is just something that commands no interest, other low impact styles of cardio should be considered. With a gym membership it may be wise to use the row machine, elliptical or stair stepper instead of the treadmill. For those without such a membership, speed walking can do wonders in saving the knees and strengthening the hips. In time it may even be possible to throw light hiking into the mix.
Many clients I've encountered with bad knees are former runners. The challenge of such an endurance exercise regimen calls to them like resistance training simply cannot, but the act of running takes its toll. An alternative is cycling, as it relieves the joints of impact while still demanding endurance and challenging the muscles. While different from running I have seen many times a former runner find solace on the bike.
Resistance training is, and will remain, my go-to style of training. With proper alterations of standard exercises, many basic movements can still be used and are ultimately beneficial. I have implemented the box squat and variations of modified squat to high degrees of success for clients that had severe knee issues. By simply using a box squat, slight step up and focusing on glute and hip strength a client I worked with was able to go up and down stairs without pain and her doctor even took away her handicap placard as it was no longer needed. Pretty successful indeed.
Life will always throw curveballs and it is up to the individual to adapt accordingly. Nothing will ever be perfect, and perhaps that is part of what makes this world worth living in. Just as in bodybuilding we adapt to the stress and we grow stronger, despite the aches and pains.