Jogging and sprinting are healthy activities in general. Unfortunately, if your knees can’t take the impact running sucks. In times like that you need alternatives that are kinder to the knee joint and yet effective. Here are five of them. A combination of the exercises below can build endurance, explosiveness and strength.
If you are using running as a form of cardio, bodyweight squats could be a great alternative. Sure, you can’t do them for hours but they are easy enough to soon become a form of cardio. Since the squat is not really a ballistic exercise, it’s much kinder to the knees. Make sure that your learn proper technique before attempting this exercise. There are many free tutorials on YouTube that will teach you how to squat. Keep it simple.
Another great form of a knee friendly cardio is the kettlebell/dumbbell swing. The knee range of motion during swings is very small. That’s why the movement is quite safe for your knees. It’s even kinder than squats. You don’t need kettlebells to perform swings. You can use dumbbells, barbell plates with handles, the homemade swing T-handle or even a backpack.
The swing will strengthen your posterior chain (hamstrings and glutes) while placing very little stress on your knee joints. The quadriceps are involved as well but due to the limited range motion there is less stimulation compared to a squat. The swing can be used as a for of explosive exercise to build power – similar to sprinting.
3.Riding a bike (low impact cardio)
Riding a bike is considered low impact cardio…unless there is a fall and a consequent hospital visit. Anyway, let’s be optimists and put that out of the mind.
The bike removes the stress from your knees. The joints no longer have to support your body. That’s why many overweight people stick to riding a bike. They don’t want to kill their joints running.
Note: In general swimming is also knee friendly. However, the breaststroke could very well destroy your knees. It just places too much stress on the knee ligaments.
Similar to the kettlebell swing the deadlift is knee friendly. The range of motion at the knee joint is quite small unlike the squat. Deadlifts rarely cause knee injuries, unless you drop the bar on your knees.
The deadlift will build your lats, spinal erectors, traps, hamstrings, glutes and grip. (if you don’t use straps.)
Note: The conventional deadlift is more knee friendly than the sumo version of the lift.
5. Sled pulling
Sled pulling is a great form of cardio. It can be made easy or hard depending on your needs. While it’s basically walking with a sled attached to you, this activity is kinder to the knees because the ballistic element and weight impact that comes with running is removed.
You don’t need to buy expensive sled. Just make your own for the fraction of the price.
To summarize: What makes running stressful to the knees is the impact. Any kind of exercise form that reduces the flexion and the impact around the knee joint can be considered knee friendly.