Sometimes feeling weak in the knees is good. But when you’re working out, it’s certainly not. Knee pain is a common problem. And it can form your workouts and stop your progress cold. Here are four workout mistakes to avoid to keep your knees healthy and without pain.
If you’re having sharp knee pain as you workout or exercise, stop where you are and talk to a medical professional before you continue with your fitness routine.
1. Poor Knee Alignment
Poor knee alignment is the biggest workout mistake that leads to painful knees. When you do exercises like lunges, your knee should go over the top of your feet, but staying behind your toes, according to Sam Becourtney, a physical therapist at Bespoke Treatments in New York.
“It’s not always terrible for your knees to go inward, but it can lead to knee pain if there’s increased force on your joints when lifting heavy weights,” Becourtney says. Letting the knees go inward can trigger pain in your feet, hips or ankles, as other joints try to make up for the lack of stability.
What To Do
Use your second and third toes to keep your knees in the right spot when doing any exercise that requires bending at the joint. You might even do these exercises in front of a mirror to practice staying in the right alignment.
If that’s not enough, wrap a resistance band above your knees. The resistance will help activate your glutes and keep your knees aligned.
2. You Are Doing Too Much
Using too much weight too soon is terrible for your knees and your entire body, says Becourtney. Piling on excessive weight to an exercise can trigger pain or injury to your joints, connective tissue and muscles.
Remember, your knees are the number one body part dealing with this overload. That’s why fitness trainers always recommend training with steady increases in weight.
“You should load all of our joints, sure, but if you go past the capacity of the joint and surrounding muscles without gradually increasing the weight, this could lead to painful problems,” Becourtney says.
What To Do
“To correct this mistake, exercisers should stick to a structured program that gradually raises the weight over a weekly or monthly time-frame,” Becourtney added.
If doing so increases your knee pain, he says you should reduce the weight of your exercises (or even drop the weight completely) and check with your doctor.
3. You’re Avoiding Unilateral Exercises
Muscle problems are common in everyday life. It doesn’t matter if you’re carrying a bag in the same way every day or playing tennis a lot. Usually, one side of your body will be stronger.
If you only do double-leg moves instead of single-side exercises, you might start overusing your stronger side, Becourtney says. And over time, this can lead to knee pain, tightness and pain in your glutes, hamstrings and hips.
What To Do
Add more single-leg exercises when you do your lower-body workouts, Becourtney recommends. For example, single-leg deadlifts, single-leg hip thrusts or single-leg glute bridges are just a few to start doing.
“People need to start with double-leg movements and then start with single-leg variations.”
4. Not Wearing the Right Shoes
Shoes can have a big part in workout safety. Even though your shoes won’t directly cause pain, they could increase the chances of bad form and improper alignment, which can cause knee pain and injury.
“Finding a shoe that doesn’t support your foot shape can cause major issues,” he says. “Also, if you choose a shoe with too much cushion, this could change your movement, ending in pain.”
What To Do
“Choose a somewhat stiff ‘training’ shoe,” Becourtney recommends. “Or if you’re exercising privately, I actually recommend going barefoot.”