Gym Workouts to Lose Weight With Bad Knees

Having bad knees doesn't have to prevent you from losing weight.
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A knee injury may keep you from activities such as running or powerlifting, but having bad knees doesn't need to keep you from exercising entirely. Losing weight with bad knees may require more planning than losing weight with healthy knees, but with proper planning and the right exercise selection, you can reach your weight loss goals efficiently. Consult your doctor before starting any diet or exercise program.

Cardiovascular Exercises

Cardiovascular exercises, such as swimming, burn calories and improve your overall conditioning. Perform cardio on your recovery days from weight lifting; this will help you burn calories on a day on which you'd otherwise not be exercising and can thus enhance your weight loss prospects. Low-impact cardio activities such as a stationary bike, rowing machine or swimming burn calories quickly without rough impact on your knees. If you weigh 160 lbs, a moderate-effort stationary bike or rowing workout burns 533 calories per hour, while swimming the breaststroke will burn about 762 calories per hour. If you are heavier, you burn more calories, and if you are lighter, you burn fewer calories.

Upper Body Exercises

Weight lifting helps you lose weight because it builds muscle tissue, and muscle burns more calories than body fat. The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism is, making weight loss easier. Prioritize compound exercises -- those that train multiple muscle groups -- as the more muscles you use, the more calories you'll burn. Dumbbell rows, bench presses, pull-ups, military presses and seated rows engage multiple muscles across your upper body or maximal calorie burning and don't require any motion from your knees. Generally, exercise machines and seated exercises are preferable, as are exercises that don't require lifting heavy weights above your waist, as that can put extra strain on your knees.

Lower Body Exercises

Your lower body contains some very large muscle groups, such as the quadriceps and hamstrings. However, most lower body exercises incorporate a considerable degree of knee action. Exercises such as the Romanian, or stiff-legged, deadlift and the hip bridge recruit your leg muscles so you can burn calories. They don't, however, involve too much knee motion, making them a good choice when you have bad knees and are searching for lower body weight lifting exercises.


The most important rule for working out with bad knees is to not perform any motion that causes pain. If any exercise puts too much pressure on your knee or causes pain, change positions or decrease the range of motion through which you move the weight so that pressure is no longer a factor. You may emphasize slightly different muscle groups when modifying your form in this way, but that is preferable to risking injury. Do not perform exercises such as running, squats, deep lunges or any other exercises your doctor recommends you avoid. When in doubt, consult your doctor before adding any exercise to your routine.

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