When your knees aren't 100 percent, your dream of working out your legs might seem like more of a nightmare. Don't fret -- there are many types of exercise you can still do without stressing your knees. There are options to suit any taste, whether you like to use equipment at the gym or prefer a quick workout in the pool. If you're having knee pain, consult with your physician before starting any exercise regimen.
When you need to stick to a low-impact workout for your legs, use machines at the gym that don't require your feet to leave the equipment. Elliptical machines and stationary bikes, particularly recumbent bikes, allow you to get in your cardio without stressing your knees. Turn up the resistance to make the leg workout more intense. To tone some muscles, look for a leg press machine to really dig into your thighs, or seek out leg curl machines.
A pool provides more than a cool place to hang out in the summer. Swimming is excellent cardiovascular exercise that works the muscles in your legs as well, but stay away from the frog kick most commonly used in the breaststroke. It makes your knees bend a bit awkwardly, which isn't good if you're having knee trouble. The butterfly stroke uses the dolphin kick, which can sometimes stress the knees with its whipping action, so stick to the flutter kick strokes such as freestyle or the backstroke. Use the water's resistance to tone your leg muscles as well, backing up against the side of the pool for leg lifts and bicycle kicks.
Resistance bands and cables give you the flexibility to work out pretty much anywhere. Just clip them to the bottom of a closed door, and you're ready to work out. Stand up and hook your ankles to the bands. Lift the outside leg out to work your outer thigh and hip, or cross the inside leg over the outside leg to work the inner thighs. Turn to face the door and pull your leg back or lift it forward, or bring your knee up toward your chest to work your quadriceps and hamstrings. Bend your knee and keep it directly below your hip, moving your foot toward your tush, for a standing leg curl.
No Equipment Necessary
Working out at home can be effective and doesn't require heavy or expensive equipment. Start with your calves, which help stabilize your knees. Stand on the edge of a step and let your heels hang off. Lift up on your toes, then lower so your heels hang off the edge again. Move to the floor with your feet shoulder-width apart and lower your hips behind you in a squat. Watch your knees to make sure they stay over your toes and that they don't bend more than 90 degrees. Squeeze your buttocks as you stand to force those muscles to help you stand up, rather than relying on your knees. Lying down, you can perform a variety of leg raises, including lying on your side and lifting the top leg to work your abductor muscles or lift the lower leg in front of the other to work the adductors. On your back, lift your knees in toward your chest or keep your legs straight and lift several inches off the floor. Hold that position to bring some abdominal muscles to the workout party.