Knee injuries sound a little something like that, right?
I’ll be honest: the pop of any knee tear is the most disheartening thing an athlete can hear.
And quite arguably, worse than hearing Tracy Anderson preach the use of weights lower than 5 pounds. Or Donald Trump talking about international policy.
I’ve sustained a myriad of knee injuries post-college (screw you, turf fields!) and they never were easy. For someone who loves to move and train hard, it took all of my willpower to rest up and sit still.
I told you. Even with a bulky knee brace, I hit the town with strength and elegance.
On a side note: a knee brace is the BEST conversation starter at the bar. ;-0
Now I’m not saying fake an injury and pick up your next fling. I’ve written on how shitty knee injuries can be and what can cause them. Life isn’t better binge watching Netflix all day and feeling sorry for yourself. And there’s plenty you can do if you’re sidelined for a bit.
During my injuries, I discovered that with a little innovation, I could build and maintain strength. What’s more, is I was also able to keep my conditioning and avoid blowing up like the Marshmallow Man.
Here’s how to train around a knee injury:
1.) Write down movements you can’t do.
It bewilders me when parents or athletes tell me they can’t train when injured.
Does the athlete have life threatening herpes? Okay, then let’s get to fucking work.
Certainly, rehabilitation is out of any strength coach’s scope, and I’ll always refer out to qualified physical therapy professionals.
Wonderful. So let’s weed out movements that are absolutely no-no’s during knee pain:
– knee flexion (squats, lunge variations, wall sits, hamstring curls)
– plyometrics (hops, bounds, jumps)
– agility (fast acceleration and deceleration in all planes of motion)
– running (jogging, sprinting, escaping prison)
Granted, not all knee injuries are the same. Some of these will induce pain for one person, while another person may feel fine. Listen to your pain levels and confirm with your physical therapist and strength coach. The good news: every exercise has plenty of regressions and modifications to cater to your needs.
Which segues me to this:
2.) Write down exercises you can do.
Alright, now that we’ve gotten rid of the bad eggs, let’s starting moving. More often than not, I give people with knee pain the green light on these exercises:
– Farmer’s carries (light intensity on these if physical therapist says weight bearing is okay)
– Pallof press variations
– Plank variations
– Hip abduction (clams, lateral walks, monster walks)
– Upper body pulling (vertical and horizontal)
– Upper body pushing (vertical and horizontal)
– Kick backs
– Reverse hyperextensions
– Romanian dead lifts
– Bicep curls (because, gains)
You’ll notice that all of these exercises have one common theme: minimal to no knee flexion. It’s not rocket science. It’s having common sense.
And most upper body exercises are safe. In fact, upper body exercises are fucking awesome, even for lower extremity athletes. Read more on why soccer players need upper body strength here.
But please don’t try to go for your overhead pressing 1RM. Don’t be stupid.
Here are some viable options:
What’s better than sitting on your ass, not impacting the knee, while still gaining pulling strength? Yeah, thought so.
In fact, now would be a great time to set some new performance goals. Want a better pull up? Good. You sure as hell don’t need your knee for that.
3.) When all else fails, crush your core.
Isn’t it nice to know your core will get some extra attention this time around? So stop feeling sorry for yourself.
Here are some of my favorite core exercises I hone while I’m sidelined:
And normally, I LOVEEEEEEE bird dogs, but they may cause some discomfort on the knee in the quadruped position. To continue to work on rotary stability and coordination here are a few to try:
If you can up this ante without pain, give this loaded contralateral dead bug a try:
Or try some plank progressions:
Feel better now?
There’s comfort in knowing there’s hope for staying strong and moving. And some endless possibilities when it comes to designing a handicapped workout program.
NOT training while injured isn’t okay in my book. That’s why there are certified strength coaches, who know how to regress and progress any athlete who walks into their weight room. Not to blow sunshine up my ass, but I didn’t study anatomy and physiology and get a Master’s degree for nothing.
Again, focus on moves you can do pain-free, and realize hardcore goals are out for right now. Chances are, you can’t focus on becoming the next Alex Morgan, but hey, at least you can focus on geting a jacked back now.