A Killer Lower Body, Minus the Joint Pain

lower-body-workout-no-knee-pain

If you've got knee pain (or hip/back pain/ankle pain) don't fall into that all-or-nothing exercise trap. These safe moves will keep your lower body strong & pain-free.

You know the trap I mean... The one that beckons when you're injured (or super pregnant, or out of shape, or busy) that says, "If you can't do everything there's no point in doing anything."

That trap is tough to get out of and, in my experience with mamas and injuries of all kinds, will often lead to weight gain, deconditioning and even further injuries. 

Joint pain is not a free pass to lazy land.  There is plenty you can do, once your doctor/physiotherapist has diagnosed your condition and has given you the green light to exercise (under their guidance).

Can you cardio?

Concerned about weight gain now that you can't do your usual running or other sports? There's tons of research that walking can provide nearly the same health benefits of jogging, and it's usually recommended by therapists when rehabilitating injuries. Here's how to turn that walk into a workout if you're looking for low-impact but high-intensity. Even a stroll will help keep your body in shape, though. Pump your arms and go at the fastest pace you can manage without pain.

A note on food.

Often, when mamas are concerned about cardio, they're concerned about calories burned...and when they're concerned about burning calories they're usually concerned about losing weight or maintaining weight (or not gaining TOO much weight while pregnant).

Activity is key to health and strength, and it will help maintain an appropriate level of body fat, but don't underestimate the importance of your diet when weight management is your goal. If you want to prevent injury-related weight gain, the sad truth is you'll need to cut back on the treats to account for the drop in your activity level if you are unable to do as much as you would normally. That might mean Pinot Noir only on weekends and brown-bagging your lunch.

im-afraid-if-i-give-up-wine

The silver lining is cutting out treats usually means cutting out inflammatory foods like sugar, alcohol, and excessive starches. Cutting out inflammatory foods is linked to reducing joint pain. So, win win!

Now, the weighty stuff.

Now, cardio alone will not keep the body fit.  To maintain that calorie-burning and joint-supporting muscle, you'll need to do strength training.

Upper body exercises should generally be fine.  Focus on chest (push ups, chest presses, bench presses, chest flyes, bench dips) and back (seated rows, cable rows, lat pulldowns, pull ups, reverse flyes), as these muscles are much larger than the arm muscles and will burn more calories to help you stay lean while you are restricted from lower body exercises.

So what about those legs?  A few standard rehabilitation exercises, such as leg presses, step ups and wall slides, among others, may be part of your rehab program and recommended by your therapist.  But there are other safe and effective exercises you may be able to include to speed your recovery and maintain tone in your butt and thighs.

Prenatal wall squat

Here are a few of our favourite lower body exercises for BB clients with knee pain.

Caution! While these exercises are safe for most, speak to your therapist about your specific injury before adding these exercises to your routine. If you experience pain, please stop and refer to your therapist before continuing.

Straight Leg Extension - stand with back against wall; lift one leg at a time with knee completely straight.  Maintain straight posture while lifting legs.  Complete all reps on one side, then switch.

Ball Squat - stand with stability ball between wall and small of your back; place feet slightly in front of you so your knees end at a 90-degree position at the bottom of your squat. Push bum back and under the ball as you inhale & carefully squat (only as low as possible without pain), pause, then exhale to press back up to standing.

Dirty Dog –  begin on hands and knees in "table" position; without tilting hips to the side, lift one knee up and to the side (picture a dog at a fire hydrant... that's where this one gets its name!), pause and lower. Complete all reps on one side, then switch.

Speed Skater – stand with hands tucked behind back, balanced on left leg with right leg slightly lifted; extend right leg back and to the side (about 4:00 or 5:00 on a clock, or 7:00 or 8:00 if using your left leg) and squeeze your butt, then tap right foot against left leg and repeat. Maintain proper posture and do not bend forward.  Complete all reps on one side, then switch.

Single Leg Deadlift – balance on left leg with right leg slightly lifted; carefully push your but backward, maintaining weight on just your left leg & letting right leg rise into air; keep your back flat & both hips pointed down; push your butt back as far as possible, then press through heel to squeeze butt & return to standing. Stay balanced on left leg throughout reps. Complete all reps on one side, then switch.

Wall Sit – stand with back against wall and feet slightly in front of you so your knees end at a 90-degree position at the bottom of your squat; keep core contracted in as you slide down the wall (only as low as you can do without pain). Hold bottom squat position as long as possible. Build up to 30-60 seconds.

Combine all of these exercises into one killer lower body circuit! 

Complete 10-20 repetitions of each, in order, with as little rest as needed. Repeat for a total of 2-3 circuits.  Try to do these exercises every other day for great results.

Finish with stretching for the muscles of the legs and hips.