Knee pain can be a real bummer for your workout, holding you back from some of those lower body exercises that you love to do. However, you don’t need to let knee pain stop you from building up your glutes. There are exercises you can do that don’t hurt and still make the glutes work.
Avoid Knee-Dominant Exercise
Some exercises are considered knee-dominant because your knees have to move a lot during them. Squats, for example, are knee-dominant because there is so much motion coming from your knee. That creates a lot of pressure and can make your pain much worse.
Knee-dominant exercises tend to work the muscles in the front of your thigh, like your quads, more than the other leg muscles. They can also work the glutes and hamstrings as well, such as in a squat or lunge, but the quadriceps do most of the work. These muscles pull on your knee, which won’t feel good if you have knee pain.
Choose Hip-Dominant Exercises
Hip-dominant exercises, such as the glute bridge, use a lot of motion at the hip but not much at the knee. Ironically, these are the best exercises for your glutes, which are the most powerful hip muscle. They also use the hamstring muscle, which is in the back of your thigh.
Building up your glute muscles can even help with knee pain, according to a 2011 study in the Journal of Sports Physical Therapy. That means hip-dominant exercises not only build your glutes without hurting your knees, they can actually help them get better.
Lie on your back. Bend your knees and plant your feet flat on the ground with your heels a foot from your butt. Press your hips into the air as high as you can by pushing through your heels, not your toes. Raise your hips up as high as you can, squeeze your glutes, and then drop back down to the ground. Perform 20 repetitions.
Single-Leg Glute Bridge
If doing glute bridges with two legs wasn’t very challenging, try it with one leg. Start in the same position on your back with knees bent and feet planted. Grab your left knee and pull it in toward your chest. Press through your right heel and raise your hips up. Repeat 10 times and then switch sides.