Sore Joints? Try This for an Exercise Workaround

Step-ups for Sore Knees

Sore Joints?  Try This for an Exercise Workaround


Compound exercises – ones that work more than one joint at a time – are awesome, and often used in “Functional” training routines.  I love them: there really is no better way to build strength, stability, stamina and bulk (if you want it) than moving the body in the way it was meant to be moved.  But what do you do when you physically can’t do these exercises, simply because it hurts when you try?

Squats, for example, don’t work well if you have knee problems.  I’d like to be able to report otherwise, but often squatting makes the problem worse, not better.  And that goes for Squat-like movements as well, like Leg Press, Sumo Deadlift, and even Conventional Deadlifts, if the problem is bad enough.  Oh, and full-range-of-motion Step-ups and Lunges?  Forget it, if your knees are sore!

So, what to do?

“Change the Range”

The first thing you can try is to alter the range of motion you’re using for any given exercise.  Squats, Lunges, Step-ups, Deadlifts, Chest Press, Shoulder Press, etc., in any variation (i.e. Dumbbell, Barbell, Kettlebell, Cable, Machine, etc.).  Go shallower to see if that helps.  If you can find a shallower range of motion that still allows you to challenge the muscles, but doesn’t hurt, then that’s a win!

Make sure, however, that you look for any post-workout pain.  Your body naturally releases pain-masking endorphins while you’re working out, because working out hurts at the best of times LOL.  These endorphins might mask any joint pain you’re experiencing while you exercise.  If your joints hurt post-workout, you’ll have to try further modifications to what you were doing.

Change the Exercise

You may have to move to “Isolation” exercises (these use just a single-joint).  The benefit of an Isolation exercise is that you can’t use as much weight, because you recruit fewer muscles.  For example, a Leg Extension recruits only the Quadriceps, whereas a Squat recruits Glutes, Quads and Hamstrings.  This means that you cannot place as much load on a given joint with an Isolation exercise.

Care needs to be taken, however, because when a joint is used in isolation, shear is experienced around the joint.  Using the example of the Leg Extension, the Hamstrings are not simultaneously recruited with the Quadriceps, resulting in a downward shear on the Tibia/Fibula.  Shear itself can cause pain, so be careful.

I should note here that it isn’t always single-joint, Isolation exercises that cause shear: some Compound exercises, like Shoulder Press (especially Barbell/Machine Shoulder Press) also do.  What you really must do is to pay attention to the pain, and if something is hurting, keep changing it up.  Look for an exercise – or group of exercises – that work the muscles you’d like to target, while not causing any pain.

Ask for Help!

This is another option.  If you don’t want to figure this stuff out on your own, well then, I’m available to help you!  I’m a personal trainer in the Mississauga area who trains clients locally at my gym.  I also offer in-home personal training through accredited and experienced trainers who work for me.  Whether or not you want to come to us, or we to you, we can accommodate you!

We also offer personal training services at a distance: it’s called “online training.”  We have clients across Canada, across North America and across the world who benefit from our expertise in helping them to lose weight and get in shape.  Whether or not you want to become fitter, stronger, more muscular, lose weight, or all the above, we can help!

Feel free to reach out to us at 647-677-6025 by either text or phone.  Alternately you can contact us here:, or at  We’d love to hear what it is you want to accomplish, and we’d love to help you reach your goals.  Don’t forget to ask us about our 90-day money-back guarantee!  The consultation is free, and we guarantee your results!  Reach out today: you’ve got nothing to lose except for the weight!