CROSSFIT. INSANITY. HAMMER & CHISEL.
These are intimidating workout programs, am I right? Why is that do you think?
Well, I can tell you why I thought they were!
PISTOL SQUATS. LUNGE SQUATS. DYNAMIC LIFTING. PLYOMETRICS.
Two words. High impact.
High impact workout used to freak me the hell out! Why? Because I have bad knees! If you’ve read anything about my story or my healthy + fitness background, soccer has not been kind to me! It’s my favorite sport by far! But, since knee injuries run in my family, and I can’t turn competitive Ellyn off when I play, I kind of suffered soccer’s joint-destroying wrath!
I blew out my knee (ACL + meniscus ) in 2004. It took me 8 months to recover, and needless to
Soccer was my first love, but I ultimately had to give it up and find other ways to stay in shape without putting too much strain on my many injured, and not 100%, joints and ligaments. Needless to say, I was intimidated by some of the crazy plyometric workouts from Beachbody, and workouts like Crossfit! But, when I finally got over the fear and just tried things, I found that there’s actually a LOT more
AN EXAMPLE MOVE – PLYO SQUAT LUNGE
This is a move from Insanity Max 30, which you can see here! In the workout, the un-modified move involves a jump out of your lunge, which is a bad plan for me and my knees! Any time there’s a twisting
ANOTHER EXAMPLE – THE PISTOL SQUAT
In Hammer & Chisel, there are a LOT of pistol squats! When I tried to do pistol squats, I found that my knees got very aggravated. So I thought about ways to modify them. My favorite is to basically do a 90/10 squat! Both of my feet are still touching the ground in this modification. But, instead of a normal squat where the weight is evenly distributed, 90% of my weight is on the leg that I’m working out. You should be able to balance on your supporting leg if you were to take the other foot off the group. Your other foot – the 10% side – is merely there for stability and balance! This is more like a one-legged squat as opposed to a pistol squat. Now, I’m aware that I could probably build up to pistol squats, but this is a good place for me to start. Even better would be to do a pistol squat, but with a TRX or something to support me.
I will say that you can work on your strength, range of motion, etc. to build up to a pistol squat using something like a TRX system, as shown in this video. But, since I don’t have a TRX system, and did have another means of modifying this move at
ULTIMATELY, THESE ARE MY RECOMMENDATIONS:
BE WARY OF FATIGUE AND SLOPPY FORM.
Oftentimes, when I start a workout or early on in the workout, I can handle damn near anything that is thrown at me. Bad knees
Let me say that again – land on your toes and bend your knees! If you land flat-footed with a straight leg, that is a recipe for disaster for anyone that has ever had joint problems – especially knee problems! You have to, no matter what move you’re doing, land on your toes and keep your knees bent and soft! One way to judge this is if you’re landing loudly! If you make a big, crashing sound when you land, odds are you’re not landing right! Focus on landing soft, and you’re likely landing with your knees bent, and on your toes!
Check out this move from 22
WHEN IN DOUBT, STEP IT OUT!
See what I did there? Gotta love a good rhyme! But seriously. Similar to when I say be wary of sloppy form and fatigue…if you question your ability to consistently land soft, knees bent, and take care of your bad joints at ANY time during a workout, just step it out. If the move is complicated. If there’s a twist you’re not sure you can handle. If you’re getting tired and you question your ability to consistently have proper form. Don’t risk and just step it out. Injuries happen in that millisecond when you’ve let your mind wander or that moment when you get sloppy. If you don’t think you can do it, just step it out.
UP + DOWN VS. TWISTING
The biggest thing I always tell people with knee issues to be wary of is the twisting. Twisting is what blew out my ACL in high school. Twisting is what injured my meniscus years later. And twisting is what causes
That being said, don’t think that just because something is plyometric (involves jumping), that you can’t do it because of your bad knees. Things like squat or tuck jumps and even plyometric/jumping lunges are likely things you can do! The lack of twisting makes them much easier on your knees! So, I say give them a whirl. But of course, still just be wary and listen to your body! If you feel unstable, continue to modify by stepping it out or just taking out the jumping part
BUILD UP THE MUSCLES AROUND THE INJURY.
Anybody who has gone to be physical therapy post-injury knows that regaining range of motion is a big part of the struggle. But, what we don’t consider is that building up the muscles around the injury is also a big contributor to whether or not we re-injure ourselves. A big reason that I re-injured my knee is
REALIZE THAT IT NEVER HAS TO BE OVER.
One of the other mistakes I made in rehabilitating from my knee and ankle injuries was stopping my PT exercises when I was dismissed for physical therapy. As I mentioned, in the case of my knee, my hamstring muscle never fully recovered. Not only that, but I never regained my full range of motion in that knee. You can see the difference when I stretch my quads! Same goes for my ankle! Because I stopped my PT exercises as soon as I was “done with PT” my range of motion never quite recovered there either!
If you want to prevent injuries, especially chronic ones, you have to keep the PT going! Keep stretching! Keep working your range of motion! Keep doing all of those exercises!
DON’T MAKE TOO MANY EXCUSES – JUST TRY.
When you’re recovering from an injury, there’s a lot of fear. There’s a lot of things you convince yourself that you can’t do. The psychology of injuries is by far one of the hardest parts to get through.
I can’t tell you how many times I convinced myself that I just flat out couldn’t do something (like doing Insanity Max 30) “because I have bad knees.” I knew in saying
BE SMART. BE CAREFUL. BUT, DON’T LET YOUR INJURY DEFINE YOU.
There will be things that you can’t do, or that you probably shouldn’t do. But, you’ll get back to where you want to be regardless.