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7 Ways to Build Knee Strength Without Pain

If you want to enjoy your active life, be sure to do this :

Find a way to squat that does not cause knee pain.

Let's explore your options.

1 . Variable Incline Plane (VIP) Squats are the gentlest form of squats.

Watch a demonstration of the exercise here.

By lying down on this machine, your knees will experience a very small percentage of your bodyweight when squatting.

​Watch a demonstration of the exercise here :

(Bilateral means you're using both legs.)

Some of my clients start with as little as 18% of their bodyweight.

For example, if you weigh 150 lbs., your knees will feel only 27 lbs. of force when using 18% of your bodyweight.

Over time, these clients use the Variable Incline Plane (VIP) at higher angles, making their squats gradually more challenging.

This is very similar to how someone performs other strengthening exercises.

For example, if you're lifting a weight overheard, you may start by holding a dumbbell that is relatively light-- one that you can lift several times without pain.

As this gets easier, you'll use a dumbbell that is heavier.

The drawback to the VIP Squats is the limited access to a VIP. They are rarely found in gyms. But since my clients use their VIPs frequently-- and since the VIP is so critical to their success-- they purchase the equipment to have at home.

Note: Neither Dr. Kelsey nor I have any financial interest in recommending the Variable Incline Plane. You can learn about several options here.

2 . Tall Chair Squats involve sitting down and standing up from an elevated surface.

This is a simple way to introduce pain-free squatting because decreasing the depth of your squat places less force on your knees.

Tall Chair Squat

However, to prepare your knees for most of your life activities, you'll need to gradually lower the surface.

This may mean you have another chair that's a few inches shorter.

And after using that, you may progress to a standard chair with some firm pillows-- deliberately removing one pillow at a time in the weeks/months to follow.

​3 . Assisted Eccentric Chair Squats help your knees in two ways.

First, during this type of squat, you will focus on the lowering portion of the squat.

The motion of sitting down will be performed with control, taking at least 3 seconds to complete.

And then you'll use your hands for support as you stand up.

This focuses on the lengthening phase of muscle contraction, known as an eccentric contraction, which places less pressure on your knees.

Second, a loop of elastic tubing is secured at the top of a door and placed around your trunk.

The elastic tubing upholds a small portion of your bodyweight and it helps you "turn on" your core muscles.

All of these elements decrease the forces occurring within your knees while you squat.

Note: Neither Dr. Kelsey nor I have any financial benefit from recommending elastic tubing. The type of elastic tubing that we most commonly use is the Gray Cook Band sold by the online company, Perform Better. For this particular exercise, we suggest using a Level 1 Gray Cook Band for bodyweight up to 140 lbs. (64 kgs); a Level 2 Gray Cook Band for bodyweight between 140 to 190 lbs. (64 to 86 kgs); & a Level 3 Gray Cook Band for bodyweight greater 190 lbs. (86 kgs).

Watch this video for a step-by-step set up of the Assisted Eccentric Chair Squats.

4 . Eccentric Chair Squats are more challenging than the previous exercise because you won't be relying on the loop of elastic tubing for assistance.

Watch this video for a step-by-step guide to Eccentric Chair Squats:

Or watch a quick demonstration here.

5 . During Assisted Chair Squats, support for your knees occurs from the chair and from the elastic tubing.

As you squat down onto the chair, the elastic tubing will stretch and support a small portion of your bodyweight.

The elastic tubing will also encourage your abdominal muscles to work harder.

These muscles decrease excessive twisting or torque occurring at your knees.

Watch this video for a step-by-step setup for Assisted Chair Squats :

6 . Assisted Squats are more challenging because you won't have a chair to sit on during the squat.

This requires you to use your muscles continuously throughout the exercise.

Watch this video for a step-by-step guide to Assisted Squats.

Or watch a quick demonstration here:

Assisted Squats

​7 . Vector Squats encourage your hip muscles to work more effectively and take pressure off of your knee.

When your hip muscles are working well, they support your leg by preventing your knee from moving towards the center of your body.

Even a very small change in how your leg aligns with your body puts extra pressure on your knee.

And extra pressure may cause knee pain.

So during the Vector Squats, the tubing pulls your upper leg slightly out to the side, making the job easier for your hip muscles.

Watch this video for a step-by-step set up of the Vector Squats (starting at 1:20) :

Or watch a brief demonstration here.

So which of these 7 types of squats feel good to your knees?

1 . VIP Squats

2 . Tall Chair Squats

3 . Assisted Eccentric Chairs Squats

4 . Eccentric Chair Squats

5 . Assisted Chair Squats

6 . Assisted Squats

7 . Vector Squats

Client Spotlight:

"My knees take a beating every day. I don't have issues with lifting any more. I can bend my knees when lifting 80 lb. packages without knee pain."

--Remy P. (UPS driver)


​When you're ready, I offer 3 ways to build stronger, healthier knees :

Tier ONE Get started.

Discover how to make your knees feel better in as little as 10 minutes a day:

The Ten Minute Healthy Knee Starter Kit (online access)

Tier TWO Get better.

Instead of working around your knee pain, follow step-by-step recommendations within our online fitness program and private community:

Better Knees for Life (Costs less than a weekly personal trainer)

Tier THREE Become your best.

Your knees -- both what they've been through & what you need them for -- are as unique as your fingerprints. You need guidance to match.

Receive an ongoing, customized plan to overcome knee pain while working with Laurie during online video sessions:

1:1 Coaching Services (Schedule a free 20-minute Strategy Session to determine if coaching is a good fit for you.)

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Carol* was recently telling me about her knees. Over the past couple of years, her knees had become "achy." They weren't constantly uncomfortable, but they were noticeably painful when she knelt down

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