One of my favorite moves for toning and strengthening the lower body is the lunge. I love the lunge. I like walking lunges, curtsy lunges, reverse lunges, lateral lunges…and the list goes on. It is excellent for leaning out the upper thigh, toning the glutes and even brings in balance and core. The only problem with the lunge is that some of us may have knee problems, thus making the lunge a troublesome move. And for those of us with knee discomfort we need to strengthen the legs using other moves. Today I give you a list of lower body moves that I suggest in place of the lunge.
Squat – this is my second favorite lower body move. Great for building the quadriceps, gluteals and core. I personally prefer weighted squats but if you have knee discomfort, you need to start with body weight only. Focus on form vs depth at the start. Standing tall with feet hip joint width apart and sit the heels back as if you are sitting into a chair. Your weight will move primarily to the heels, if you are feeling weight in the toes you are not sitting back and putting unnecessary pressure on your knees. Go down as far as you can comfortably, being mindful of knee comfort. Then press through your heels and return to standing. 12-15 reps.
Wall sit – If motion is a problem, then take it to a sturdy wall and stand with your back to the wall. Walk your feet out while keeping entire back on the wall (from hips up to shoulders). Your goal is to walk out to a 90 degree angle on the knee. Most people need to work their way to this level. You can keep feet/knees hip joint width apart or wider to find that happy place for your knee. Hold for 20 seconds, building up to being able to hold for a full minute.
Step up – Start with the bottom stair or small bench. Facing the bench/stair, step up with one leg followed by the second and step back down followed by the other leg. Pick a lead leg, so that whichever leg goes up first also down first. Do this move 10-20 times on one side and then switch lead legs so each leg has its turn leading the move. As you feel stronger and knee is not a problem, try higher step heights.
Bridge – lie on the floor, bring your feet in toward the hips, feet flat on the floor with knees pointing to ceiling and hip width apart. Push down through your heels as you lift your hips up and lower in a smooth, slow and rhythmic motion. To add difficulty, feel free to lift one leg to the sky and pushing through one heel. This adds more weight to the pushing leg. 12-15 each leg or total.
Standing leg extension – Start by standing near a solid support (wall, counter, railing). Stand on one leg and lift the knee so the upper leg is parallel to the floor. Holding that position, slowly extend the leg so it is straight and return to folded leg. Be mindful that you are not lowering the upper leg. Now, not everyone is flexible enough to extend the leg fully while elevated. This you will work up to. If you are able to do the extension fully, try adding balance by moving further away from solid support (close enough to grab if you wobble but far enough you are forced to balance while extending and lowering leg. Do 10-15 each leg.
Knee health is so important, unless directed otherwise by a doctor, you need to incorporated strengthening moves in your weekly fitness routine. Avoiding moves that aggravate the area while determining the moves that strengthen it. Great addition to your current strength program especially is you are avoiding legs due to weak knees.