tl;dr
Knees hurt sometimes. It’s okay. Try to improve your form. If that doesn’t work, try a different exercise.

Sometimes our bodies don’t hold up as well as we wish they would. Even just last night I went for a walk and limped the last half of it because of my knee. And I’m 28 years old! (at the time of writing this)

Why is pain such a pain?

I suppose I kind of specialize in training people with achy joints. Specific cues have been important for a lot of my clients. Poor technique can place stress on your body that your mind just doesn’t like.

Ask for help from a coach

So my first piece of advice: when your knee hurts, get a tenured coach to take a look. Their practiced eye might notice something that you haven’t. Fix that issue and see if it clears up.

Now, though I love cuing, I need to tell you a secret: sometimes it ain’t enough.

Even just in the last week, I’ve seen people deadlift with some terrible back positions. They’re not too concerned about it. They feel fine. And in my years of coaching, I’ve also seen people with near-perfect technique who are still in pain. It doesn’t line up with what makes sense. Good form is supposed to fix these things!

I still like to start with cuing, but I have a progression of other coaching tips just in case that doesn’t work.

1st Level – fix the knee

If your knee hurts, first try to fix your knee position.

An example: maybe your knees are coming too far forward. This can place a little extra tension on the kneecap and is commonly what might happen with inexperienced lifters.

Or your knees could be caving inward…

You may even just need a total overhaul. Here’s a three-video series I did on learning the deadlift.

2nd Degree – fix the body

Okay, but what if the knee is aligned and it still hurts? Let’s try to look around the knee at the foot and the hip. Oh, you’re hips are turning in one direction! Line them back up like headlights pointing at the road and then let’s try again! Often times we trace knee issues back to the hips, back, and feet… and I have even traced a few back to the shoulders.

You could be shifting your hips to one side…

That’s just an example. If you haven’t found the fix yet, scan through my series on fixing the deadlift.

3rd Degree – modify the plan

Okay, now we’ve fixed your knees and hips, but you’re still having issues. What do we fix now?

Honestly, this might come as a surprise, but maybe this exercise just isn’t right for your at this time. Did you sleep five hours last night? That can make your knee hurt (or more likely to hurt if you want to be technical). Let’s find a replacement exercise. Whenever knees are the issue in lower body exercise, I’m likely to try a single leg exercise, like split squats, step ups, and lunging variations. Your knee has a little more space to play with in these exercises, and loading one leg at a time makes it easy to really train that leg. Enter muscle growth phase.

Summary

  1. If your knee hurts, get a coach to look at your technique and fix any errors.
  2. If that doesn’t help, try a different exercise (like a single leg exercise).

If you found this helpful, leave a comment below so I know to make more posts like this.

Also, if you still have questions, the comments are a great place to leave them.