Knee Pain with Lunges and Squats? Try This.

One of the most common joints in the body that we see is the knee. Besides shoulder and low back, the knee is a common area for injury ranging from a tweak/twinge to something needing surgical intervention.

With knee pain, we often hear that lunging and squatting is painful for our athletes and clients. Now, there can be various reasons ranging from limited hip or ankle mobility to exercise technique on why lunges and/or squats specifically could be contributing to someone’s knee pain.

For the brevity of today’s post, we are going to go into some “unorthodox” options on how to train legs and lower body without increasing someone’s knee symptoms.


  1. Resisted Knee Extension

This can be a great option for someone dealing with knee pain during lunges and squats. It can be performed with a band as shown in the video OR on a knee extension machine in a gym.

Some may say that this exercise isn’t “functional”, but if someone wants and needs to train their lower body to help them get back to doing what they want to do, then we would consider this exercise functional in that regard.

We will program from 8-10 reps for 2-3 sets.

2. Quadruped Resisted Knee Extension

This can be another great option for those looking to work on their quads. Key point with this drill is not to just lift the hips up in the air, but rather focus on extending and straightening the knees. These can be performed with both legs or on just one leg. Same sets and reps can be applied as the resisted knee extension movement.

3. Tall Kneeling Nordic Quads

TRX Assisted Nordic Quads

These are much harder than they look. Key points with these 2 movements is to squeeze your glutes as hard as you can and brace your abs. Make sure to keep a straight line from your ear to your shoulder hip and knee.

If the Tall Kneeling Nordic Quad drill is too hard, try using the TRX assisted variation.

Now, with all that being said, lunges and squats are considered “closed chain movements”. These are movements that are where the feet or 1 foot is in contact with the ground.

“Open chain movements” are considered movements that a foot or feet are not in contact with the ground. Both the Nordic Quads (assisted/unassisted) and the Quadruped Resisted Knee Extension could both technically be considered closed chain.

Some athletes don’t tolerate closed chain movements after an injury or surgery. If you are dealing with knee pain and can’t do lunges or squats, try giving these 3 options a try.

Andrew Millett