Strength training is a vital aspect of any gym training whether it is to bulk up or to enhance your performance at your sport. However, big goals sometimes go down the drain when from nowhere knee pain begins while you are working out. Suddenly you begin to wonder whether you should continue, modify or ditch the gym all together! Fret not,knee pain that occurs while working out has simple causes and as soon as you fix these, the pain can go away. And it is more common than you think. Especially if the gym is new to you or if you have started a new workout recently. So let’s break this down and determine what your reason for knee pain could be.
1. The simplest and most common reason happens to be improper or inadequate warm up. If the big muscles around your knees like the glutes, hamstrings and quads are not prepared for your workout, they could easily get strained and become a reason for knee pain. If you have a fitness trainer, then ask him to design a proper warm up specifically for your workout on that day. If you are training by yourself, then educate yourself by reading or consulting an expert what the right warm up should be for you.
2. Alignment issues: All strength training exercises, whether it is for your lower body, upper body or core have the correct form for maximum impact and also to not load the knee joint incorrectly. When this form is not properly monitored and maintained, or you continue to load even when your muscles have fatigues, this leads to poor joint alignment leading to knee pain. The most common examples are squats and lunges. Even though these are one of the best exercises for lower body training, doing them right is of utmost importance. Again nail the form right in these and watch your knee pain go away. Check your form on these also: running form on the treadmill, knee and hip alignment on the cross-trainer, spine neutral during leg press, knee unlocked during loaded exercises, and many others.
3. Wrong shoes: Other than keeping your indoor and outdoor shoes separate, your running or sports specific shoes need to be different than gym shoes as well. There are a lot of reasons why and many specifications of what gym shoes should be like. There are lot of studies and articles that have proved this. So re-look at your gym shoes and see if you need to change them. If you need guidance on the right pair of gym shoes you could consult your local sports physiotherapist for the same.
4. Your training is very one-sided(not-balanced): Yes you are at the gym to bulk up or strength train; but you need to work on all aspects or fitness rather than only a few. Mobility, stability, agility and balance are aspects of fitness that should be incorporated into your training. For example, if you have poor stability and you do pistol squats, your ankle and knee are bound to get over-loaded leading to injury. Getting a fitness test done to understand what aspects of fitness you need to focus on would be the best way to design your workout regime.
5. Over-training: Most new gym members make this mistake and hence end up with knee pain. It is easy to get excited and chase your fitness goals but at the end of the day consistency matters. It is best to progress slower and maintain your routine than to race and have to give up altogether. Since our lives in general are sedentary, our muscles are not strong enough to support the knee anyway. If you over-train, these muscles are unable to cope and end up injured. Gradually progressing with the help of a qualified fitness trainer is important in the beginning to avoid this mistake.
6. Using every piece of equipment in the gym: Just because the gym has a ton of various equipment doesn't mean it is right for you. For example, the knee extension machine is not for everyone. If you don’t have a strong core and decent hip strength to begin with and you load this one up, most likely it will give you knee pain. So do your basics first before getting on ALL the machines.
Once you have understood your reason for knee pain, simply fix this and continue your workouts. If the knee pain still doesn't go away, that means you need to seek medical advice. Chances are that with a little bit of awareness and modification your knee pain is history!